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A program in big demand

February 9, 2013
By Jim Tate , Marshall Independent

Jane Wrede is well aware of the fact she's breaking new ground as the first director of nursing at Southwest Minnesota State University.

The new RN to BSN degree program at SMSU will launch in the fall of 2013, and Wrede has been busy getting ready for what has, already, been a popular degree offering at the university.

The RN to BSN degree was the brainchild of SMSU interim President Dr. Ron Wood. The degree is designed with the working RN in mind, said Wrede, a Rock Valley, Iowa, native now living in Clara City.

Wrede got a two-year nursing degree and was a practicing nurse for eight years before going back to school and earning a four-year bachelor's degree from Minnesota State University, Mankato. She later earned a master's degree in nursing from the University of Minnesota, and is currently in the doctoral program at South Dakota State University.

"I'm part time (in the doctoral program) about halfway through," she said.

Offering the degree, now, is a ripe time, she said.

"The biggest push has been from the Institute of Medicine. In 2011, they recommended that 80 percent of nurses have a BSN by the year 2020. Currently, in our area, that number is between 25 and 30 percent," she said. That number comes from the SMSU task force formed to gather data following Wood's initial proposal.

With that on the horizon, and with most rural two-year nurses busy with their families and careers, "this degree will be in big demand. People are busy raising families and working, and they won't have an opportunity to travel. This is the perfect program for them," she said.

Students will enter the program with a two-year degree and will take 60 additional credits - 30 nursing credits and 30 liberal arts credits.

"The focus will be on the specifics of being a practicing nurse in a rural setting, that's what makes this degree unique," she said. "We also want our grads to come out with an understanding of management, since there are so few BSN-prepared nurses in the area. We expect our grads to be able to take on management positions when they are finished."

Wrede started on Jan. 10, and said that a cohort of 25 nurses will be accepted into the program in the fall semester of 2013 and spring semesters of 2014, respectively.

"There are two different points of entry into the program," she said. "First, students will apply for admittance into the general college, and then we'll open up applications into the nursing program on March 1. We'll review the applications at that time. It's our goal to keep two cohort groups going every year, in the fall and spring semesters. We'll also give student and opportunity to take courses at a faster, or slower, pace. Whatever is convenient for them."

"The big thing is the convenience," she added, pointing to the fact that most courses will be delivered online. "We'll have a hybrid format, and the students will come to campus, at the most, two or three times per semester. We want to appeal to practicing nurses, and this is a convenient format. They can take one course or be full time. We want to accommodate working nurses."

Wrede said that the desire by the medical community for four-year degree nurses has been slow but steady. "They've been talking about this for 25 years" she said. "Some of the big payers, like Medicare and Medicaid, are starting to recognize the benefits of hiring BSN prepared nurses."

She's been putting things in place, like finalizing the website and "making the admission process seamless." She will be teaching the courses, and said that an additional faculty person will be added in the spring of 2014. She's already fielded many inquiries about the program and is confident it will be successful once fully implemented.

Nursing, in a rural setting, is a different animal than nursing in a big-city setting.

"Most of the time, you are taking care of people you know, which makes that dynamic quite different," she said. "You are talking about a potential life-or-death scenario, and you see these people, and their families, in the hospital and in church the next Sunday."

Wrede was a faculty member at Minnesota West Community and Technical College (Granite Falls campus) prior to accepting the job at SMSU, so she's had experience as a nurse and a teacher of nursing.

A lot of work went into getting the program to this point, said Wrede.

"The task force really did a lot in a short amount of time," she said. Avera Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center donated $75,000 to help the program get off the ground. "We're all grateful for their support."

Launching a new degree program at a university is a big undertaking. You can do all of the research you want, but it's always a nervous time for everyone - especially the faculty member (s) - before it goes live. Just ask Michael Cheng, who was brought in several years ago to start the university's culinology program, which has flourished.

No pressure, right?

Wrede and her husband Dan have four children: Tyler, 21; Alex, 18; Emily, 14; and Carter, 9.



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