MARIETTA—Today, Washington State Community College (WSCC) cleared the final hurdle for its launch of a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) program. The much-anticipated news was shared following the Higher Learning Commission’s (HLC) vote to approve the college’s request. Washington State is currently accepting applications and students can immediately begin taking prerequisite courses.
“This is a win for the college, our local healthcare systems, and our community,” declared WSCC President Dr. Vicky Wood.
The approval by the HLC was the last step in the process that began last spring when WSCC received the green light for an RN to BSN completion program from the Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE). Their endorsement for a community college to offer a bachelor’s degree in nursing set a new precedent in Ohio which is now one of only 14 states in the nation to allow a two-year institution to award a BSN.
The decision to expand the degree-granting authority of community colleges came in response to the overwhelming demand, on the local, state, and national levels, for more registered nurses, especially those with a BSN. In fact, the profession ranks on Ohio’s top 10 critical jobs list. The purpose of expanding the degree awarding privilege is a step toward offsetting this significant shortage and specifically fortifying the healthcare systems here in the southeast region of Ohio.
“We advocated for this change in state policy and today our efforts have been rewarded. We are excited to expand the capacity of Washington State Community College to be a part of the solution to address the nursing shortage,” said WSCC President Dr. Vicky Wood.
For decades, Washington State has served as a primary resource of nurses for both Memorial Health System and WVU Medicine Camden Clark Medical Center, however, until now, the institution was only able to fill their associate degree nursing (ADN) needs. Leaders of both organizations were actively involved in the institution’s efforts to receive this approval and their support was a critical component.
“Allowing nurses with roots deep in our rural areas to remain home and continue their education permits hospitals in these areas to operate effectively as well,” said MHS President and CEO Scott Cantley in his comments to ODHE. “Rural markets like southeastern Ohio need strong partners like WSCC to help us prepare that workforce.”
CCMC’s President and CEO Steve Altmiller added that “WSCC has demonstrated a high level of competency in training nurses. Their leadership has demonstrated a consistent ability to meet a high level of performance in education.”
In addition to the advocacy from the region’s two largest healthcare providers, Wood said backing for the institution was widespread and included community members, state and local legislators, nursing professionals, K-12 representatives, healthcare leaders, WSCC alumni, as well as its current nursing students.
“This was truly a community effort and we are deeply grateful for all the support,” said Wood. She added that she believed the input from past and present nursing students proved invaluable.
“Our students and alumni were vital in our efforts to get this approved. They know us and the quality of our program. They rallied behind us because they recognized the benefit of a BSN on our campus and more importantly they know we will provide them with the training that will make them successful.”
Wood went on to explain that alumni and students were integral to the decision to pursue becoming a BSN granting institution. She said the college took surveys about the level of interest in the option to pursue advanced nursing training locally and their response was that the interest was there, but the resources were lacking.
“In our research, we learned that over the past decade, only about 17 percent of our ADN alum were going on to earn advanced degrees. When we asked why, the overwhelming answer was that they wanted an option that was local, flexible, and affordable. Up until now, such an option simply did not exist here in southeast Ohio,” Wood explained.
HLC’s approval followed an extensive review of WSCC’s current nursing program, its facilities, and overall ability to serve the population at the baccalaureate degree level. It also considered the level of community support. Both Memorial Health System (MHS) and WVU Medicine Camden Clark Medical Center (CCMC) have been strong proponents of the initiative from the beginning.
President Wood said the addition of a bachelor’s degree will shift the aim of the institution’s curriculum forward. “As a community college, our focus has been on preparing students for what’s next academically, which is a bachelor’s degree. Now as a baccalaureate degree-granting institution, we will shift our attention to preparing students for graduate work. That means we are responsible for the foundational work of nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, and Nurse Anesthetists, just to name a few.”
WSCC’s nursing program, approved by the Ohio Board of Nursing, has a long history of excellence in nursing education. They have consistently maintained above-average pass rates. The ADN program’s current National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) pass rate is 95.7 %, which is more than 15.8 % higher than the national average and nearly 19.9 % above the state average. The PN program’s current National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN) pass rate is 92.5 %, which is 13 % higher than the national average and 18 % above the state average.
Students can begin taking required courses as soon as the second 8-weeks of the current semester, which begins on March 13. Applications for enrollment in the program will be accepted through June 1. For details about WSCC’s nursing program, including how to apply and information about the various pathways offered by the college, visit wscc.edu/nursing.