JCCC joins with KU on program offering nursing bachelor’s degrees on community college campuses

Johnson County Community College is one of four Kansas schools added to the partnership program with KU this year.
Johnson County Community College is one of four Kansas schools added to the partnership program with KU this year.

Starting this fall, Johnson County Community College students will have the ability to earn a Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing from the University of Kansas without ever leaving their Overland Park campus.

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In brief

• JCCC is one of four community colleges to join the partnership with KU’s School of Nursing this fall

• Through the program, JCCC students can earn an associate’s degree and a bachelor’s degree in nursing at the same time

• Students take their upper-level coursework online, so they never need to leave the JCCC campus

• The program is intended to help address a coming shortage of qualified nurses
[/pullquote]JCCC is one of four Kansas community colleges that recently got approval from a nursing accreditation organization to begin a shared-curriculum partnership with KU. The program allows students to earn an Associate’s Degree in Nursing and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing at the same time.

The roll-out of the partnership program at JCCC this fall is a step four years in the making. Back in 2012, a group of nursing training organizations from across Kansas got together to think through ways to address the coming shortage in nurses as well as how to boost the job prospects of community college nursing graduates. Experts project that demand for qualified nurses could jump by as much as 20 percent in the coming years as more and more baby boomers reach retirement age. But as demand for nurses continues to increase, there has also been a move toward more stringent requirements for graduates who want to be placed in jobs at major medical centers. Because more and more hospitals require their nurses to have bachelor’s degrees, community college nursing graduates were sometimes finding it difficult to land jobs after graduation.

“Four years ago, a lot of our graduates from the community colleges were having a hard time with job acquisition because there was baccalaureate preference for hiring,” said Karen LaMartina, the director of the Registered Nursing program at JCCC. “That was one issue, coupled with the fact that over the next few years we are going to see a critical shortage of nursing.”

Through the partnership with KU, JCCC students can complete the basic coursework that leads to the ADN over their first two or three years and then finish the upper-level coursework offered by KU through online courses in their final semesters. Kansas City Kansas Community College was the first school to pilot the program, with two students graduating with their BSN degrees in May. So far, JCCC has one student enrolled in the partnership program track, but LaMartina said she expects more and more to sign on as word about the program gets out. Butler Community College, Hutchinson Community College and Neosho County Community College joined the program this fall as well.

LaMartina said the convenience the program offers should be attractive to many students.

“I really foresee this model taking off,” she said. “[Almost all] of our graduates go on to finish their bachelor’s anyway, so this is going to be a really desirable model.”

And the benefits extend beyond just putting more qualified nurses in the employment pipeline. According to KU School of Nursing Associate Dean for Innovative Partnerships and Practice Nelda Godfrey, the community college partnerships will help broaden the diversity of the nurses in Kansas.

“We are finding that by reaching out to our community college partners, we are increasing the diversity of our students and, as a result, the diversity of the nursing workforce,” Godfrey said in a statement.

Johnson County Community College's Healthcare Simulation Center.
Johnson County Community College’s Healthcare Simulation Center.