Press releases from Angelina College and Texas A&M contributed to this article
LUFKIN, TEXAS (News Release) - The Texas A&M Health Science Center (TAMHSC) College of Nursing and the Angelina College (AC) Associate Degree in Nursing Program (ADN) in Lufkin formalized a partnership today that will create new opportunities for East Texas nurses interested in advancing their nursing education. The collaboration will ultimately lead to better outcomes for patients across the state.
"Education is the key to so many of our nation's problems," said Chancellor John Sharp with The Texas A&M University System. "The Texas A&M University System is committed to addressing the state's nursing shortage and helping our front line caregivers get the best education possible in their communities."
The agreement, signed by Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp; Paul E. Ogden, M.D., interim senior vice president and chief operating officer of TAMHSC; Sharon Wilkerson, Ph.D., RN, CNE, ANEF, dean of the TAMHSC College of Nursing; Trey Henderson, AC Trustee; Michael J. Simon, Ed.D., president of AC; and Patricia McKenzie, Ed.D., vice president and dean of instruction at AC, will allow Angelina College students who complete the associate degree in nursing program to enter TAMHSC and pursue a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (B.S.N.) or Master of Science in Nursing (M.S.N.) degree in nursing education. The agreement will create a seamless transition for AC students who wish to further their nursing education, without the need to repeat successfully completed courses.
"This unique and collaborative partnership will serve to further enhance higher education opportunities in this area, and at the same time, help in meeting the growing health care needs of our community and region," said Rep. Trent Ashby. "I believe this program is exactly the kind of innovative and out-of-the-box thinking we need to offer local students, who might otherwise have to move somewhere else to receive this type of advanced degree. It's exciting to see East Texas leading the way."
"Partnerships like this align perfectly with the mission of Angelina College to provide quality educational opportunities and services to aid students in the service area in reaching their full potential," Simon said. "Angelina College already works closely with partners in the health care sector to ensure the college's Health Careers programs combine classroom and laboratory instruction with relevant clinical and practicum experiences, and this partnership will leverage these existing relationships to benefit students, healthcare employers, and the East Texas region."
The program will help students like Cory Smith,a military veteran who after running a dialysis center decided to quit his job and go back to school for nursing. Smith will graduate in May and going to nursing school in College Station will be hard to do. Smith has a wife and children so staying in the Pineywoods is needed. Smith spoke to the crowd of delegates at the announcement.
"I can do it online and still work," Smith said. "This is amazing. I have a family with kids, so it will makes a lot of things easier because of it because I can work and provide for my family still and also be able to go get that BSN or MSN."
Smith said the students leaving the program at Angelina will have no problem switching over.
"From what I have seen and heard it appears to be easy to do," Smith said. "I am sure that the students here will be able to make it work."
The 2010 Institute of Medicine Future of Nursing report established a goal that by 2020, 80 percent of nurses in the United States would be baccalaureate-prepared. Specifically, the report recommends "educational collaborations that allow for automatic and seamless transitions from an ADN to a B.S.N. program." A growing body of research shows a connection between baccalaureate education and better patient outcomes.
"Today, nurses are called upon to provide more primary and preventive care, and to educate patients and their families on how to care for patients at home," Wilkerson said. "Nurses who earn baccalaureate degrees have a depth of knowledge that can help them better address the changing demands of health care in our society."
The partnership will ease the transition of associate degree nurses interested in obtaining a B.S.N., in keeping with the call for more nurses with advanced education, as well as those seeking a master's degree to join the education workforce. In addition, there is an option for bachelor-prepared nurses interested in obtaining their M.S.N. in nursing education.
According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB), Texas faces not only a shortage of nurses in the workforce, but a lack of nursing faculty to educate those nurses. In 2011, the THECB reported that Texas schools turned away more than 11,000 qualified applicants primarily due to a lack of nursing faculty.
"I was traveling and I saw a woman studying out of a nursing book so I asked if she wanted to be a nurse," State Representative John Otto said. "She said no, sir I am studying to teach nurses and that is where the real shortage is."
Otto went on to praise the region for working to set up the program and bridge the gap. State Senator Robert Nichols also spoke about the changing landscape of the Pineywoods.
"It provides help in an area that is growing," Nichols said. "We have a changing aging population and an area of the state where the population is under served. it is all checks on the positive side from what I can see."
The program should serve the local hospitals in a positive way.
"Producing qualified nurse educators to fill necessary faculty positions is key to answering the demand for nurses in the workforce," Wilkerson added. "To help eliminate the bottleneck occurring in nursing education, agreements like this will prepare graduates to serve as educators in both the higher education and patient care settings. We are so pleased to partner with Angelina College to advance nursing education in East Texas. It's a win-win for both nursing students and the patients they serve."
Wilkerson said current nurses will find the online work helpful since they will be able to work it in around their schedule.
"They can't all make an 8 o'clock class because they may be on duty at the hospital," Wilkerson said. "This way they can stay where they are and do it at their time."
In addition to opportunities for AC associate degree nurses, the program will also be available to area nurses already practicing in the field. Interested students will be enrolled in TAMHSC College of Nursing's online programs for RN-to-B.S.N., RN-to-M.S.N., or B.S.N-to-M.S.N, which allows nurses to continue practicing while advancing their education.
Even though Smith was the only student to speak at the event, the school knows there are many more like him who will benefit from the partnership.
"He represents the profile of many of our students," Vice-President and Dean of Instruction at Angelina College Patricia McKenzie said. "They have other obligations and because they are committed to where they are, it is an awesome opportunity to say I can do this my dream can be realized."