CAMDEN — Obtaining a bachelor’s degree is becoming integral for nurses throughout New Jersey and across the country in order to deliver on exceptional healthcare practices and improve patient outcomes.
With that in mind, the Rutgers School of Nursing–Camden has expanded its highly successful RN-to-BS degree-granting program to Mercer County Community College, where working nurses can earn a bachelor’s degree while still managing professional responsibilities.
“There are many licensed registered nurses out there who don’t yet have a bachelor’s degree and this program allows them to earn one,” says Nancy Powell, a clinical assistant professor of nursing and director of the Rutgers School of Nursing–Camden’s RN-to-BS program. “It takes the associate degree nurse to the next level and lays the groundwork for a sound, professional education that helps improve the way nurses deliver healthcare throughout New Jersey and beyond.”
The 121-credit RN-to-BS track builds on a nurse’s existing foundation of knowledge and clinical experience. Licensed registered nurses with an associate’s degree or a hospital school diploma can receive 33 credits for the completion of previous nursing courses and can transfer up to 90 additional credits for required non-nursing courses. All of the courses are taught by full-time Rutgers faculty, and most courses are conducted face-to-face in the classroom. There is also an online component.
"The program is helping to enhance my education and professional skills by building on and expanding the knowledge that I have previsouly learned from an associate degree program," says Kate Muha, a registered nurse in the program. "I feel this RN-to-BS program will help better equip me with the skils I need to be a safe and proficient professional nurse."
The Rutgers–Camden RN-to-BS program is currently offered at Atlantic Cape Community College and on the Rutgers–Camden campus. Classes at Mercer County Community College began in September.
“The RN-to-BS program helps the MCCC campus by providing the opportunity for our nursing program graduates to pursue a bachelor’s degree in a live classroom environment while staying close to home,” says Donna Penn, acting director of nursing education at Mercer County Community College. “We are so pleased to have this wonderful partnership with Rutgers. The trend in New Jersey is for all nurses to have or to be working toward a bachelor’s degree, so this partnership affords our graduates this opportunity with a great university.”
Penn continues, “The mission and philosophy of MCCC and the nursing program supports the pursuit of lifelong learning and advanced education. The Rutgers–Camden RN-to-BS program at Mercer County aligns well with this outcome. We would like to see this partnership flourish beyond a strong articulation agreement to a dual enrollment program in the future.”
Powell says the Mercer County Community College partnership allows Rutgers–Camden to offer the RN-to-BS track in both the southern and northern parts of the state while providing a key resource for nurses in the statewide healthcare system.
Currently, 10 nurses are enrolled in the Mercer County program and Powell envisions that it will quickly grow. Rutgers–Camden’s RN-to-BS program at Atlantic Cape Community College began in 2009 with nine students and has expanded to a class of 120.
“We see the Mercer County program growing faster than the Atlantic County program did,” Powell says. “It’s meeting the demand for nurses with bachelor’s degrees all over the state.”
Tysha Saffold, the program coordinator for Rutgers–Camden’s RN-to-BS program at Mercer County Community College, says it is imperative that registered nurses remain marketable.
“Obtaining a bachelor’s degree greatly increases the opportunities available to those who are unemployed or wishing to change paths in the healthcare field,” Saffold says. “This is also an excellent program for new graduate nurses who wish to continue their education and are important for nurses to keep up with the ever changing healthcare industry.”
More information about Rutgers–Camden’s RN-to-BS program can be found at nursing.camden.rutgers.edu/academics/rn-bs.