GHC’s new status makes RN to BSN degree possible

Having been named a limited mission four-year institution by the Board of Regents of the University system of Georgia, Georgia Highlands College is working to institute its first baccalaureate completion program in nursing by fall semester 2013.

Renva Waterson, vice president for academic and student affairs, said, “Planning is underway with the University System of Georgia and the Board of Regents. We are just waiting for accreditation from the Georgia Board of Nursing and the National League of Nursing.”

The RN to BSN completion was chosen as the initial baccalaureate program following a feasibility study and interviews with community leaders about what Georgia Highlands could offer to better serve the community.

Rebecca Maddox, interim director of nursing at GHC, also cited a report from the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies as a motivating factor in starting with a nursing baccalaureate.

The report called for the removal of scope-of-practice barriers and an increase in the proportion of nurses with baccalaureate degrees to 80 percent by 2020.

It also called for the doubling of the number of nurses with a doctorate by 2020.

Maddox said that “the RN to BSN completion program is a very important cog in the wheel” of meeting the increasing need for nurses in Georgia.

“We have a key role in improving health care in Georgia, especially in Northwest Georgia,” said Maddox.

Students interested in entering the RN to BSN completion program will first have to graduate with an associates degree in nursing and pass the licensing exam to be registered nurses. The RN to BSN completion program will be primarily online.

In addition to nursing, other four-year baccalaureate degrees may be in GHC’s future within the next four to six years.

Randy Pierce, president of Georgia Highlands, said the move to a four-year institution has been “a vision” of his since the day he got here. “It’s been in the mind of the community,”Pierce said.

Both Pierce and Waterson commented on future possibilities for baccalaureate programs at GHC including business, criminal justice and teaching with concentrations in math and science.

Pierce cited a need for middle grades math and science teachers with specializations in their field as one need GHC could meet in the future.

However, there is at present nothing definite on other programs. Waterson said, “We’re solely focused on what we’ve been given permission to do.”