Changes coming to SWTJC registered nursing program

Email this article 08/06/2012

To meet ever changing demands in the nursing field, the SWTJC Registered Nursing Program will undergo some major redesigning over the next couple of years.

According to Geraldine M. Goosen, Ph.D., director of the registered nursing program, the changes are designed to let students enter the program directly without having to first become a Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN).

"When we first applied to establish a Registered Nursing (RN) program at the college, the need in Southwest Texas was to provide a mechanism to enable LVNs to transition to RNs," Dr. Goosen said. "Now we believe it is time to offer students a more expanded RN program and better position our graduates to go directly into a Bachelor's of Science in Nursing (BSN) Program."

The existing LVN to RN Transition Program was approved by the Texas Board of Nursing and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board in October of 2007. The program graduated its first class in May of 2009.

In the four years of its existence, a total of 102 students have graduated from the program, providing a substantial increase in registered nurses to the area. The program remains in good standing with all regulating agencies including the Texas Board of Nursing.

"We will continue the program as it currently exists through May 2014 when our final transition program class is scheduled to graduate," Dr. Goosen said. "This will provide area LVNs the opportunity to complete their prerequisites and enter the program in May of 2013."

Dr. Goosen has been traveling throughout the area in recent months informing LVNs of upcoming changes to the RN program. "We want all the LVNs to realize that next year will be their last chance to enter the existing transition program," she said. "Beyond 2014, LVNs will be able to progress through the new program as courses they need become available."

Like the existing program, the new program will include general education requirements that must be met as specified. The program will cover two full years of classroom instruction, skills and simulation labs, and direct patient care in local hospitals, clinics and other health agencies.

Graduates of the program will receive the Associate Degree in Nursing and be qualified to sit for the NCLEX-RN, the national licensing exam for registered nurses.

The complete list of course requirements for the redesigned program is still being finalized. Dr. Goosen and her staff plan to submit their proposal for the new program to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and Texas Board of Nursing this fall. Brochures delineating all program requirements will be available in the spring of 2013.

In addition to finalizing plans for the new program, Dr. Goosen has been working to establish articulation agreements with four-year universities to enable SWTJC nursing graduates to enter existing Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Programs. Recently SWTJC secured its first agreement with Texas Tech University. Dr. Goosen is working with Sul Ross State University – Rio Grande College and other state universities to develop similar agreements.

"A recent joint report by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) calls for 80% of nurses to have their BSN by 2020," Dr. Goosen said. "Since this is the trend, we want to give our graduates as clear a path as possible to get where they need to be."

SWTJC Director of Technical Programs Johnny Guzman commends Dr. Goosen and her staff for their work on redesigning the RN program. "Redesigning the program will put us in position to best serve our students," Guzman said. "Dr. Goosen is leading this effort and is doing an outstanding job."

Guzman said the college's highly successful LVN program will continue to be available for SWTJC students. The one-year LVN certificate program currently accepts a total of 90 students annually at sites in Uvalde, Del Rio and Eagle Pass.

"The LVN program will still be available at SWTJC and will continue to be an integral part of the allied health care division for years to come," Guzman said.

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