Northern Illinois University

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News Release

Contact: Mark McGowan, NIU Office of Public Affairs
(815) 753-9472

August 4, 2009

NIU, Elgin Community College partner
to offer degree completion to area RNs

DeKalb, Ill. — The arrival of August typically turns thoughts toward back-to-school.

And for registered nurses who live in the Elgin area, now is the perfect time to think about continuing their education toward bachelor’s degrees through a new partnership between Elgin Community College and NIU.

Although the RN-to-BS in Nursing cohort began in the spring, interested nurses still are welcome to join the local and affordable group this fall. They have missed only two courses and can pick up one of them next summer at NIU’s main campus in DeKalb.

Graduation will take place in December 2010 for those who stay on schedule. Some nurses also will need to earn general education credits. The next cohort launches in the spring of 2011.

“This partnership is exciting because it shows how Elgin Community College can work with four-year institutions to provide our nursing students with a seamless transition to a bachelor’s degree,” said Wendy Miller, interim associate dean of health professions at ECC.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for not only ECC students but for this community,” Miller added. “Having NIU on our campus gives busy nurses the chance to increase their level of education. This benefits the region’s health care providers and the patients who utilize those providers.”

Brigid Lusk, chair of the School of Nursing and Health Studies at NIU, said the partnership also provides nurses with a richer academic situation. NIU previously offered degree completion programs at hospitals.

“We feel this is a better learning experience for these students in an atmosphere that encourages new ideas and mixing with new people as opposed to being in a classroom that’s confined by their colleagues at a specific hospital,” Lusk said.

“At NIU, we truly want to live up to our mission to provide reasonably priced education to the regional community,” she added. “In the Elgin area, particularly, there are a good number of residents from under-represented groups to whom we really want to reach out. This cohort will help them in a very accessible environment.”

The partnership comes at a time when ECC is expanding its environment.

College leaders celebrated the approval of a $178 million bond referendum in April that will provide funds to build and equip a Health Careers Center, doubling the classroom space for health careers training.

Students in the NIU cohort take eight courses (and one laboratory section) over four semesters, including “Health Assessment,” “Alterations in Biological Systems,” “Community Health Nursing” and “Nursing and the Law.”

“Concepts, Issues and Interpersonal Strategies in Professional Nursing,” one of the two courses already provided at ECC this spring, is offered again next spring at Waubonsee Community
College. Students also may substitute “Professional Nursing,” which is offered during the fall and spring semesters on the DeKalb campus.

The classes – two per semester – are taught back-to-back (and face-to-face rather than online or via closed-circuit TV) one night a week.

The new partnership should improve health care in the Elgin area – “Better-educated nurses have been shown to make a difference in quality and health care outcomes for patients,” Lusk said – and open doors to career advancement to nurses.

Michele Brynelsen, ECC nursing instructional coordinator, said modern hospitals encourage nurses to obtain bachelor’s degrees to fill vacant managerial positions. Today’s nurses also must possess more skills than in the past, she said.

“Nurses need to think critically and make decisions about care,” Brynelsen said. “It’s not about giving a shot; it’s about why you’re giving that shot.”

The NIU School of Nursing and Health Studies is housed in the College of Health and Human Sciences. For more information, visit http://www.niu.edu/offcampusacademics/nursing/ or call (815) 753-6556.

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