GGC establishes Georgia’s nursing program of choice

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With new, high-tech instructional facilities in the Allied Health and Sciences building and a rare educational approach, Georgia Gwinnett College has a lofty goal – to have the baccalaureate nursing program of choice in Georgia and the premier program of the Southeast.

Nursing student Brad Morrison talks with Dr. Judy Bradberry, professor of nursing, while nursing faculty and students practice clinical activities on mannequins in two of the Nursing Skills Laboratory’s 14 patient care beds.
Nursing student Brad Morrison talks with Dr. Judy Bradberry, professor of nursing, while nursing faculty and students practice clinical activities on simulation mannequins in two of the Nursing Skills Laboratory’s 14 patient care beds.

“Ours is Georgia’s first program designed to be concept-based from its beginning, and only one of two in the state,” said Sharon Grason, PhD(c), RN, director of the nursing program, part of the School of Health Sciences (SHS). “Combined with the program’s selectivity, this approach will instill a high level of prestige and credibility in a GGC nursing degree.”

Included in the college’s plans since its inception, the long-awaited BSN program enrolled its charter class this semester.

While it is a four-year degree program, GGC students pursuing nursing are enrolled in “pre-nursing” for their first two years. They must apply to the BSN program for their junior and senior years. Only 30 students are accepted into the program each fall and spring semester. Once accepted, they will take on-campus courses and clinical rotations in real-world health care environments like hospitals and community settings.

Flipping the classroom

New nursing students attend a three-day “boot camp.” Uncommon among nursing programs, this comprehensive orientation prepares students for success. They learn what to expect from clinical experiences and e-resources, how nursing is different from other degree programs and how to manage GGC’s innovative “flipped classroom.”

“In a flipped classroom environment, homework is done first and class time is used for application activities related to the ‘pre-class’ work. All instruction is done outside of class,” said Grason. To efficiently prepare students for class, instructors highlight specific sections in online textbooks and provide online lectures.

“Students view online materials before class, where they participate in hands-on, laboratory and simulation activities that reinforce conceptual learning,” she said. “With no lecture, they experience the joy of the noisy classroom, as we instructors actively interact with our students.”

Another unique feature in GGC’s nursing program is the mandatory use of laptops and e-texts for learning.

“It is important to train nurses to work in the environment they will encounter in actual clinical settings.” – Grason

GGC’s program is supported by an Interactive Clinical Learning Center (ICLC), including a Simulation Suite with four simulation labs equipped with wireless technology for managing patient bed simulations. The simulation mannequins are so life-like they mimic virtually any medical situation, even childbirth.

Control rooms with one-way mirrors allow faculty to facilitate patient scenarios and video students as they work with the simulators. The suite has electronic patient medication dispensing systems students will use in giving medications.

The ICLC also contains a 14-bed Nursing Skills Laboratory resembling a large intensive care unit, complete with a nurses’ station. All students learn electronic health records through the use of a software that will be used both in the clinical settings and program laboratories.

“It is important to train nurses to work in the environment they will encounter in actual clinical settings,” said Grason. “We will prepare our students to function effectively in health care’s dynamic, multi-disciplinary and highly interactive work environments.” Even the design of the program’s two classrooms facilitates collaborative, group activities.

Meeting a growing need

The GGC program is well-positioned to provide skilled employees for the rapidly growing health care industry. However, it also will play a critical role in meeting a looming, immediate goal for increasing the number of BSN-degreed nurses.

Research indicates that a hospital staff of BSN-degreed nurses is associated with decreased medical complications and length of hospital stay. This means that BSNs are important to patients and patient care, and a key to controlling rising health care costs.

With input from a multi-disciplinary team of health care professionals, the Institute of Medicine established an aggressive, industry-changing goal of requiring that 80 percent of all bedside nurses have BSNs by 2020. Currently, 60 percent of bedside nurses at the nation’s hospitals are at the associate degree level.

“GGC’s graduates will be well-prepared for the increased opportunities for BSN nurses,” said Grason. “The job market could not be any better for them.”

Nursing school badgeHowever, the goal also requires that a very large number of RN, LPN and associate-degreed nurses must further their education within only six years.

“Some health care employers are no longer accepting applications from nurses with less than a BSN,” said Grason. “Some employers have given their current nurses strict deadlines to enroll in a BSN program. This creates a dramatic, immediate need.”

To help meet this goal, the SHS plans to introduce a special RN-to-BSN program in the near future. This one-year program will build upon students’ existing RN-level education. However, RN students must take non-nursing prerequisite college courses necessary to earn their bachelor degrees. This will require that RN students enroll at GGC in advance so they can begin taking their pre-requisites. In anticipation of the planned program, Grason said prospective RNs can begin taking prerequisite classes now. For more information www.ggc.edu/nursing.

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