Xavier's new program addresses the national nursing shortage by attracting career-changers
Brianna Prescott was ready for a change. The 27-year-old from Cleveland had earned a bachelor's degree in human biology in 2012. Working part-time jobs as a nanny and in a doctor's office, she wasn't sure what career path she wanted to follow, but she knew she wanted to further her education.
The catch was deciding what she wanted to do with her life. After a lot of thought and a good bit of research, she decided on nursing.
"I was researching accelerated nursing programs throughout the state, and Xavier was one of the ones on my list," she said. "I knew Xavier has a successful and well-known four-year nursing program, which was very appealing."
Xavier also had something new-the ABSN second-degree Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing program. Specifically designed for adults with a bachelor's degree in a non-nursing field, the program allows students to leverage their education to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing in just 16 months.
Students participate in online coursework, hands-on labs and clinical rotations throughout their four semesters. The curriculum design, led by ABSN Associate Director Cheryl Leksan, RN, prepares students for today's dynamic and ever-changing health-care environment.
"The aspects of the program that I found most appealing were the 16-month duration and the fact that courses are online," Prescott says. "I wasn't sure originally if I was going to have to work while completing this program, so the flexibility that comes with online courses was a huge plus."
Plus, Prescott said, the advising made her transition easy.
"My advisor was absolutely incredible," she says. "He answered all of my questions, provided tons of additional information, and was so unbelievably supportive. He called me every week to check in and honestly, I have never felt such support from an advisor. I could tell based on him alone that the entire team must be amazing, and they have been."
The hands-on nursing labs in the new ABSN Learning Center on Elsinore Place in downtown Cincinnati prepare students to assist with patient care during clinical rotations. They work alongside faculty from Xavier's School of Nursing, who help develop critical thinking and decision-making skills in a controlled, risk-free environment.
The simulation labs allow students to practice the advanced skills needed for complex patient treatment, emergency preparedness and medical team collaboration.
But the program is also providing a much-needed resource, helping prepare educated nurses to fill a nursing shortage being felt here and nationwide. According to the American Nursing Association, demand for nurses is constantly outpacing supply, and by 2022, it's expected that 1.2 million vacancies will exist for registered nurses.
"We recognize there's a shortage," says Susan Schmidt, PhD, director for the School of Nursing. "We have an opportunity to address that problem with quality nurses of diverse backgrounds."
To enroll, students must hold a non-nursing bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution, have a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.70, and complete three prerequisite courses with a "B-" grade or higher (a "C" or higher in Statistics).
"The program has been tough. I would be lying if I said it wasn't," Prescott says.
"The best part is the immediate hands-on learning experiences, the support from all the staff, and our cohort group. From the moment we all met for our first lab, we began application and hands-on training. We were literally learning assessments of certain body systems by week 2."
The faculty and staff have also been a big help.
"It truly is an amazing feeling to know that everyone is in your corner and wants you to succeed," she says. "That is something that I personally never experienced in undergrad. Lastly, I feel very fortunate for the individuals in my cohort group. Since it is a smaller group, we have already become close with one another. We are all there for each other."
Lauren Weaver, a 25-year-old Cincinnati native, earned a degree in evolutionary anthropology at another university in 2014 and took a job as an assistant coach for the George Washington University Swimming team. In January, she discovered Xavier's ABSN program.
"So far, the faculty has been phenomenal," she says. "They made themselves available and have been very receptive to suggestions and concerns we may have. We are immersed in the material through course work, labs and clinicals. It is this immersion that enables us to learn and develop into nurses so quickly."
Schmidt also explained that due to Xavier's Jesuit philosophy of holistic care, the ABSN program creates nurses who understand the importance of a calm mind, healthy body and true "wellness society."
"Here at Xavier, we are looking at primary care," Schmidt says. "We don't want to just treat patients when they're sick. We want to ask the question, 'How do we keep people healthy?'"