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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

New Nursing Collaboration Targets Eastern Shore Workforce

Old Dominion University's School of Nursing, which partnered with the Riverside School of Health Careers in late 2014 to create a concurrent enrollment program, will be taking that alliance to new heights with a project to increase the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) workforce on the Eastern Shore.

Originally proposed in March 2014, the project will be funded by a $660,000 grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). Karen Karlowicz, chair of the School of Nursing, is the chief investigator on the award. Lynn Wiles, Janice Hawkins and Kimberly Adams Tufts are co-investigators. Work is under way to hire personnel and recruit students. Enrollment in the program is scheduled for spring 2016.

The project will provide guidance and resources aimed at BSN-degree completion by diploma and associate degree nurses from the Eastern Shore's socioeconomically-challenged households. Using an alternative curriculum, the School of Nursing will pair general education courses with upper division nursing courses in a part-time schedule until the completion of the degree. The nursing courses will be taught through the School of Nursing online. Students will have the option of taking their general education courses elsewhere.

"We are very excited about this project for several reasons: 1) It allows us to evaluate a new model for RN-BSN education that is particularly suited to nurses in working and living in rural areas such as the Eastern Shore of Virginia; 2) It extends our partnership with the Riverside Health System beyond our concurrent enrollment nursing program with the College of Health Careers to increase the number of nurses with a BSN employed by Riverside; and 3) It supports the statewide effort to achieve an 80 percent BSN nursing workforce by 2020," Karlowicz said.

"More important, however, is the support provided by this grant that will enable up to 15 nurses to receive funds to cover 50 percent or more of tuition costs, and guidance by paid peer mentors," she added.

Some of the grant money will go toward hiring an instructor who also will serve as a student mentor. The School of Nursing will hire former graduates of its RN to BSN program to serve as mentors for the Eastern Shore students as well. These mentors will meet in person regularly with the students to assist them with any academic advising and social support they need.

Riverside Shore Memorial Hospital will provide a dedicated space for students in the program, giving them access to resources that may not otherwise be available, such as computers, a study hall, textbooks and a place meet with mentors.

Shelley Mishoe, dean of the College of Health Sciences, commended the School of Nursing's efforts to expand health care to the medically underserved.

"Getting students on track during the first two years of the curriculum is important to help them overcome traditional barriers of returning to school such as lack of advising, scheduling conflicts, financial concerns and fear of failure - particularly in courses such as statistics and chemistry that are often obstacles to progression and retention," she said.

The program further strengthens a relationship that the School of Nursing and Riverside have been building. Under a collaboration signed in December 2014 with ODU, Riverside's diploma will be replaced by an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree through classes provided by Riverside. Participating students will be fast-tracked to get a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) by taking ODU nursing courses concurrently with Riverside nursing courses. Completion of the BSN degree would occur one to two semesters after attaining the AAS and licensure as registered nurse. The five-year, renewable agreement between ODU and Riverside took effect Jan. 1, 2015. That program, like the Eastern Shore initiative, is schedule to start in the spring.

HRSA has designated the Eastern Shore as a medically underserved area (MUA), a medically underserved population (MUP), and a health professional shortage area (HPSA). The HRSA grant will distributed over two years with $320,000 the first year and $340,000 the second. The area nurses expected to participate in this project will swell the number of nurses with a BSN on the Eastern Shore by almost 28 percent.

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