Why did she enter Mercy College's RN to BSN online program?
by Debra Steilen
Spring/Summer 2011 Profile: Pamela Juhl, RN, BSN Student
It’s not that Pamela Juhl RN, CRRN needed to learn bedside skills. She became a diploma nurse 30 years ago, has worked in nursing ever since, and now serves as Mercy Medical Center’s Director for the Center for Rehabilitative Medicine. There Pam has 24/7 accountability for the supervision of the nursing and therapy staff on her unit and the care provided to her patients.
As it turned out, Mercy Medical Center requires a bachelor’s degree for nursing management positions. And she already knew she needed to spend more time delving into the bigger picture for health care – which the bachelor’s degree coursework would foster.
Online classes just made sense for Juhl. She looked at a handful, even went to orientation at another university, but chose Mercy College because it was part of what she already knew as Mercy Medical Center employee.
“It’s mainly about the flexibility,” she says about the decision to study online. “Having a full-time job doesn’t allow me to leave work and go to class every day. This way, I have the ability to do classwork after work and on the weekends.”
But it wasn’t easy to make the transition to new student after three decades in the world of work, Juhl says. She needed to increase her comfort level with computer technology and online methods of gathering information, submitting projects, and interacting with her class colleagues. Reading assignments, research topics, faculty communication: all were posted online.
And depending upon the class, there were other tools Juhl needed to use. For the Health Assessment course, for example, Juhl was required to submit a video -- burned onto a disk -- of her physical assessment of someone. Students and faculty depend upon Skype sessions (software used with a webcam to make video calls) to work on projects together and present their work online to get feedback from their peers.
“Initially, I felt lost [in term of computer skills]. What are these terms? What do they mean? What is Blackboard?” Juhl recalls. (Blackboard software allows instructors to teach all or part of their courses on the Web.) “But I decided that I should be able to figure it all out. So I stumbled through the first class. The second class got easier. Then it all started to make sense.”
Now completely comfortable in her role as student, Juhl recommends that other RNs go back for an online BSN degree to get the broader picture. “We get narrow in how we look at the world,” she says. She also advises potential BSN students to understand the commitment it will take.
“You have to decide how much time and energy you’re going to put into it and when you’re going to do it,” she says. “It’s different than going to a class every Monday from 6 to 8 p.m. You’re on the computer every night, reading and responding. It lies in your hands alone to learn the info.”
Katherine Seibert, RN, EdDc, Associate Professor of the Division of Nursing, is one of Juhl’s instructors and program advisors. “Pamela is the type of student this program is designed for, a nurse who has practiced for years who wants to take her education to the next level,” Seibert says. “The online program allows nurses to stay in practice where they are and continue higher education so they can expand their roles [into leadership, management, insurance, academia, or community health nursing] if that’s what they want to do.”
Seibert is committed to helping these returning students succeed, in part, because bachelor’s degrees are the future of nursing. Many states are grappling with the decision to make a BSN an entry-level degree for the profession, she says. In fact, BSN-in-10 legislation in many states reflects the desire for new RNs to get their BSN degrees in 10 years after initial licensure to continue practicing. Iowa has not yet adopted this resolution.
The complexity of care offered these days also requires someone who has greater in-depth learning than you can get through an ASN program, Seibert says. “It’s the nature and complexity of the patients we see today,” she says. “Someone who gets a hospital bed is a very complex patient, and management of that patient’s care is directed by a nurse. It takes a huge amount of knowledge, ability, and skills to coordinate a team.”
Juhl is finishing a community health course, then has two classes to take before graduating in August. At this point, she plans to stay on in her current administrative position. “But I have thought about whether or not I want to purse a master’s degree,” she says. “I haven’t made a decision to do that yet, but there are many online possibilities.”
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- Our average age for all nursing
programs is 27. We have people
with families and jobs; they’re very
busy. For them to be able to take classwork at times that benefit them
is very advantageous. A high
percentage of these students do their online work at midnight or later.”
- “I make sure each student gets comfortable working with all the
online tools and techniques, no
matter their level of experience.”