Middle Tennessee State University and Columbia State Community College administrators formally agreed Nov. 16 to help ease the transfer of Columbia State nursing students who want to upgrade their associate’s degrees to an MTSU bachelor’s degree.
The document, signed by MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee and Columbia State President Janet F. Smith, provides specific advisement for Columbia State students who intend to transfer to MTSU and encourages academic and administrative coordination between the institutions.
“This will help students and provide a critical need,” McPhee said. “The Tennessee Board of Regents wants to increase the number of graduates in critical areas, and this program will help take out the hassle, allowing for an easier transition. This pact with Columbia State is a true win-win for the students and faculty at both of our institutions.”
“The signing of this innovative articulation agreement is a first and has occurred because of institutions joining together, partnering, to find the best way for associate-degree RNs to obtain their Bachelor of Science in Nursing,” Smith said.
“It is an example of the commitment of MTSU and Columbia State to be a team in providing educational access for our citizens, workforce responsiveness for our agencies and industries and a stimulus for achievement of the higher education goals of our state.”
Nursing and academic officials at both schools praised the agreement and how it also involves Maury Regional Medical Center in Columbia.
“There are so many of their graduates who wish to obtain their BSN and this agreement will provide for seamless progression from the associate degree to the BSN,” said Dr. Karen Ward, interim director for the MTSU School of Nursing, which has one of the leading programs in the Southeast.
“We also are happy to have Maury Regional involved, thus assisting with clinical placement opportunities and, perhaps, additional faculty that will be needed. It’s a win-win-win-win situation: for the students, for CSCC, for Maury Regional and for MTSU.”
Deborah Lumpkins, vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer for Maury Regional, attended the signing, as did four students from the MTSU nursing program.
Barbara Blum, director of the Columbia State nursing program, called the agreement “a significant milestone” that helps students at both schools because it presents opportunity for career advancement as well as promoting excellence in patient care.”
Dr. Kae Fleming, dean of the Health Sciences Division at Columbia State, said her college’s nursing program is a “centerpiece of the educational experiences available for students.”
She added that the registered nursing associate’s degree is “workforce-ready” and performs a critical role in meeting the care excellence expectations of patients and the medical community.
“Many associate degree RNs have obtaining a BS degree as a personal goal, and the RN to BSN agreement between Columbia State and Middle Tennessee State, with Maury Regional Health Systems collaborating to provide advanced level nursing clinical experiences, offers a path to achieve this educational dream at in-state tuition rates with no commute,” Fleming said.
She said the Bachelor of Science in Nursing will be earned via a blend of courses at Columbia State, which has the community-college benefits of lower tuition, smaller class sizes and personal attention, followed by online classes through MTSU.
“On-ground sessions will be incorporated throughout the enrollment to maintain a sense of community and deliver support services,” Fleming said.
“Degree advancement opens doors for career advancement for nurses. Additionally, many acute-care providers have established goals for increasing the number of BSN-level nurses providing bedside care in response to the Institute of Medicine initiatives outlined in ‘The Future of Medicine: Nursing Education.’
“This articulation allows nurses in the service area to pursue lifelong learning, a habit directly aligned with the college’s mission.”
MTSU senior Connie Gellinger, a nontraditional nursing student who commutes from Thompson’s Station, called it a “fabulous” partnership.
“This is great,” Gellinger said. “It will allow for seamless transition from the associate degree into the bachelor’s program. The benefit is (being able to take) online courses, which is more flexible. You can still work and maintain a family life while you pursue advancement in your nursing career.”
Today’s agreement includes a “Program of Study” with the MTSU RN-to-BSN course requirements and outlines courses that must be taken at CSCC for transfer to MTSU. Also provided is a listing of the MTSU upper-division nursing courses that students must complete to earn the Bachelor of Science degree in nursing through MTSU.
The agreement will be reviewed, amended, updated and/or expanded by mutual consent by representatives of each institution.
— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)