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 through 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 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.”


Leader in Early Language Development to Present at UMKC

September is Women in Medicine Month, making the speaker for this year’s William and Marjorie Sirridge Lecture especially appropriate. Dana Suskind, M.D., professor of surgery and pediatrics at the University of Chicago and founder and director of the Thirty Million Words Initiative, will speak at noon on Sept. 19 in Theater A at the School of Medicine on “TMW: A Public Health Approach to Early Learning.” The event is open to all UMKC faculty, staff and students.

As a surgeon performing cochlear implants in children, Suskind realized her patients’ language skills developed at far different rates. Through her research, she discovered that children who thrive hear millions of words during their early years and wrote a book on her work, Thirty Million Words: Building a Child’s Brain.

Through her Thirty Million Word Initiative, she developed an evidence-based intervention program that is intended to reduce the language gap between children in lower-income families and wealthier households. The program combines education, technology and behavioral strategies for parents and caregivers to enhance the verbal interactions with their children.

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Rolling Out the Red Carpet for New Students

For UMKC’s Week of Welcome, the School of Nursing and Health Studies students got back into the swing of things with a number of activities on campus. Week of Welcome is a campus-wide initiative uniting new and returning students to celebrate the university’s vibrant campus life energizing them as they transition to the new semester.

The week kicked off August 11 with the White Coat Ceremony. The ceremony is a rite of passage for incoming nursing students and marks an important first step on their road to becoming a nurse. Central to the ceremony is the recitation of the Student Nurse’s Oath, a vow to provide compassionate care for their patients. The vow UMKC’s nursing students read is actually unique to the school as it was written by Amber Charleville, a 2016 alumna. More than 200 family and friends of the students were on hand to witness their pledge.

The 89 students who participated received their white coats and a ceremonial pin that serves as a visual reminder of their oath and commitment to providing high quality care. The white coats will be crucial for their time at UMKC because they’ll put in 1,200 clinical hours while at the university, an experience that will prove indispensable once they enter the nursing workforce.

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Continued Success Molding Future Health Care Providers in Kansas City

For Carlton Walker, his experience at KC HealthTracks summer camp will stay with him well into his future. Said Walker, “I feel that just being involved in this program has contributed to my development as a person and definitely as a future health care professional.”

The program’s mentorship is at the core of why KC HealthTracks at the UMKC School of Nursing and Health Studies recently received additional funding of $615,792 from the U.S. Public Health Service, Office of Minority Health. The program aims to engage high school students from the Kansas City area in the health care professions and prepare them for success in health-related careers.

Going into its fifth year, KC HealthTracks has supported more than 140 students at under-resourced high schools across the metro area. Participants attend a week-long summer camp, where they have face-to-face faculty mentor sessions, visit health science programs at UMKC, Metropolitan Community College-Penn Valley and Rockhurst University, receive math and science tutoring, and take part in ACT prep sessions.

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Health Sciences Diversity Council sponsoring Cultural Competency Speaker Series

The Health Sciences Diversity and Inclusion Council is bringing a three-part Cultural Competency Speaker series to the Health Sciences campus beginning in August.

With financial support from a University of Missouri System Inclusive Excellence grant, the council will provide lectures and discussions on topics including Creating Safe and Inclusive Spaces for the LGBTQIA CommunityMaternity Mortality Rate in African-American Mothers, and Ethnopharmacology. Each session will be open to all students, faculty and staff on the Health Sciences campus.

Tamica Lige, diversity council chair, said the speaker series will be geared toward health care professionals and will address a range of topics focusing on diversity and cultural competency in health care.

“We’ve tried to find topics that will be beneficial to the members all four health science schools,” Lige said. “One of our goals is to provide educational programming that can make an impact on knowledge, self-awareness, attitude, and cross-cultural skills.”

The series begins with the program on safe and inclusive spaces on August 8. Kari Jo Freudigmann, M.S, assistant director of LGBTQIA programs and services in the UMKC Office of Student Involvement will be one of two speakers from noon to 2 p.m. in the Health Sciences Building Room 3301. Her co-speaker will be Kimberly Tilson, BSN, RN, nurse care manager for the Behavioral Health Community Access Program at Truman Medical Center and a Health Science District LGBTQIA patient care advocate. This is a two-part session, with part one being a 101 basic knowledge session and part two being an application skills session.

The part one session will help participants identify issues facing the LGBTQIA community, demonstrate fundamental skills to become a community ally, and reduce the fear of reprisal and discrimination. Participants in this session may also receive 25 wellness points toward their Total Rewards benefits package.

Registration is encouraged but not required to attend. To register, go to https://tinyurl.com/CCSSregistration. Those unable to attend but interested in the program can also take part online via Zoom through the link https://umkc.zoom.us/j/8162352833. The program will also be repeated in September for those unable to attend in August.

On October 3, participants can put their new knowledge to work during part two, the application and skills session. In that program from 10 a.m. to noon, Henry Ng, M.D., MPH, a public health LGBT health physician leader and advisor, will facilitate a panel composed of members from the LGBTQIA community and clinicians in a question and answer session followed by breakout sessions with video vignettes and small group discussions.

Traci Johnson, M.D., FACOG, UMKC assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology, will lead the session on the maternal mortality rate in African-American mothers on September 4. Cesar Compadre, Ph.D., professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences and director of the Biomedical Visualization Center at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, will speak on ethnopharmacology on October 30.