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New this year, Rasmussen University launches accelerated BSN immersion format

The immersion option aims to help students who might not otherwise have access to taking a Bachelor of Science in Nursing program.

Rasmussen-Fargo-Campus
A view of the Rasmussen University campus in Fargo, North Dakota.
Image: Courtesy of Rasmussen University
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Rasmussen University, which has campuses across the US, is aiming to help the nursing shortage with its programs at its Fargo and Moorhead locations, including a new immersion format for its accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing program.

The school’s accelerated BSN program started in 2018. “And the reason it is accelerated,” said Dr. Joan Rich, vice president of the School of Nursing, “is because it has more credits per quarter than the typical BSN program that would take somebody four years to complete.”

It will take a student about 33 months to complete if the individual has no college degree, and as little as 18 or even 15 months for those with a degree or some credits, “depending on what they bring in,” she said.

What’s new this year, however, is the immersion option to help students that might not otherwise have access to taking a BSN program.

“It’s still the same BSN program, it is still accelerated, no matter who takes it – a first-time student, a second-degree student or whether you are seeking to take it in the immersion format,” she said. “But with the immersion format, we are really trying to help those that don't necessarily live by a university.”

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The immersion format is all online, except for a couple of times a quarter for lab and skills check-off. Clinicals are done close to the student’s home.

Rich said the school’s BSN program continues to attract students; and the immersion format, though new, seems to be off to a good start.

“We’re tracking it,” she said. “It looks good so far.”

Rich and Dr. Brein Haugen, director of admissions at the Fargo and Moorhead campuses, answered questions about the school and its programs.

What are Rasmusseun’s most popular programs?

Haugen: Our Practical Nursing (PN), Professional Nursing – Associate Degree (ADN) in Nursing, and Bachelor’s in Nursing (BSN) are our most popular nursing programs at the Fargo and Moorhead campuses. Besides nursing, our business programs (certificate, associate’s and Bachelor's level) in Accounting, Business Management, and Human Resources and Organizational Leadership are quite popular, as well as our Health Science programs in Health Information Technology and Medical Billing and Coding.

I think it’s worth noting that we offer several degree options in high-need careers that are eligible for the North Dakota Career Builders Scholarship and Loan Repayment program, which is intended to retain talent in our state. This includes our RN to BSN completer, and our associate’s programs in accounting, human resources, marketing, paralegal, information technology and cyber security. We also offer a variety of technology certificates that are eligible, from network support to software application development.

How long has Fargo offered nursing degrees?

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Rich: We started our BSN Program in 2018 at the Fargo campus. We have two options for students to complete their pre-licensure BSN programs, our ABSN residential hybrid and our immersion BSN hybrid. … For those that already hold a RN license, they can come into our online RN to BSN completer program. However, our Moorhead campus is just a few miles away from our Fargo campus and we started the PN there in 2013 and the ADN in 2014.

Explain more about the completer and immersion options: 

Rich: We have several online programs. As you mentioned, we offer a fantastic RN to BSN completer option for all the two-year or diploma RNs that are seeking to earn their BSN degree. It is very flexible, and all courses are online, except for two small clinicals in public/community health and leadership, which can be done in their own communities. It is delivered in the competency-based education (CBE) format, which allows students to show what they know when they know it.

For those wanting to earn their BSN, but perhaps do not live close to a campus offering a BSN, Rasmussen has the immersion option as part of the BSN program. All of the didactic courses are delivered online, and the student only needs to come to campus 2-4 times per quarter for lab and skills checkoffs, as well as simulation. The clinical hours are completed as close to the student’s home as possible. During the pandemic, we realized that our BSN students did very well in an online learning environment and saw an opportunity to expand the program modalities we offer to broaden access to more remote students.

Our BSN hybrid schedule opportunity was developed for students who may not live near a campus or school that offered a BSN. For example, someone who lives in Dickinson, North Dakota, may be very interested in taking our Immersion BSN offering so they could continue working .... The schedule allows for students to work with their employers to successfully be able to complete this modality.

Are students who take the online classes instructed by Fargo/Moorhead faculty? Who can enroll and where are students coming from?

Haugen: From an admissions perspective, our Practical Nursing, Professional Nursing ADN, and BSN pre-licensure residential students either live in the Fargo/Moorhead area or are willing to commute on a regular basis to our area to complete their on-campus classes, skill check offs and clinicals. Our BSN immersion option is attracting students from all over the state of North Dakota and northern Minnesota to complete this program.

In what ways do you believe this is impacting the profession? How is this helping the nurses shortage, for instance?

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Rich: I think because, again, we're new, it's all about marketing and getting the word out that this (immersion course) is not a new program, but it's a new method or mode of delivery, if you will. But it’s our same proven BSN program. I think once the word gets out, it's really going to strengthen.

With every quarter we're seeing more and more people electing to come in. … It is a great opportunity for people that don't live by a university or who are working. And we present the schedule well in advance so they can collaborate with their employer and say, ‘OK, I need every Tuesday off for the next three quarters. Would that be all right?’ Most employers are thrilled they're getting their BSN, and many of our health care partners actually help pay for it; they will provide lifelong learning stipends.

Give an example of what someone will learn in the program?

Rich: We prepare our graduates to provide safe, ethical, holistic, and compassionate client-centered care that can serve in a variety of diverse communities. To achieve this, we integrate clinical reasoning and clinical judgment into the coursework. Additionally, we help develop the soft skills such as therapeutic communication, professional behavior, and interprofessional collaboration.

In our advanced nursing degrees, beyond building the knowledge and skills needed for the job, our students develop leadership skills to drive strategic change, innovation and improve health care delivery.

What do you foresee in the nursing profession over the next two to five years? 

Rich: Between the pandemic’s strain on nurses both in the practice and educational settings, and nearly a third of nurses reaching retirement, the nursing shortage is going to be problematic for the foreseeable future. The American Hospital Association estimates the nursing shortage to reach 1.1 million nurses by the end of this year.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Employment Projections 2019-2029, Registered Nursing (RN) is listed among the top occupations in terms of job growth through 2029. The RN workforce is expected to grow from 3 million in 2019 to 3.3 million in 2029, an increase of 221,900 or 7%. The Bureau also projects 175,900 openings for RNs each year through 2029 when nurse retirements and workforce exits are factored into the number of nurses needed in the U.S (AACN, 2022)

The other trend we see on the horizon is a growing shortage of physicians. The Association of American Medical Colleges estimates that the U.S. faces a projected shortage of 37,800 to 124,000 physicians by 2034. Advanced practice nurses, such as nurse practitioners, can help fill this gap. Employment in this field is projected to grow by 52% by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In light of this demand, Rasmussen recently expanded our Nurse Practitioner program to add three more specialization areas.

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