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Nursing department receives more than $1 million for accelerated bachelor's program

New Mexico State University's Department of Nursing will receive more than $1 million over three years for an accelerated bachelor's in nursing program that allows qualified students with bachelor's degrees in any field to get a second bachelor's degree in nursing in as little as 16 months.

nt from the Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) will fund the Roadrunner Project: A Fast Track to Nursing. The program will allow 48 students to obtain nursing degrees on the fast track during a three-year period. By taking larger class loads per semester and attending school year round, students in the Roadrunner Program will be able to earn their bachelor's degree eight months sooner than students in the regular nursing program.

The grant was co-written by NMSU nursing faculty members, Alison Mann, project director, and Irene Hurst, cultural coordinator for the project.

Though not new to nursing education, accelerated programs have increased since 1990 in response to the critical shortage of nurses, Mann said. In New Mexico the nursing shortage is projected to reach 57 percent by 2020, compared to a national shortage of 29 percent, she said.

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), there were 31 accelerated baccalaureate programs in 1990 and now there are 105, with more than 50 additional programs in the planning stages. The AACN, using Bureau of Labor Statistics, projects a need for a million new and replacement registered nurses by 2010, so nursing schools around the country are exploring creative ways to increase student capacity.

NMSU's pilot of the accelerated bachelor's in nursing started in May with a cohort of eight students. Participating students are required to have a bachelor's degree in any field with a 3.0 overall grade point average and a nursing assistant certificate. They also must have at least nine hours of college-level science credits, six hours of anatomy and physiology and three hours of another science.

Mann said the nursing certificate, which at the Dona Ana Branch Community College consists of a 160-hour program usually over one semester, is required of applicants to establish their interest in the nursing field.

An informational meeting about the Roadrunner Project will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 10, in the College of Health and Social Services Building Room 226 for persons interested in being part of the next cohort of students to start in May 2005. The program will accept 16 students for the next class.

Mann said a unique component of the Roadrunner Project is its strong focus on multicultural issues related to nursing.

"We are interested in producing culturally aware nurses," she said.

Mann said the NMSU nursing faculty who have worked with the first cohort are pleased with the students in the project.

"Returning students are very focused," Mann said. "They know how to study and are critical thinkers. These students come from all different backgrounds and bring many talents to the group."

Elizabeth Sargent, who has a bachelor's degree in athletic training and exercise science, is one of the eight students in the first cohort. Sargent said the Roadrunner Project was the perfect choice for her as a returning student.

"Working as a medical assistant and working closely with registered nurses made me realize that nursing is the career for me. The Roadrunner program is focused and directed at those who have previous college, work and life experience and who had other commitments aside from school work," she said. "A 16-month program will allow me to enter the work force earlier and receive a full and excellent nursing education. This program has the ability to turn out qualified nurses that are driven and ready for a second career."

For more information on the pilot program, call (505) 646-1919.