Profile of Non-Nurse College Graduates Enrolled in Accelerated Baccalaureate Curricula: Results of a National Study

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ABSTRACT The rapid growth of accelerated baccalaureate curricula for non-nurse college graduates has been viewed as a critical strategy in efforts to address the projected nursing shortfall of 1.2 million registered nurses by the year 2014. While these programs have proliferated over the past decade, research has been limited to descriptions of students and their performance in selected programs. The purpose of this national study was to survey non-nurse college graduates enrolled in accelerated baccalaureate programs throughout the United States in order to identify the factors influencing program and career selection and provide a contemporary profile of these students. The results of this study provide a clearer understanding of this population in relation to their motivation, academic backgrounds, and their unique personal and educational needs.


THE NURSING SHORTAGE AND ITS IMPLICATIONS FOR BOTH THE NEAR AND THE LONG TERM HAVE BEEN CITED IN NUMEROUS REPORTS. Studies by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations and the Health Resources and Services Administration provide evidence that the shortage will deepen and will continue to put patient lives in danger (1,2). The Department of Labor has reported that 1.2 million new and replacement nurses will be needed by 2014 to meet the nation's health care needs. Seventy-two percent of hospitals nationwide indicated they were experiencing a nursing shortage, with a 12 percent vacancy rate (3). * The need for nurses prepared at the baccalaureate level has also been documented as a means to ensure safe and cost-effective patient outcomes. Research on RN staffing levels demonstrates a positive correlation between staffing levels, number of baccalaureate-prepared nurses, positive patient outcomes, and a reduction in adverse events (4-7). a higher proportion of RN staff prepared at the baccalaureate level was significant in reducing 30-day mortality rates in an acute medical patient population (7). * DESPITE A 7.6 PERCENT INCREASE IN TRADITIONAL (ENTRY-LEVEL) BACCALAUREATE PROGRAM ENROLLMENT (8), THERE IS A SIGNIFICANT LAG IN THE ABILITY OF THE PROFESSION TO MEET DEMAND. The recent literature (1,9) supports the need to increase educational opportunities at the baccalaureate level and develop innovative and creative solutions that will attract individuals with previous careers who are diverse with regard to age, gender, and racial/ethnic background. Educational opportunities for nontraditional students must be flexible, streamlined, and low cost.

Accelerated Curricula as a Strategy to Increase Enrollments Over the past decade, the proliferation of accelerated programs has been extraordinary. However, while the concept of accelerated curricula is not a new one, and Laverdier (10) and Diets (11) described programs with accelerated curricula in the 1970s, there is a need for studies of the individuals who enroll in these programs and their unique characteristics.

Wu and Connelly (12) conducted one of the first such studies in the early 1990s, focusing on students enrolled in the 10 existing accelerated programs. They described the sociodemographic characteristics of students as well as their rationales for pursuing accelerated nursing degrees. More recently, Miklancie and Davis (13), Seldomridge and DiBartolo (14), and Shiber (15) have attempted to provide some overview of these programs, including degree requirements, NCLEX-RN[R] and academic performance, teaching strategies, and demographic profiles. Wink (16) compiled information on the history and rationale for accelerated programs for the Annual Review of Nursing Education. Cangelosi and Whitt (17) suggest that while accelerated programs hold promise, there is scant literature on the efficacy and outcomes of this innovative educational model.

The need for additional studies is clear if educators are to effectively develop accelerated curricula that meet the needs of non-nurse college graduates. …


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