UAPB to restart RN-to-BSN nursing program

The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff intends to restart its program for registered nurses to earn a bachelor of science in nursing degree in January 2015, Interim Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Jacquelyn McCray said Tuesday.

UAPB informed the Arkansas Department of Higher Education last week of its plans to reactivate the program, she said. This program would not lead to licensure. But the university committee is working to re-establish the traditional four-year program that leads to licensure, she said.

The RN-to-BSN program is designed for applicants with a current unencumbered registered nurse license to practice in Arkansas or a license from a compact state with privilege to practice in the state of Arkansas.

“Students who enter the RN-to-BSN program already have the RN license,” McCray said. “The bachelor’s degree allows them a better chance to advance through the profession.”

Arkansas Department of Higher Education Director Shane Broadway confirmed that UAPB notified it regarding its intentions.

The Arkansas State Nursing Board closed UAPB’s nursing program in April 2013, according to a Commercial report in June 2013. The nursing board cited a failure on the part of school administrators and faculty members to correct what it characterized as chronic problems with curriculum, materials and student pass rates on mandatory tests.

Nursing Board Executive Director Sue Tedford said that it is rare for a university to lose approval of a nursing program.

“We’ve put many on probation but not ever withdrawn approval until UAPB,” Tedford said Tuesday.

Nonetheless, the passage of more than a year has brought about positive changes at UAPB, she said.

“As far as we are concerned, UAPB is ready to offer RN-to-BSN,” Tedford said. “There is a lot of new leadership at UAPB. Chancellor Laurence Alexander is heading in the right direction. They have a good chance of having a strong program under his leadership.”

UAPB is preparing the final stages of developing a proposal that would — if approved — lead to licensure through the board of nursing, McCray said. With approval, UAPB would start this program within one year, McCray said.

“We hope to get students from Southeast Arkansas College and Jefferson Regional Medical Center,” McCray said. “We have a commitment from the UAPB chancellor, [Laurence Alexander], to fund the program through the education and general fund of the university. There is a dire need of health care trained nurses. We get most of our students from the Delta.

“We had a history of challenges with the older program,” McCray said, citing staff and curriculum issues. “We have hired new faculty and made changes to the curriculum. We are continuing with the progress that was made and are looking at new equipment to provide better [educational opportunities].”