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Release: Immediate

UI Hospitals and Clinics to support speeded-up nursing degree program

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- A new tuition reimbursement program has been developed that will allow registered nurses at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (UIHC) to complete their bachelor's degree in nursing at an accelerated pace, hospital administrators announced Dec. 11.

The modified tuition reimbursement program allows UIHC nurses to participate in the UI College of Nursing's RN-to-BSN Progression Program, which has been restructured to permit nurses to complete the requirements for a bachelor of science degree by attending classes one day a week for a full year.

"The UIHC endorses the importance of educational development of registered nurses and recognizes the value of staff who are striving to increase their level of competence," Sally Mathis Hartwig, interim director of nursing and patient services at the UIHC, wrote in a memo introducing the new program to nursing staff.

Previously, it could take nurses several years to complete the bachelor's degree. At that rate, lamented Melanie Dreher, Ph.D., dean of the nursing college, "The nurses were ready for retirement before they completed the program." Under the new program, nurses can complete their degree in one year after meeting the prerequisites and now may receive full tuition reimbursement for the nursing major courses they need.

"This will allow the hospital to realize the benefits of its investment in nursing education much more quickly," Dreher said.

Hartwig said more than half the hospital's approximately 1,400 registered nurses hold a bachelor's or higher degree. "The non-bachelor nurses are highly skilled," Hartwig said. "But for those who wish to enhance their academic preparation, the RN-BSN progression program will provide them with additional opportunities to acquire nursing and leadership skills."

The new policy states that a nurse must hold a permanent staff appointment of at least 85 percent time, must have been employed as a nurse at the UIHC for at least a year, and must have been accepted into the RN-BSN program to be eligible for full tuition reimbursement. Partial reimbursement will be available for nurses employed less than 85 percent time. Additionally, the policy requires that nurses make a three-year post-degree employment commitment to the UIHC.

Hartwig also noted that staff nurses participating in the RN-BSN program need to arrange their work schedules to accommodate classes. "That's no small matter," she said. "They need to work with their nurse manager to make that happen."

Keela Herr, Ph.D., associate professor of nursing at the UI and director of the RN-BSN program, said the chief advantage of the new policy is that it allows working nurses to complete their degrees more quickly.

Dreher said the new policy is evidence of the intensified collaboration between the College of Nursing and the UIHC's nursing service. The college proposed the speeded-up tuition reimbursement early this year as it was restructuring the RN-BSN program, Dreher said, and UIHC's administration worked diligently to create a new tuition reimbursement policy and bring it to fruition.

"I am so impressed with the UIHC's commitment to the advancement of nursing," Dreher said. "It speaks very highly of them."

R. Edward Howell, director and CEO of the UIHC, said the College of Nursing "has been very innovative with the creation of this program and it is appropriate that the UIHC support those individuals from the nursing staff who wish to benefit from it."

12/14/98