Comprehensive review of an accelerated nursing program: a quality improvement project

Elinor Nugent, Susan LaRocco
Dimensions of Critical Care Nursing: DCCN 2014, 33 (4): 226-33

BACKGROUND: Accelerated second-degree programs are designed to provide entry into baccalaureate nursing program for people who have achieved bachelor's degree in another field. These programs were often designed to respond to nursing shortages at local and national levels. Programs commonly use a cohort model and move students through an intensive structure combining classroom and clinical requirement with a 2-year period. The accelerated second-degree nursing program, Accelerated Entry Level to Nursing program at our small liberal arts college, was considered to be successful. The program had excellent graduation rates and National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses pass rates, indicating that the program was preparing the graduate to thrive in the practice setting. The program had been in existence for more than 7 years, with highly competitive admissions and high student satisfaction.

OBJECTIVE/AIM: The objective of this study was to provide a quality improvement assessment process to capture quantitative and qualitative information about the graduates. This information would be used to inform our own nursing education department and would provide metrics and information for nurse leaders regarding the rigor of these programs and the potential of graduates.

DESIGN: Continuous quality improvement is a vital component in nursing education as well as in the clinical setting. With this in mind, a comprehensive review was undertaken by the nursing faculty during the eighth year of the highly successful accelerated nursing program in a small liberal arts college. This quality improvement project was designed to review existing metrics and to collect additional data through survey and focus groups in order to capture experiences of the program graduates.

PARTICIPANTS/SUBJECTS: Graduates of the accelerated program from 2005 to 2011 were included in this study. Faculty who teach in the program participated in focus groups.

RESULTS: From 2005 to 2011, there have been a total of 196 graduates in 8 cohorts; 194 surveys were sent via e-mail to graduates with a return rate of 62 (32%). Regarding overall satisfaction with the program, 75% of the 53 respondents who answered this question were either very satisfied or extremely satisfied. The other 25% were satisfied. No respondents indicated that they were dissatisfied. More than three-fourths of the respondents indicated that the cost of the program was reasonable. Only 11% of the 55 respondents indicated that the clinical time in the program was sufficient. Graduates from 2005 to 2009 (n = 34) are mostly employed at major Boston teaching medical centers in acute and intensive care settings. Programmatic recommendations from the focus groups included offering an optional 100-hour practicum to expose students to more clinical experiences in the acute care settings, increasing the credits for Nursing Care of Older Adults from 1 to 2, and providing academic support for English as second language/minority students. Curricular recommendations included increasing the time allocation for simulations, moving pediatrics to the summer semester, and spreading pharmacology between 2 courses.

CONCLUSION: Program review is an important component of continuous quality improvement in the academic setting. This review provided information that indicated although a program can be highly successful on many parameters, there is always room for improvement. In educating the second-degree student, the nursing profession benefits from the addition of professionals from other disciplines adding professional depth and richness to the profession. In addition, including the voice of the nurse after graduation provided insightful direction for some clinical and curriculum changes.

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