PSU’s online RN to BSN program earns No. 1 ranking 

  Monday, June 1, 2020 3:00 PM
  News, Academics

Pittsburg, KS

Shannon McCarty

Nurse Shannon McCarty may live and work in Alaska, but she still was able to earn her BSN degree from Pittsburg State University this spring.

"I had completed my associate’s degree in nursing at a community college, and I knew I’d soon need a bachelor’s degree. Employers said they preferred it, and I wanted to stay competitive in the current job market,” said McCarty, a nurse at Providence Alaska Medical Center. 

McCarty started her degree five years ago but dropped out when she got to her last few classes and it became impossible to complete them — or so she thought.  

And then, Jan Schiefelbein, who has coordinated the on-campus RN to BSN program for 30 years in PSU’s Irene Ransom Bradley School of Nursing, reached out to her last year with the option to finish online. McCarty was excited for the opportunity to finish what she started.

“I found all the classes to be engaging and easy to access,” she said. “All of the resources I needed for research was at my fingertips. All of the instructors are amazing and very invested in their students and having them be successful.” 

Those attributes helped the PSU program recently earn the distinction from of being the No. 1 Online RN to BSN in the state.

It’s a well-deserved honor, students say. Paula Roberts, of Chanute, Kansas, lives much closer to Pittsburg than McCarty — just an hour away — but said that without the online option, she wouldn’t have been able to pursue her BSN. 

“I work for the Neosho County Health Department and enjoy online learning as it’s easy to fit it around my work schedule,” she said. 

It was nurses like McCarty and Roberts that Schiefelbein had in mind when she set out on a mission to start the online option. 

“I had worked for many years alongside RNs with associate degrees, and they talked about wanting bachelor’s degrees but that they just couldn’t do it. They were working and they had families,” she said. “They inspired me. I thought, ‘there ought to be a way’.” 

In 2016, Schiefelbein led the charge to create a program that students could complete from anywhere, at any time, virtually. She began in 2017 with four students. Today, there are more than 120.  

Why do it? 

“The BSN degree opens doors to specialized nursing careers in surgery, emergency room, and pediatric nursing,” said Gena Coomes, who is an assistant professor in the school and who helps to coordinate the online program. “It prepares nurses to become shift leaders, nurse directors, and clinical managers. It also allows nurses to pursue an advanced degree after completing the BSN.” 

It also gives nurses the chance to earn a higher salary: the median annual wage for RNs with a bachelor’s degree is $68,450, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employment is expected to grow by 16 percent between now and 2024 — much faster than the average of all occupations. 

The online option gives those juggling multiple responsibilities freedom and flexibility. 

Nursing online secondary

How it works 

The program can be completed in as few as three semesters when taking courses fulltime. Nurses may choose to begin in either spring or fall and have a very high completion rateSchiefelbein said.  

RN-BSN students at PSU are eligible for up to $9,000 in grant money to use as tuition through the federal Nurse Education, Practice, Quality, and Retention (NEPQR) Grant. The total cost of tuition for 30 online credit hours required for the degree is $9,060. 

Students also are eligible to receive tuition reimbursement from their employers. 

“It’s an honor to be recognized for this program,” Schiefelbein said. “It’s also very fulfilling to know we’re helping to fill a need in the national push for nurses to have BSN degrees, and to ultimately help improve medical care in the communities in which our nurses serve. 


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