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Front Page - Friday, March 1, 2019

ETSU expands nursing program to Chattanooga

Photograph provided The students in ETSU’s LPN-BSN program at Chattanooga’s Erlanger Health System

Licensed practical nurses in Chattanooga can now earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing at Erlanger Health System. The expansion of East Tennessee State University’s LPN-BSN program to Erlanger made this possible.

ETSU’s LPN-BSN program has been in place since 2001. Initially, it was accessible to working nurses in the Tri-Cities area, with courses offered to students on ETSU’s main campus in Johnson City. But the program grew after ETSU began using technology to offer courses at other locations in the state.

Seven students are enrolled in the program this semester in Chattanooga, bringing the total enrollment at four sites statewide to 123.

A statewide cohort of 60 to 70 students begins its studies each semester. ETSU received about 90 applications for 60 spots in this summer’s cohort. The application period for the cohort beginning this fall will run May 11-June 1.

ETSU began expanding the program 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 2020.

ETSU officials looked at Tennessee Board of Nursing statistics for graduates from 2013-16 and saw that over 1,000 students graduated with associate degrees from Tennessee colleges of applied technology 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 colleges of applied technology to determine their needs.

“We found we were the only public institution in the state that offered an LPN-to-BSN program,” says Dr. Melessia Webb, associate dean for undergraduate programs and associate professor at the ETSU College of Nursing. “So the demand for an LPN-to-BSN program that was accessible, accelerated and articulated was high.”

Tabitha Quillen, director of undergraduate post-licensure programs for ETSU’s College of Nursing, says the school revised the curriculum by comparing it with the curriculum used at colleges of applied technology across the state and eliminating repetitive coursework.

This provided 23 articulation credits, compared with the previously allowed six credits, for courses already taken. The reduced amount of coursework, combined with a compressed schedule of four consecutive semesters, provided the accelerated program.

ETSU made the program more accessible by offering a 50-50 combination of online courses and classes conducted via instructional television at other Tennessee locations.

For the fall 2018 semester, the College of Nursing’s revised LPN-BSN program enrolled 59 students in cohorts in three Tennessee cities, with classes live streamed from Johnson City to colleges of applied technology in Nashville and Crossville. As they progressed through the program, students gained clinical experience at participating agencies near their home sites.

After learning of ETSU’s revised program, Erlanger reached out to the school’s College of Nursing to discuss the possibility of establishing a site in Chattanooga.

With interest expressed by more than 100 LPNs, Erlanger secured approval from the Tennessee Higher Education Commission. In addition, because many Erlanger employees interested in the program live in Georgia, an agreement was reached to allow a tuition discount for Georgia residents.

More information is available at www.etsu.edu/nursing/undergrad/lpn_bsn.php or via Quillen at quillent@etsu.edu.

Source: ETSU