By Kim Litwack, PhD, RN, FAAN, APNP
Associate Dean for Academic Affairs
Recognizing the increasing complexity of health care delivery, as well as increased patient complexities, the 2011 Institute of Medicine (IOM) report, The Future of Nursing; Leading Change, Advancing Health has recommended “Nurses should achieve higher levels of education and training through an improved education system that promotes seamless academic progression toward 80% of the workforce with BSNs…by 2020″. A new option for BSN completion has been launched at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Currently RN’s wanting to earn the BSN have had the option of taking face-to-face classes on campus or at area hospitals (Froedtert and Aurora) or on-line through the UW System BSN@Home initiative. Beginning in January 2014, the Flexible (Flex) Option for BSN completion becomes the third route to degree completion.
The UW Flex Option is a student-centered, innovative way to make the BSN more accessible, convenient and affordable for adult and non-traditional students. Built on the UWM College of Nursing’s long standing foundation of high-quality education, the Flex Option is based on self-paced, competency-based assessments designed to allow students to progress to degree completion by demonstrating knowledge they have acquired through prior coursework, military training, work and other learning experiences. The program has been approved by the Higher Learning Commission and has been endorsed by the Wisconsin Board of Nursing.
Faculty from the UWM College of Nursing have developed competency sets of skills and knowledge considered essential for a student to have as a BSN prepared nurse. These are drawn from the AACN Baccalaureate Essentials, and include leadership, foundations of professional practice, research, informatics, chronic disease management, community health, as well as electives. A capstone competency set completes the experience. Students enrolled in the Flex Option make progress towards a degree by passing a series of assessments that demonstrate mastery of these competencies.
As they prepare for assessments, students acquire knowledge from a wide variety of sources, work with an academic success coach, progressing at their own pace. Students may take assessments whenever they are ready. The cost of credit through the Flex Option is less than traditional courses.
The specific differences between the UW Flex Option and the Traditional Course Model are shown below.
UW Flexible Option
|Semester-based||3-month subscription, start any month, 12 subscriptions in a year||Students can begin their education when it best fits their busy schedules|
|Group-paced courses||Self-paced program||Students can take as much or as little time as they need to progress toward a degree|
|Credit based on course
|Credit earned by passing competency assessments||Students can draw on prior knowledge to shorten path to graduation|
|Faculty member instructs students as a group||Faculty mentors students individually||Students receive faculty support that meets their individual needs|
|Academic advisor is reactive||Academic Success Coach is proactive||Students receive wrap-around support in all aspects of their program experience|
The Flex Option might not be for everyone. Prior to enrolling in the Flex Option, students will complete a Flex-Fit Assessment and work with an Academic Success Coach to match their personal learning style and strengths with the Flex demands. Students will have the option of enrolling in Flex, but will also be able to take courses in unfamiliar subject areas by enrolling in face-to-face and/or on-line courses.