First class of 'accelerated' nurses graduate

As the fall semester came to a close Dec. 13, the University's School of Nursing proudly graduated its first class of 38 accelerated Bachelor of Science students. The 16-month long program is designed for those who have a bachelor's degree in another field--ranging from mechanical engineering to English--but have decided to enter the field of nursing.

The program is especially helpful in remedying the nursing shortage both at Duke and across the nation, providing an opportunity for those without a science background to enter the field of nursing in less than two years. Eighty percent of the graduating class has received jobs within the Duke University Health System.

Although 120 universities throughout the nation have similar programs, Duke remains unique in its clinical emphasis, requiring 1,000 hours of clinic experience, said Michelle Renaud, director of the program.

"They are incredibly well-prepared for work in any department of the hospital after this program. The students are kept current with clinical practices and are at cutting-edge levels," said Renaud, who was recruited from Washington State where she taught pediatrics. "Their clinical skills are truly excellent."

Students are also required to take 15 graduate-level credits with others earning master's degrees at Duke.

"The BSN students can form alliances with other students and have a sense of a collegiate environment," said Dean of the School of Nursing Mary Champagne.

An additional benefit of the program is that the students already have solid professional backgrounds and can offer a variety of perspectives on nursing, Renaud said.

Dr. Chip Bailey, a faculty member of the BSN program, said he was honored to work with the students. "It was a wonderful match of students and staff. These people are truly the future's leaders of nursing."

Michael Fleckenstein, a member of the first graduating class, said he feels extraordinarily prepared for being in a hospital. "For the first year of such a program, it was truly impressive. I really couldn't have expected more."

Students, faculty and administration all concur on the truly remarkable sense of camaraderie. "Everyone is outstandingly supportive. We all work together and take care of each other," said Nancy Steiger, a recent graduate and former veterinary technician. "It's a tough and intense program but there's no sense of competitiveness. We all share."

The quality of instruction and staff and small class size--currently at 50 students--provides extensive attention, guidance and inspiration for the students, Steiger said.

All the students will be taking their nursing licensure exam later this winter and will have the ability to begin practicing or earn a master's degree in a nursing specialty.

Admission to the program requires a minimum GPA of 3.0/4.0, GRE scores, three letters of recommendation and prerequisites including anatomy, physiology, sociology, psychology and microbiology. The program's acceptance rate has dropped from 42 percent to 26 percent during its first two years, and it admits both more men and minorities than the national average, Renaud said.

Funding is provided by the Helene Fuld Foundation and a federal Health Resources Services Administration educational grant.

"It all boils down to caring about people," Fleckenstein said. "That's what this program stands for."


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