Little Rock, Ark. – Ouachita Baptist University and Baptist Health today announced a partnership to address the shortage of nurses in the state and region.
Ouachita recently received approval from its accreditor, the Higher Learning Commission, to offer a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. The inaugural class convenes in the 2018 fall semester with 23 students.
The partnership with Baptist Health College Little Rock (BHCLR), the teaching component of the Baptist Health System and one of the largest nursing programs in Arkansas, creates a distinctive dual enrollment RN-to-BSN completion program. Capitalizing on the strengths of both institutions, the program will allow nursing students to work as RNs a full semester earlier than most traditional BSN programs.
“This is an innovative partnership with Baptist Health College Little Rock that expands nursing education and makes it more affordable,” said Dr. Ben Sells, president of Ouachita. “This program allows students to earn two degrees in four years and expedites their entry into the healthcare workforce.”
Students will attend Ouachita during the first four semesters of the program, giving them the opportunity to experience campus and college life. Subsequently, students will continue their degree through Ouachita Online while dually enrolled at Baptist Health College Little Rock to earn an Associate of Applied Science in Nursing degree.
Midway through their senior year, students will sit for the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses. Once that exam is passed, they will be licensed to work as RNs during the final semester of their senior year while completing Ouachita’s BSN requirements for graduation.
“This partnership with Ouachita makes sense for Baptist Health,” said Troy Wells, president and CEO of Baptist Health. “Our respective missions and cultures are very much aligned, and we share a commitment to faith-based education. We strongly complement one another.”
Baptist Health is Arkansas’ largest healthcare system, with hospitals in Little Rock, North Little Rock, Arkadelphia, Conway, Heber Springs, Malvern and Stuttgart. Additionally, it recently purchased Sparks Health System, with locations in Fort Smith and Van Buren.
“As we grow, so too does our need for nurses, preferably those with BSN degrees,” Wells added. “Healthcare demand is growing at a rapid pace, and we must be diligent and innovative in our efforts to respond to the demand for services.”
“BHCLR has a reputation of producing quality graduates,” said Dr. Judy Pile, chancellor of Baptist Health College Little Rock. “Our students receive extensive clinical experience early in the educational process, giving them the opportunity to distinguish themselves from other professionals in the field.”
Ouachita also has a longstanding record of successfully preparing students for health-related professions. The Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree will complement Ouachita’s existing degree programs in natural sciences while answering nationwide calls for innovation in nursing education.
“This partnership is ideal for Ouachita and Baptist Health, and for the benefit of healthcare in the state and beyond,” said Dr. Sells. “Baptist Health can tap into Ouachita’s significant pool of potential students in Arkansas and surrounding states. Our university, on the other hand, can play a leading role in helping find solutions in a time of significant disruption and change in higher education and healthcare.”
While research and conversations into a potential partnership had been underway for several years, Ouachita and Baptist Health began the formal planning process three years ago.