RN to BSN: Connecting the Countryside to the Metro while Moving Nursing Forward

A UMKC RN-BSN student employed in a Kansas City hospital, a UMKC RN-BSN student employed in a rural Kansas hospital, and a UMKC RN-BSN student employed in rural Missouri work as a collaborative team to develop education materials for a downtown Kansas City hospital.

This is just one example of student peer connections and extraordinary student accomplishments that have become a hallmark of UMKC’s RN-BSN program over the decades. The program enables ADN registered nurses throughout the U.S. to earn their BSN degree, which can lead to expanded career and graduate academic opportunities.

For Program Director Anita Skarbek, PhD, RN, the faculty-to-student and student-to-student collaborative nature of the program is a driving force that enhances student-learning outcomes regarding real-life patient health care needs and issues. “Our RN-BSN program strives to foster student connectedness, and not only while students are in our program,” said Skarbek. “We want them to continue these professional relationships well beyond graduation.”

Although UMKC’s national RN-BSN program is completely online, students have ample opportunity to interact with one another and faculty through weekly class assignments, as well as innovative clinical practice experiences. Since the students are all registered nurses, faculty encourage students to bring their individual professional perspectives and experiences as urban, suburban or rural nurses to the work they do throughout the program.

According to Skarbek, integrating personal professional perspectives and experiential knowledge is beneficial to all the students in the program, and especially to nurses working in a rural setting, says Skarbek since as our students have discovered, many rural institutions lack having access to resources that are often afforded to larger, urban-serving institutions. And while UMKC prides itself in serving as a student-centered urban university, the online nature of the RN-BSN program allows the school to reach beyond. For example, one-third of the students enrolled in the program either work and/or live in rural communities.

Acquiring professional role development though my RN-BSN studies was a critical component to RN-BSN alumnus Kimberly Slaughter, who works in Cameron, Missouri. “I wanted to bring that knowledge-based learning back to my rural community because the classes make you evaluate your own hospital’s policies and procedures” said Slaughter. “The classwork opens your eyes and makes you ask, ‘Are we doing the most for our patients?”

The RN-BSN program has a long history of out-reaching to rural nurses. In 2010, the program was one of three universities in the nation to be awarded a $1.75 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to develop UMKC’s RN-BSN Rural Nursing Initiative. Skarbek says that is how the school showcased the program’s innovative technology that enables shared learning opportunities to rural students. The program was also awarded a $345,000 Nursing Workforce Diversity Grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for 2016-2017, which supported rural nursing outreach, as well.

Skarbek also views peer mentoring as an important aspect of the program – one that serves a critical need for the nursing profession. “Our faculty encourage students to answer each other’s questions through the weekly classroom-room based discussion-board forums and through peer-review processes of assignment submissions. Peer discussion provides opportunities to students to not only engage and learn from one another and form lasting relationships, but also helps students to develop mastery regarding the topic under discussion.”

For alumnus Gary Hicks, a RN working in a Kansas City-area hospital, “Peer discussions and peer review help develop a kinship among classmates, while offering a glimpse into how other hospitals address patient care-delivery challenges.  All hospitals, for example, strive to eliminate catheter-associated infections and central line infections. In one of the RN-BSN classes, students reviewed case studies on these topics and critically analyzed research studies to reflect on and evaluate existing best practices to address these issues. While I was discussing these infection issues with one of my classmates who was working at a rural hospital in Kansas, I discovered that his hospital had implemented different safety interventions that I was able to take back to my own hospital as a point of discussion.”

Hicks is also grateful for the team-building experiences acquired through UMKC’s RN-BSN program. “My experience at UMKC has really boosted my confidence in working with my existing team at the hospital. UMKC’s RN-BSN program presents timely, real-life health care issues to the classroom setting, and is a program that I highly recommend to ADN RNs who wish to pursue their BSN degree.”


Celebrating Our Award-Winning Students

Dean Cary presented awards to (left-to-right) Kathryn Slagle, Kylie Wilson, Bridget Kenny and Alauna Christian (Not pictured, Amanda Thomas was unable to attend)

This past commencement, we not only celebrated all our graduates, we also celebrated a handful of students with our year-end awards. Congratulations to both our graduates and our awardees. Here are those award-winning students.

Kathryn Slagle was presented with the Award for Academic Excellence. This award is given to a student who has the highest overall GPA enrolled in the BSN Programs.

