Streamlining the path to BSN

Credit: Catherine MacBride / Stocksy

We are halfway through the second phase of the Academic Progres­sion in Nursing (APIN) project in Washington State. This initia­tive aims to achieve the Insti­tute of Medicine’s goal of an 80 percent BSN-prepared workforce that is more diverse and inclu­sive by 2020. In April, Sofia Aragon, JD, BSN, RN, Washington Center for Nursing’s new execu­tive director, took over as co-lead of the Washington Nursing Action Coali­tion and serves as the APIN project’s principal investigator.

Currently, 66 percent of nurses in Washington hold a BSN or higher, according to a 2013 National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) Sample Survey estimate. In order to meet the ambitious goal of increasing that number to 80 percent by 2020, we need to give nurses in all regions of the state better access to and support for advancing their educa­tion to BSN and graduate studies. 

By the end of our first two years of funding (2012 – 2014), all Washington State public and private colleges and univer­si­ties offering RN-to-BSN degrees had signed a Direct Transfer Agreement/​Major Ready Pathway (DTA/MRP) agree­ment, which will stream­line the statewide curric­ular pathway from the ADN to the BSN. Over the past year, APIN leaders collab­o­rating with the State Board for Commu­nity and Technical Colleges have offered in-person workshops, inter­ac­tive video­con­fer­ences and individual consul­ta­tion to associate degree nursing programs inter­ested in offering this new degree. At least 21 commu­nity and technical colleges have indicated interest and have begun working with their individual insti­tu­tions to create plans for devel­oping the Associate in Nursing DTA/MRP. As of this summer, seven have been approved by the Nursing Care Quality Assur­ance Commis­sion with plans to imple­ment in the 2015 – 16 school year, and others are on target for 2016 – 2017. 

In order to further expand access and capacity of RN-BSN programs, we are focusing on identi­fying promising practices for repli­cating quality programs through a survey of seven approved in-state programs and faculty. The findings of our study will be avail­able in 2016, describing program struc­tures, capacity, teaching innova­tions and academic resources that support student success. They will also speak to strate­gies for faculty devel­op­ment support needed to enable optimal teaching with this impor­tant diverse, non-tradi­tional popula­tion of post-licen­sure nursing students. 

In the first APIN-WA grant phase, we imple­mented and evalu­ated a small pilot Diver­sity Mentoring Program in Western Washington. Further devel­oping and expanding this program and other supportive resources is key in the recruit­ment, reten­tion and gradu­a­tion of current and future students from under­rep­re­sented groups essen­tial to diver­sify the workforce. We also hope to collab­o­rate with existing efforts of minority nursing organi­za­tions statewide. 

Of course, we aren’t working in isola­tion to meet our goals. To further support diver­sity and inclu­sion efforts in nursing educa­tion, we are partnering with the Council on Nursing Educa­tion in Washington State (CNEWS), the organi­za­tion of deans and direc­tors of nursing programs, to provide resources for faculty, including workshops with nation­ally renowned experts in this field. We are also reaching out to health organi­za­tions and minority nursing organi­za­tions statewide to identify common goals and oppor­tu­ni­ties for collaboration. 

Working hand-in-hand with employers to respond to regional needs and find strate­gies and policies that promote academic progres­sion in nursing is integral. We strength­ened the practice compo­nent within the APIN project leader­ship by estab­lishing a statewide Practice Partner Group, which includes a strong rural voice. Two of our employer leaders, Linda Latta, PhD, RN, NEA-BC (Seattle Children’s Hospital) and Jeanie Eyler, MN, RN (Pullman General Hospital), joined the core APIN leader­ship team and co-chair the Partner Group. Key projects champi­oned by this group include strate­gies to commu­ni­cate the value of advancing nursing educa­tion in patient safety, improve patient outcomes and sharing best practices for employer support of academic progres­sion for their staff. This is partic­u­larly impor­tant in more remote commu­ni­ties, and we are creating focused resources addressing unique challenges for rural and critical access hospitals. 

As with other states striving to develop a nursing workforce that is respon­sive to commu­nity needs, much work remains to increase the diver­sity of the nursing workforce and contribute to efforts to elimi­nate health disparities. 

Despite this challenge, we are pleased that ongoing feedback from Robert Wood Johnson Founda­tion APIN program staff and external evalu­a­tors indicates that our state is meeting and exceeding expec­ta­tions when it comes to academic progres­sion in nursing. Our DTA/MRP agree­ment is a model that is being shared nation­ally as a best practice to promote academic progres­sion. As we continue our work, the stories of nurses who have advanced their educa­tion in Washington State will provide powerful examples that will influ­ence others to continue or return to school in service of better patient care. 

Suzanne Sikma, PhD, RN is the Project Manager for APIN-WA.

​What is Academic Progression in Nursing (APIN)? #

APIN funds nine states doing innov­a­tive work to advance seamless academic progress to baccalau­reate degrees and beyond. These nine states, including California, Hawaii, Massa­chu­setts, Montana, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Texas and Washington state, are leading the country by imple­menting new educa­tion pathways to meet the demand for baccalau­reate prepared nurses, as recom­mended by an Insti­tute of Medicine’s (IOM) report, The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health (http://​wsna​.to/AONEAPIN).

— AONE (Associ­a­tion of Nurse Executives)