School of nursing changes program degrees

Bryson Keltner

The WKU School of Nursing is officially terminating its associate degree program and expanding its baccalaureate degree program next semester.

“Given that we were seeing so many students wanting in our baccalaureate program, and we were seeing decreased interest in our associate, we decided to close the associate program and open up more seats in the baccalaureate,” said Mary Bennett, who has served as the director of the WKU School of Nursing for 10 years.

Bennett assured the switch will not currently affect the number of nurses graduating from WKU, but only change their degrees.

“So, we’re going from about 80 students in the baccalaureate program to admitting about 120 this fall,” Bennett said. “We’re in the process of accepting those students now. We have about 140 applicants for those seats.”

Bennett said once the program gains some more resources, it may increase the number of seats to 160, which the Board of Nursing established as the base-line enrollment.

Bennett said the School of Nursing is keeping an online program that allows LPN’s to receive their associate’s.

“We are still keeping online LPN to ASN program because it’s one of only two in the state, and we still have a lot of LPNs out there who want to advance their career,” she said. “We don’t want to close the door on them.”

Bennett said the primary reasoning the baccalaureate program has been seeing an increase in interest is because the profession has been moving towards the baccalaureate degree.

“While it’s not a legal requirement that nurses have a baccalaureate, more hospitals are making it a requirement for hire, or if they hire someone with an associate’s, they require them to get a baccalaureate within a certain period of time,” Bennett said.

Nate Morris, second semester BSN student from Kansas City, Missouri, shared his experience in the nursing baccalaureate program so far while studying with a fellow nursing student at a Starbucks off campus.

“It’s a big challenge,” Morris said. “You really get to apply yourself in a lot of different areas, and then you know you’re going into a field that’s going to help people.”

Morris described typical days as a nursing student: lecture days usually consist of two lectures with a few breaks scattered from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Clinical days are more atypical.

“If it’s a clinical day, depending on what floor you’re working on – it could be like a surgical floor, a pediatric floor – you start your day when the nurse starts,” Morris said.

Also in her second semester of the nursing program, Songbee Kim of Oak Grove shared her reasoning for switching to the nursing field her sophomore year.

“At the time I wanted to be an optometrist,” Kim said. “I thought in the future there could be a possibility of robotics for that. So I was like, ‘What’s a job that would be in need forever?’ It would be nursing.”

Kim said the best part about the program itself is the sense of unity among the students. 

“After being in the nursing program, you have various opportunities to get to know them and be friends,” she said. “So, the experience you share with them is great.”

Kim sees the switch to all baccalaureate degrees as a positive change. 

“I think it’s a good idea to have all the nurses be on track and to make sure they have the correct knowledge and best education to treat their patients,” she said.

Bennett said although the logistics of the degrees are changing, the School of Nursing’s overall essence will remain the same. 

“As most people know, we have a really good-quality program,” she said. “Students have good pass rates. Almost all our students have jobs before they ever graduate. People heavily recruit them. So, we want to keep doing what we’re doing.”

Reporter Bryson Keltner can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected]

This article originally abbreviated the Associate of Science in Nursing and Baccalaureate of Science in Nursing degree programs as ASM and BSM respectively. The correct abbreviation is ASN and BSN. The Herald regrets this error.