Nurses Say Flexibility of New U of A Online Program Is Pivotal to Earning a Bachelor's Degree

Tinatra Carr works as a licensed practical nurse at a Veterans Affairs Medical Center and is pursuing an online bachelor's degree.
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Tinatra Carr works as a licensed practical nurse at a Veterans Affairs Medical Center and is pursuing an online bachelor's degree.

In August, the University of Arkansas launched an online program for licensed practical nurses to complete their bachelor's degree in nursing.

The program provides needed flexibility for working licensed practical nurses who want to finish their degrees. The inaugural class of 46 students are from communities across the state and beyond. They come from diverse backgrounds, groups and locations, bringing a variety of experiences to the online classroom environment.

The Institute of Medicine has recommended that 80 percent of nurses in the United States hold a bachelor's degree by 2020. The new L.P.N. to B.S.N. program will help students meet that industry expectation, stay competitive in the job market and increase earning potential.

Students will learn key nursing concepts to address health care needs in diverse settings, including hospitals, schools and clinical offices. The required clinicals can be taken in the student's geographical area, so travel to campus is not necessary.

One of the new students, Tinatra Carr, works as an L.P.N. at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Fayetteville.

"I hope that earning a bachelor's degree in nursing will lay down the foundation in my career by helping me receive the education I need to provide excellent and safe quality care to patients in a new role as a B.S.N.-R.N.," she said, noting that the degree will serve as a stepping stone to obtaining a master's degree and eventually working as a Nurse Educator.

Carr said online classes are crucial to her ability to earn a bachelor's degree.

"I have a busy schedule of being a full-time single mother and a full-time employee," she said. "I wouldn't be able to physically go to classes on campus. The L.P.N.-B.S.N. online program gives me the flexibility that I need so that I can work to provide for my family, and work on getting my bachelor's degree on my own time by meeting due dates."

Crystal Johnson, who lives in Little Rock, also appreciates the flexibility. She currently works pro re nata, working shifts at assisted living centers, nursing homes and clinics.

Johnson wants to earn a bachelor's degree in nursing from the U of A to first secure an inpatient unit job and eventually a nurse manager position.

"My ultimate goal is work in academia as an associate professor," she said.

Johnson said she was thrilled when the program was announced.

"U of A is the top school in Arkansas. So when the program was announced, I was ecstatic not only because the program is online but because the program is through U of A," she said. "U of A has a strong reputation in producing great nurses. So I just had to jump on the opportunity and apply."

Johnson moved to Arkansas four years ago.

"I love the nature of the state as well as the opportunity to advance in my career," she said.

The online program is also reaching nurses outside of Arkansas.

Devin Shuck, who lives in Idaho with his wife and three daughters, has been in the medical industry for about five years, starting out as a certified nursing assistant. In 2018, he earned an L.P.N. degree through North Idaho College and now works in correctional medicine.

He's grateful for the opportunity to take online classes at the U of A.

"It is my desire to further my education to better serve the patient population that is placed in my care and to have a positive effect in their care and individually," he said.

Shuck said his community is growing fast and that has placed a strain on the area's health care system.

"I am excited that I have been given this opportunity to obtain my education through the University of Arkansas," he said. "This program will allow me to continue to work while I complete my education goals to further my career. The biggest blessing that this program has to offer for me is that I will be able to continue to raise my family in our beautiful area while going to school."

Susan Patton, director of the Eleanor Mann School of Nursing, said the bachelor's degree in nursing will help practitioners face the challenges of an aging population, a dynamic healthcare environment, and a pending nursing shortage.

"The B.S.N. degree is becoming the new standard for registered nurses," she said. "Our B.S.N. programs are comprehensive and offer knowledge that can be applied in all health care settings such as critical care, primary care, public health and mental health."

Courses are offered in 8-week sessions, and students can apply for the program each fall or spring.

The program is offered by the Eleanor Mann School of Nursing in the College of Education and Health Professions and is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

For more information, contact the Eleanor Mann School of Nursing at 479-575-6640 or at OnlineRN@uark.edu.

All online programs offered by the U of A are showcased on the University of Arkansas Online website.

Contacts

Shannon G. Magsam, director of communications
College of Education and Health Professions
479-575-3138, magsam@uark.edu

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