CONTACT: DEREK MAURER
2130 Medical Laboratories
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 335-8964; fax (319) 335-8034
Release: Oct. 29, 1999
UI College of Nursing, VA Medical Centers offer bachelors
degree program for VA nurses
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa College
of Nursing and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs have signed an agreement
that lets registered nurses at VA medical facilities in Iowa earn baccalaureate
degrees by attending classes offered by the college part-time at their workplaces.
VA officials in Iowa believe the four-year, $980,000 agreement is the first
in the country to take advantage of a $50 million federal funding stream for
education assistance for
VA nurses seeking baccalaureate or higher degrees.
The nursing college has for a number of years offered
an RN-BSN progression program for registered nurses who hold two- or three-year
associate degrees to earn bachelors degrees in nursing. The new program
for VA nurses permits students to attend classes two evenings a week for four
years at VA medical facilities in Iowa City, Des Moines and Knoxville, and
pays for all tuition, fees and course materials. The courses, which originate
on the UI campus or at the VA Medical Center in Iowa City, are taught by UI
faculty and telecast over the Iowa Communications Network (ICN) to ICN classrooms
at all the VA facilities.
Classes for the VA nurses began this fall even before
the agreement was finalized. The program currently has 28 students at the
Iowa City VA Medical Center, 24 at the Des Moines VA Medical Center, and 14
at the Knoxville VA Medical Center. The agreement provides for up to 70 students
The program comes in the wake of revisions to the
VAs Nurse Qualification Standard that requires all new nurses hired
above the Nurse I grade to have the baccalaureate degree and all new nurses
at grade III or higher to have masters degrees; after Sept. 30, 2005,
all nurses employed by the VA must meet the new standard to be promoted to
Nurse II or above.
"I know were the first" to implement
the federal initiative, said Rose Hayslett, assistant director for patient
care services at the Iowa City VA Medical Center. She said she has already
fielded questions from other regional VA health networks wanting to set up
"We have a big commitment to advance educational
and training opportunities for nurses, so were very proud of this initiative,"
Keela Herr, Ph.D., associate professor of nursing
and director of the UI College of Nursings RN-BSN program, said Hayslett
and Luella Page, education director of the Iowa City VA Medical Center, approached
the college over the summer about developing a program that would meet VA
nurses needs. According to Herr, the college worked quickly to design
a program that would include a part-time, evening option with all courses
brought to the workplace.
"The VA has taken a big step in establishing
the BSN as the entry level for professional nursing practice," Herr said.
"We were committed to helping them achieve this by developing an innovative
program that we could implement without delay. Faculty have been very responsive
to offering courses in this unique format with little notice."
Christine Gregory, associate director for patient
care services for the VAs Central Iowa Health Care System, which includes
the medical facilities at Des Moines and Knoxville, credited the UI College
of Nursings experience in providing education for working nurses for
making the new program fit the needs of VA nursing staff. "The college
has been very far-sighted, and they know about adult learners," Gregory
In addition to nursing courses, the program also will
provide general education courses the students need to complete their bachelors
degrees. This spring, for instance, the program will offer "Introduction
to the Study of Culture and Society," an anthropology course, and "Rhetoric
II," a basic English composition requirement. Kathy Keasler of the College
of Nursing said the content for non-nursing courses likely will be tailored
to students interests, placing nursing and health care issues in the
context of other disciplines.
The college is also working with the UI Counseling
Center to provide support for VA nurses needing help with study and note-taking
skills, Keasler said. "The students will have every opportunity to get
back into the educational setting," Keasler said.
Melanie Dreher, Ph.D., professor and dean of nursing
at the UI, said the new program "builds on the successful track record
the college has established with its distance learning programs and its BSN
program for nurses at UI Hospitals and Clinics." Last year the college
and the UI Hospitals and Clinics created a policy that reimburses UIHC nurses
who participate in the colleges RN-BSN program for the cost of tuition
The colleges faculty and staff, Dreher said,
"are very sensitive to the needs of practicing nurses who cant
leave their positions to pursue the bachelors degree."
"I deeply respect the VA not only for setting
a higher educational standard for professional nursing practice," Dreher
added, "but also for supporting nurses who wish to enhance their training
and professional opportunities."
The 119-bed Des Moines VA Medical Center and the 205-bed
Knoxville VA Medical Center, which also houses a 260-bed long-term care center,
together employ about 200 nurses. The 159-bed Iowa City VA Medical Center
employs about 225 nurses.