Ottawa University recently announced a new program that would allow registered nurses to further advance their educational experience exclusively on the Internet.

The university added the registered nurse-to-Bachelor of Science in nursing program to meet the needs of nurses hoping to expand their career opportunities, Kathy Kump, director of OU’s nursing program said.  

“OU has been considering this program for a little while now, and has done some research on it and decided to take it to fruition,” Kump, who works at OU’s satellite campus in Overland Park, said. “There is a need for a [Bachelor of Science in Nursing] program because many associate degree nurses decide that they would like to go back to school in order to fulfill their personal and/or career goals. Furthermore, they would just like to look at an opportunity to enhance their professional skills to take on opportunities in nursing leadership and to empower them to face the challenges in this increasingly complex health care environment.”

Designed for practicing nurses with associate degrees, the program is expected to allow students to attain a Bachelor of Science in nursing within 18 months via online coursework, OU said in a release. The program, which is set to begin in the 2013 spring semester, will not only offer improved educational opportunities, but also more freedom for nurses with other responsibilities, Kump said.

“The flexibility this [program] offers — it’s offered 100 percent online — and that no traditional clinical requirements will be required is enticing to the working registered nurse,” she said.

Students within the program will study health care policy and ethical practices, as well as discover opportunities to improve their health care communications, OU said in a release. Courses within the 41 hours of necessary coursework, which also will focus on nursing theory, leadership and management, are eight weeks in length, OU added.

Kump said employers often ask that registered nurses have a minimum of a Bachelor of Science in nursing for certain speciality fields. Through OU’s program, she said, nurses can attain the necessary requirements to work in a variety of health fields.

“With a [Bachelor of Science in nursing], this educational preparation provides the foundation that will help prepare them to pursue other professional opportunities in nursing, such as becoming nurse managers, case managers or fields such as risk management, occupational public health or other specialty areas,” Kump said. “We are very pleased to offer this innovative, online educational program for those who would like to advance their career opportunities by obtaining a [Bachelor of Science in nursing] degree.”

Dale Ernst, dean of the Neosho County Community College’s Ottawa campus, said he isn’t concerned the new OU program will decrease the number of nursing students at Neosho. In fact, Ernst said, he thinks the OU new program could add more students to Neosho.

“[OU’s new program] doesn’t conflict with it at all — in fact, it complements [Neosho’s program],” Ernst said, adding that nursing students at Neosho work toward a three-year certificate, which could then be supplemented with OU’s program. “It’s a good deal all the way around.”

While the nation’s nursing shortage isn’t as dire as in the past, Kump said, a healthy demand for well-qualified health care professionals remains.

“There’s not as much of a shortage as there was a couple of years ago,” she said. “But there will continue to be a demand for nurses, and I’m sure that there will be other shortage intervals in the future as well. As the health care industry becomes more complex with technology, it warrants that there is a need for more [registered nurses].”