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News Program aids future nurses

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Sussex County students benefit from new UD-Beebe partnership
Students work in a biology lab

Students (from left) Gabrielle Primeaux, Samantha Mushrush and Will Douglas work in a biology lab taught by Assistant Professor Thomas Giardina at the Associate in Arts Program in Georgetown.

Wilbert Douglas was a high school student in Laurel, Delaware, when he first started thinking about a career in nursing.

He knew that he liked science, he said, and he had always had positive experiences when he visited a hospital — mostly because of the skilled and compassionate nurses he saw there.

“I like how nurses make you feel comfortable because they’re caring and they know their jobs,” said Douglas, a first-year student in the University of Delaware’s Associate in Arts Program (AAP) in Georgetown. “I thought I’d like a job where your work is challenging and different every day and you’re also really helping people.”

Today, Douglas is in the first cohort of 28 students in the new joint education program between UD and Beebe Healthcare’s Margaret H. Rollins School of Nursing in Lewes, Delaware. The partnership between the two institutions was finalized last year and launched this fall.

Like other AAP students at the Georgetown location, those in the dual enrollment program take UD classes taught by University faculty members and earn a two-year associate degree. But while other AAP graduates generally transition to the University’s Newark campus and complete a bachelor’s degree, the dual enrollment students complete a third year of study at the Rollins School of Nursing, the only hospital-based nursing program in Delaware, and earn a diploma in professional nursing in addition to their associate degree from UD.

Beginning in their second year in the joint program, the students take Rollins as well as UD classes. Their third year consists of clinical education and hands-on nursing experience at Beebe Healthcare.

After finishing the three-year program, graduates are eligible to take the licensing exam for registered nurses. With their RN license in hand then, many expect to begin their nursing careers and to earn a UD bachelor’s degree through the online baccalaureate program for the registered nurse (BRN) offered in the College of Health Sciences.

As the end of their first semester approaches, Douglas and other students who make up the first cohort of the new partnership are enthusiastic about the dual enrollment program. They said it was an obvious choice, allowing them to earn valuable credentials while saving money and staying close to home in Sussex County.

Lauren Carter and Thomas Giardina

​Thomas Giardina answers a question from student Lauren Carter.

“My mom is a nurse, and I know it’s important for RNs to have a degree, but I didn’t want to go away to college, so this program was perfect,” said Lauren Carter of Georgetown. “I want to get a bachelor’s degree, and I should be able to do that in four years. And I love Sussex County, so I’d like to stay and work here.”

For Gabrielle Primeaux, who says she’s wanted to be a nurse “forever,” the intensive hands-on clinical education offered by Rollins drew her to the program. She was also looking for an affordable way to earn a degree and a nursing diploma, noting that many new high school graduates are eligible for state Student Excellence Equals Degree (SEED) tuition funding.

“We have small classes and we all study together and help each other with the transition to college,” Primeaux said of the Associate in Arts Program.

“And then, when we start clinicals at Beebe, we’ll get to know the people there, and our instructors will be right there. I feel like when we start our careers as new RNs, we’ll really have a big head start.”

David Satran, AAP director, said the partnership fosters that sense of community.

“The strength of our collaboration is that it supports a diverse cohort of students who work together to achieve a shared goal of earning their UD associate degree, RN certification and ultimately their BSN [bachelor of science in nursing degree],” he said. “They are advised by UD professional staff who closely coordinate with colleagues at Rollins.”

The partnership will benefit not just the students but health care as a whole in Delaware, said Emily Hauenstein, who is Unidel Katherine L. Esterly Chair in Health Sciences and senior associate dean for nursing and health care innovation at UD. The most recent workforce data indicates that 33 percent of RNs in the state have bachelor’s degrees, while the Institute of Medicine recommends that at least 80 percent of nurses should have that education to improve patient outcomes, she said.

Hauenstein called the dual enrollment program “a wonderful opportunity to partner with Beebe in our joint goal of expanding the nursing workforce in Delaware with high quality and diverse nurses.”

The partnership, she said, “ensures a clear pathway for nurses educated in the Beebe program to obtain a BSN, ensuring that more nurses will take the step to obtaining their baccalaureate degree. The partnership also ensures that more nurses will remain to practice right here in Delaware.”

More about the Associate in Arts Program

The program, housed in the College of Arts and Sciences, offers a campus in each of Delaware’s three counties, small class sizes, specialized advisers, low tuition costs and a growing number of academic and social options.

“We see more and more students and parents who realize the cost-effective nature of the program and the advantages it offers,” Satran said. “It’s a pathway that students can choose — a pathway to a baccalaureate degree — as a way to begin their Blue Hen experience.”

And the partnership with the Rollins School of Nursing offers additional benefits to students, Satran said.

“Many students want to stay close to home,” he said. “We’re excited to provide students with an opportunity to receive an RN, and later a BSN, while in Sussex County.”

Article by Ann Manser; photos by Kathy F. Atkinson

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The inaugural cohort of 28 students in a partnership between UD's Associate in Arts Program and the Rollins School of Nursing are completing their first semester.

​A new joint program in Sussex County will enable students to earn their associate degree from UD and a diploma in professional nursing.

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