The University of Indianapolis Department of Nursing will be expanding by adding an online and accelerated second degree program, the first of its kind in Indiana, according to Dean for the School of Nursing Norma Hall. She said this program will begin in the fall semester of the 2022-23 school year and puts the current classes that they have in-person into an online format.
Moving the program to an online program was a lot of work due to them needing to reach out to different hospitals than usual that don’t normally work with students due to them being in different areas, Hall said. She said they will also have to change how classes are taught.
“This is a great way for them to literally recruit and train their own,” Hall said. “We may find that there’s individuals who are already working in some of these systems, who would like to be a nurse who didn’t have the ability or the desire to do that relocation piece to go to a traditional nursing school. So this opens opportunities for them.”
Undergraduate Program Director and Assistant Professor of Nursing Karen Elsea said this program will provide more opportunities for students who live in rural areas and don’t have as much access to a nursing school near them. She said allowing these students to get their education in the community where they may end up working will help them transfer into that setting after graduation.
“It’s really catered to a different student than the population we see probably on campus,” Elsea said. “So with the healthcare shortage of workers, particularly nurses—it’s been even worsened in the COVID[-19] pandemic—we want to be able to do everything we can to provide opportunities for individuals that are interested in being a nurse, and help to supply and meet the demands that our hospital partners and facilities have for nurses.”
The online program also allows for these students to have more flexibility with their time, Hall said. Instead of a traditional, in-person model where there is one faculty member and eight students that work in a hospital during a set period of time, she said the student will work with a preceptor in a hospital in their area and work within their preceptor’s schedule.
“It will mostly allow for that flexibility piece, and it is working with a preceptor model, which is quite honestly a great way to get education,” Hall said. “It is dependent on the preceptor being qualified, so there will be a huge piece on our end to make sure that the preceptors that students are working with have the right educational background, that they’re working in the right settings [and] that they have the right experience to be able to provide an appropriate experience for the student for each course.”
Hall said that with this program, they expect to double their enrollment within the next two or three years, and they have already started to see applications coming through for the fall semester. Elsea said it is exciting to have a part in expanding the field of nursing.
“I think it’s an exciting opportunity to increase the number of students in the field of nursing that maybe would not have an opportunity because of other lifestyle, life commitments and those kinds of things,” Elsea said. “If this can help, even in a small way, to offset some of the shortages we have in healthcare with students that have an interest in the field, I think that’s great for the university and great for the profession of nursing.”