A partnership between three Maryland universities and Carroll County's community college are making it easier for nurses to keep up with industry standards.
Carroll Community College signed a memorandum of understanding this summer with Towson, Stevenson and Frostburg universities that will allow students working toward an associate degree in nursing to accelerate their studies to obtain their Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree.
Once a student applies for Carroll Community College's nursing program, that student can apply to one of the three universities Jennifer Fritzges, interim nursing program director at Carroll, said. The program works so that students can get their associate degree, get a job and continue to work on their bachelor's degree.
Within about a year, they should be able to come out with a BSN, she said.
"It's a very cost-effective way," Fritzges added. "It reduces the amount of time that it takes to get their bachelor's degree."
It's the first time the community college is offering this type of program, she said. Fifteen of the 79 students who have been accepted into the Carroll nursing program for the upcoming fall have been admitted to study concurrently at Towson University, she said.
And while this may be new for Carroll, it's a trend that seems to be happening across Maryland.
Dan Saunders, coordinator of the RN to BSN Associate to Bachelor's program at Frostburg University, said they've been working to partner with willing community colleges in Maryland.
"In an effort to do that, we're trying to think creatively and find ways to work with the community colleges," Saunders added.
This intent of trying to increase the number of nurses with their bachelor's degrees comes after reports warning of possible nursing shortages in coming years, he said. A report from the National Academy of Medicine entitled "The Future of Nursing: Focus on Education" suggests aging populations could lead to a lack of nurses. And with a changing field, the need for more BSN nurses has been recommended.
"The committee recommends that the proportion of nurses with baccalaureate degrees be increased to 80 percent by 2020," the report reads. "While it anticipates that it will take a few years to build the educational capacity needed to achieve this goal, the committee maintains that it is bold, achievable, and necessary to move the nursing workforce to an expanded set of competencies, especially in the domains of community and public health, leadership, systems improvement and change, research, and health policy."
With these recommendations in place, schools are working to help nursing students become more marketable and keep up with where the field is heading.
Stevenson University Associate Dean Judith Feustle said her school is also working to get more BSN graduates out in the Maryland medical field, and in a way that's easier and more accessible.
"This is really kind of exciting," Feustle said. It's been something in the works for a year or so, she added.
They've been working with schools like Carroll Community College, but these programs give the opportunity to increase that relationship.
"It's just nice to be able to take that partnership to a new level," Feustle added.
For anyone interested in Carroll Community College's program, visit https://www.carrollcc.edu/Programs-and-Courses/Credit-Programs/Nursing/.
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