Trustees approved an accelerated bachelor's of nursing (B.S.N.) program at Duke's School of Nursing, the first undergraduate degree offered by the school since 1984. The last hurdle for the program will be obtaining approval from the North Carolina Board of Nursing, scheduled for late spring.
By graduating about forty nurses every year, the nursing school anticipates its "Fast Track to Professional Nursing" program will be one solution to the nation's critical shortage of nurses. The program will be open to anyone currently holding a bachelor's degree in either the liberal arts or sciences. Building on students' previous bachelor's degrees, the accelerated B.S.N. program allows enrollees to graduate with a B.S.N. in sixteen months of full-time study. No previous health-care experience is required. The classes are set to begin in September.
The Duke program will require all the traditional nursing courses found in four-year B.S.N. programs, and it will include graduate-level courses; 1,000 clinical hours are an integral part of the program. Michelle Renaud, Ph.D., R.N., director of the accelerated B.S.N. program, says the amount of clinical training sets Duke's program apart from other programs in the country. "The number of clinical hours we require is head and shoulders above other programs. And by offering students the opportunity to take graduate hours, we are already giving them a step up to becoming a master's prepared nurse, which opens up more career opportunities," she says.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, there will be 800,000 positions for registered nurses available between 1998 and 2008. Nationally, the average age of all R.N.s is 44.3, and only 31.7 percent of working R.N.s are under the age of forty. Fifty percent of the current nursing workforce will reach retirement age in the next ten to fifteen years.
The Helene Fuld Health Trust, HSBC Bank Trustee, has pledged to help make this program possible with $6 million, the largest gift in the nursing school's history. The Helene Fuld Health Trust is the nation's largest private foundation devoted exclusively to nursing education.