WCU nursing program puts students on fast track

BSN_Nursing_web08Notice has just gone out to 17 people who have been accepted into Western Carolina University’s new, accelerated nursing program for adults who already have degrees in other fields. They will have to be quick if they want any tips from the program’s first 10 students, because those students graduate in August – just a year and three months after they started.

Kristi Roswech of Asheville (at right, in a simulation lab with Jed Godfrey) is in that first class. Roswech had always dreamed of being a nurse, but she changed her major and graduated from Clemson University in 1988 with a degree in activity therapy. Then she went to work in a state psychiatric hospital and in drug and alcohol rehabilitation in Atlanta. Now she is back in Asheville and back in school, pursuing her dream of a career in nursing through Western’s accelerated program. Designed for adults who already have earned degrees in other fields, the high-speed program covers in just 15 months what traditional nursing classes cover in 24.

“The program is the same as the traditional curriculum, with the same quality outcomes in a compressed time frame,” said Shelia Chapman, director of WCU’s pre-licensure program track. “It’s doable because the class size is so small and students are highly qualified and motivated to succeed. Students don’t have part-time jobs, so they can focus on their studies, and they are highly motivated.”

Roswech called the program intense, but worth it. Studying for her graduate degree as a family nurse practitioner, she said the hardest part is balancing classroom studies, clinicals at Mission Hospitals, four or five hours of homework, and family responsibilities.

Classmate Clint Owens agreed, saying, “It is not for the faint of heart.” Owens, who grew up in Florida, said his undergraduate degree in psychology and studies in Boston put him on track for a graduate degree in history, but the death of his grandparents brought him to Sylva. “I had time to reflect on what I want to do that I could be proud of, and I had some exposure to nursing through my grandmother’s experience with Hospice. That’s how I connected the dots to find accelerated studies in nursing,” he said. “I would not have come back for a traditional program. Getting done sooner is an advantage.” Owen plans to keep going for a doctorate in nursing with a focus on research, global health and health disparities.

Jed Godfrey, of Asheville, earned his bachelor’s degree in cell and molecular biology from UNC-Asheville one day and entered Western’s new accelerated nursing program the next. Godfrey will finish in August and plans to work in a cardiovascular intensive care unit before returning to Western for training as a certified nurse anesthetist. He said working with older, non-traditional students is inspiring. “I’m amazed at the cohort I’m working with,” he said. “Everyone has a phenomenal background and incredible work habits. There’s a level of maturity that has helped us bond and avoid issues we might have had in a younger class.”

The program selected the best students among a field of 50 highly qualified applicants for the first cohort, said director Chapman. “We are very proud of this class. They will bring life skills, business savvy and street smarts to their new careers. I believe students like these will change the face of nursing.”

Western already is seeking adults for its third class in the ABSN program. For information, contact Shelia Chapman at (828) 670-8810.