East Tennessee State University’s LPN-to-BSN program continues to expand, giving licensed practical nurses a way to earn their bachelor of science degrees not only in Johnson City, but throughout the state of Tennessee, how including Chattanooga.
The ETSU College of Nursing’s LPN-BSN program has been in existence since 2001. When it started, it was primarily accessible to working nursing professionals in the Tri-Cities area, with courses offered on-ground with traditional students on ETSU’s main campus in Johnson City.
The program has grown after the college expanded it to meet the needs of the workforce by using technology to offer courses at other locations within the state. "As of this spring 2019 semester, licensed practical nurses (LPNs) in Chattanooga now have an accessible, convenient way to earn their bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degrees with the expansion of the LPN-BSN Program to Chattanooga’s Erlanger Health System," officials said. "Seven students are enrolled this semester at the program in Chattanooga, bringing the total current enrollment at four sites statewide to 123.
"A new statewide cohort of 60 to 70 students begins its studies each semester, including the summer term, and approximately 90 applications were just received for 60 spots in this summer’s cohort, which will host students at sites in Shelbyville and Newbern for the first time. The application period for the cohort beginning in the fall 2019 semester will run from May 11-June 1.
"ETSU’s program expansion began after the Institute of Medicine issued a recommendation in 2011 to increase the number of BSN-prepared nurses entering the workforce to 80 percent by the year 2020.
"College of Nursing officials looked at Tennessee Board of Nursing statistics for graduates from 2013-16 and saw that over 1,000 students graduated during that time with associate degrees from the Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology (TCATs) and passed boards to become LPNs. However, they questioned why so few of those graduates were going on to earn their BSN degrees, so they surveyed nursing students at the TCATs to determine their needs."
“We found we were the only nursing program at a public institution in the state that offered an LPN-to-BSN program,” said Dr. Melessia D. Webb, associate dean for Undergraduate Programs and associate professor in the ETSU College of Nursing. “So we discovered that the demand was high for an LPN-to-BSN program that was accessible, meaning students didn’t have to come to Johnson City to be educated but could stay in their area; accelerated, meaning they didn’t want to be in school for five semesters with summers off, making it drawn-out; and articulated, which gave them more articulation credit for being LPNs.”
Dr. Webb and her colleagues set a goal of expanding ETSU’s LPN-BSN program so that students all the way to Memphis could have access to it.
Tabitha Quillen, director of Undergraduate Post-Licensure Programs for the College of Nursing, said they revised the curriculum by comparing it to the common curriculum used at TCATs across the state and eliminating repetitive coursework. This provided 23 articulation credits, compared to the previously allowed six credits for courses already taken. The reduced amount of coursework, combined with a newly compressed schedule of four consecutive semesters with no summer breaks, provided the accelerated program students needed.
The college made the program accessible by offering a hybrid format with 50 percent fully online courses and 50 percent of the courses conducted via instructional television (ITV) at other Tennessee locations.
In the fall 2018 semester, the College of Nursing’s newly revised LPN-BSN program enrolled 59 students in cohorts in three Tennessee cities, with classes live-streamed from Johnson City to the TCATs in both Nashville and Crossville. As they progress through the program, students will gain clinical experience at participating agencies near their home sites.
After learning of ETSU’s revised program, Erlanger reached out to the College of Nursing to discuss the possibility of establishing the site in Chattanooga. With interest expressed by more than 100 LPNs, Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) approval was sought and granted. In addition, because many Erlanger employees interested in the program live across the state line in Georgia, an agreement was reached allowing a discount from the regular out-of-state tuition rate for Georgia residents.
Demand is high in other areas of the state as well, officials said. More than 1,500 LPNs have requested information on the program, and some students even drive two nights per week from Memphis to Nashville to attend ETSU’s live-streamed courses there. In light of that, ETSU is seeking THEC approval to expand to two other locations this summer.
“It’s really grown tremendously fast,” Dr. Webb says. “It’s a lot of hard work, but we look at how many students really need this bridge. When you get that kind of interest and you know the need is that drastic, it gives us motivation, because we know we’re doing a good thing.”
For more information, visit https://www.etsu.edu/nursing/undergrad/lpn_bsn.php or email Quillen at firstname.lastname@example.org.