The award for Advancement of Nursing went to Amanda Thomas. This award is selected by the faculty and given to a RN-BSN student. In receiving this award, Amanda Thomas is being recognized for her contributions she has made to advance the profession by actively engaging in professional nursing organizations, committees, community work, and/or research activities.

Kylie Wilson  received the Excellence in Nursing Award. This is presented to a Baccalaureate Pre-licensure and/or Accelerated student. It is selected by the faculty and recognizes a student who has demonstrated excellence in nursing care, exceptional student, strong clinical judgment, a caring attitude, and unwavering desire to serve.

The Leadership in Nursing Award was presented to Bridget Kenny. This award is given to a RN-BSN student selected by the faculty. In receiving this award, Kenny has demonstrated leadership qualities while engaged in the practicum community leadership project setting that cultivated and promoted creativity, trust, mutual respect, integrity and collaboration among team members.

Alauna Christian received the Leadership in Nursing Award, which is given to a Baccalaureate Pre-licensure or Accelerated student and chosen by faculty. This award recognizes leadership qualities in the clinical setting, among peers, community (all or any) and a strong potential to be a nursing leader in the community and/or for the profession.

Congratulations again to all these well deserving students!

AACN Chair & SONHS Dean submits Testimony to U.S Senate to Ensure the Future of America’s Nursing Workforce

Title VIII funding to educate the nursing workforce and support the development of Nursing Science has been critical to new program development, innovative models of care and education, growing a diverse workforce, and influencing the production and use of nursing science in the US.

Click here to read the testimony submitted by Dr. Ann Cary, Dean and Professor of the School and Chair of the Board of AACN to the US Senate Appropriations Subcommittee to understand what is at stake in the FY 2020 federal budget for nursing! This testimony was supported by the AACN policy staff.

It’s an Active Spring in the Health Sciences District

The warm weather is here – and the UMKC Health Sciences District has a number of upcoming healthy initiatives for staff, students and faculty. Whether it’s an e-bike rental or a walking group, the District is working to get everyone active and outdoors.

The Health Sciences District Run/Walk club has begun again this year. Each weekday over the lunch hour, you can join fellow students, faculty, staff and friends from throughout the district to run or walk the 2.5-mile route. If you’re interested in participating, the group meets at 24th St. and Charlotte – just look for the Run/Walk sign. New this year: the group is putting together a team to participate in the Hospital Hill Run.

Unlike past year’s, this year’s race will take place on Saturday, June 1. The starting and finishing lines for all three race distances – 5K, 10K, and half marathon – will be set up at Kansas City’s Crown Center. All UMKC running enthusiasts, faculty, staff, students and alumni, may receive a 20 percent discount on registration. To sign up for any of the day’s races, use the code UMKCDISC19. Register at  hospitalhillrun.com. If you’re not participating as a runner but would still like to get involved, the event is looking for volunteers. Contact Alison Troutwine at alison.troutwine@tmcmed.org for more information.

If you need help getting around, the District has you covered. RideKC Bike has released a new fleet of smart, electric-assisted bikes housed in the district for bike share users. They are already available just outside the UMKC Health Sciences Bookstore, and you can start or end your trip at any RideKC Bike hub around the city. To get started, download the Drop Mobility app to find bikes and hub locations near you. Your first ride is free.

The district is committed to encouraging a healthy lifestyle throughout our District community. It’s a perfect time to enjoy this beautiful weather and take advantage of these great offerings.

Congratulations to the School of Nursing and Health Studies Spring 2019 Graduates

The School of Nursing and Health Studies would like to congratulate all of our Spring 2019 graduates. We are very proud of your accomplishment and grateful to be a helping hand on your journey to make an indelible impact in local, regional, national, and global healthcare.

This semester we graduated 93 Bachelor of Science in Nursing students, 56 Bachelor of Health Sciences students, 1 Bachelor of Science in Public Health student, 61 Master of Science in Nursing students, 3 Graduate Certificate/POST-MSN Certificate students, 36 Doctor of Nursing Practice students and 9 Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing students.

A special congratulations goes to our very own Brandon Woods for being awarded the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Honor. Brandon proved to be a devout leader among his peers, while sustaining high academic achievements and actively participating in university and community leadership and service activities outside of the classroom.

We are certain that all of our graduates training and hard-work will benefit many. We wish you all well!