Nursing program receives state grant

Argen Duncan

An Eastern New Mexico University program that allows working nurses to get their bachelor of science in nursing degree has received a state grant that will mostly go to scholarships.

ENMU’s bachelor of science in nursing completion program received a $502,000 grant for the next two years. Executive Director of Planning and Analysis Patrice Caldwell said 70 percent was going to scholarships and the rest to salary, travel and supplies.

The program allows registered nurses with an associate degree in nursing to work full time while earning their bachelor of science in nursing online at their own pace and according to their own schedule.

Nursing Education Coordinator Dawn Wolf-Taylor said the program has more than 250 students from around the country, even as far away as Pennsylvania. Of these, 135 are benefiting this semester from the grant-provided scholarships paying for at least part of their tuition in nursing classes.

Student must live in New Mexico to receive those scholarships.

“We didn’t know with the statewide budget cuts if we’d get this,” Wolf-Taylor said of the grant.

Hailey Radloff, a nurse at Roosevelt General Hospital, has just begun the completion program after finishing an associate degree in nursing from Clovis Community College.

With the long-term goal of becoming a nurse practitioner, Radloff said the program being online allows her to fit school in around her full-time job at RGH and caring for her children. She was also attracted to ENMU by scholarships and the fact that her parents graduated from the school.

The BSN completion program started at ENMU in 1995, but didn’t go online until years later. Wolf-Taylor said the enrollment grows every semester.

Having an online program works because the students already have their associate degree and practice the physical part of nursing every day, she said.

“The bachelor level of education opens the doors of why they’re doing what they’re doing,” Wolf-Taylor said.

She said the bachelor’s program teaches theory, ethics and critical thinking to empower nurses and help them make decisions.

Wolf-Taylor said nurses having a bachelor’s in their field is important because research shows patient safety has a direct link with the educational level of the nurses.

Also, some hospitals need BSN nurses to have a higher official status, and New Mexico officials are aiming to have 66 percent of nurses in the state holding a BSN by 2015, she said. However, Wolf-Taylor expects the 2015 deadline to be pushed back.