Busy, yet doable.
That is how a May 2021 graduate described the format for the South Dakota State University College of Nursing’s RN to B.S.N. program. The new format allows students to work at their own pace. Students can graduate in as little as 10 months or take one class at a time and be done in 18 months.
The changes also caught the attention of RNtoMSN.org, which ranked the college No. 1 in the Best RN to B.S.N. Online Programs in South Dakota and Fastest RN to B.S.N. Programs Online in South Dakota.
“We found that students are interested in quality programs that can be completed quickly and for an affordable price. Our goal is to help students weigh their options and choose the program that best matches their needs,” said Matt Gardner, RNtoMSN.org’s market development manager. "Our methodology considers data on numerous factors: student completions, program costs, potential program length, national awards and reputation, and much more.”
The College of Nursing’s changes to the online program started in August 2020, switching class length from 16 weeks to seven. Despite its long-standing and successful tradition, SDSU’s RN to B.S.N. program needed an update due to industry demands. The college viewed what industry and the accreditation bodies were demanding to make the changes.
Heidi Pelzel, who became the program coordinator after teaching in the Aberdeen accelerated program, said the Institute of Medicine’s 2013 report wanted 80% of nurses to be bachelor's prepared by 2020. As a result, health care providers started to encourage RNs to earn a bachelor’s degree as it helps the providers earn awards, such as magnet status.
SDSU offers eight courses, delivered over a seven-week period and are offered three times a year—fall, spring and summer. That format also allows students to miss a class and be able to pick up where they left off the next session.
The new format allowed electives in global nursing, palliative care and rural health care matters. The classes are also available to students taking the standard format.
“We also added things that are current trends in nursing, such as informatics or policy, that hadn't been talked about. Now we can pull that access to care and informatics together and talk about how telemedicine is really popular or how much has switched to Zoom with COVID-19. They’re great topics to talk about, because they’re very current and relevant,” Pelzel said. “The changes we made have been innovative and almost immediately increased our appeal and enrollment numbers.”
The class changes, and a change in recruiting, has drawn nearly 30 students to the program. Those students range from Baltimore to Hawaii.
“In addition to our value, this format makes us a more efficient and effective program because of the speed of the classes,” she continued. “The students still follow the same general education requirements as we tried to mimic our standard program very closely because SDSU has a reputation and our accreditation to uphold.”
Pelzel said admission is now six times a year. “You can start, say tomorrow, apply and if you meet all of the requirements, you can start in the next seven-week session. We can work with the students on an individual basis, which really reminds them we're looking to get them to graduation and be successful in their careers.”