Macon State's New Bachelor
of Science in Nursing To Respond to Midstate Health Care Needs
Macon State College nursing students
spend much of their time in Central Georgia hospitals getting
clinical training. Faye Wilson, center, assistant professor
of nursing, supervised this group during spring semester at
the Medical Center of Central Georgia. The students are, left
to right, Louis Copeland, Sonia Hughes, Amber Andrews, Misty
Maner, Amanda Riley and Cathy McFarland.
By Sheron Smith
Photos by Maryann Bates
Kimberly Frazier's first step toward fulfilling a childhood dream
came last fall, when she enrolled in Macon State College's nursing
"My parents always knew I'd end up in the medical field,"
said Frazier, 20. "Even when I was small I enjoyed helping
people, whether it was propping up the feet of our neighbor, who
had serious medical problems, or visiting the elderly at nursing
homes through my junior mission group at church."
Her long-term goals are to become a nurse anesthetist and get into
medical administration, so Frazier knew from her first day at Macon
State that she would continue her education beyond an associate's
degree. She's been keeping her fingers crossed that Macon State
would get to offer a bachelor's degree in nursing.
"The nursing program has a great reputation," she said,
"and this is where I want to get my four-year degree."
Now, she can.
In April, the University System of Georgia's Board of Regents approved
a Bachelor of Science in Nursing for Macon State, the College's
seventh baccalaureate program. Macon State's four-year program will
be known as a "completion" degree because it is especially
designed for registered nurses with associate's degrees who are
already in the workforce. In approving the program, the Regents
noted that completion degree programs "improve the analytical
and critical-thinking skills of nurses that are essential in today's
high-acuity hospital environment."
Stephanie Edalgo, right, reviews
a chart with Dr. Richard Sullivan at the Houston Medical Center.
Macon State President David A. Bell said the bachelor's degree
is an important development for the College.
"There are two issues at play here," he said. "Central
Georgia, like the rest of the nation, has an RN shortage, and this
program will help us attract more students to nursing to help deal
with that shortage. That fits in perfectly with our mission to develop
baccalaureate programs that enhance this region.
"The other issue is the need for more nurses with bachelor's
degrees because of technological advances in health care. Macon
State will continue to offer the associate's degree in nursing as
an entry point into the field, but we're going to do everything
we can to encourage our students to keep going toward their bachelor's
According to a report the state's Health Care Workforce Technical
Advisory Committee released last year, Georgia could be facing the
worst shortage of non-physician health care professionals in its
Titled Code Blue: Workforce in Crisis, the report warns
that without innovative solutions, Georgia will see continued shrinkage
in the number of nurses just as an aging population and medical
technological advances explode demand for health care services.
Besides a general shortage of nurses, the health care industry is
concerned that there are too few RNs with credentials beyond the
Beth Day, left, a Macon State nursing
program graduate and now a Medical Center case manager, talks
with current student Misty Maner.
Rapid changes in health care, including a shift to community care
that means only the most seriously ill patients are hospitalized
for significant lengths of time, are driving the need for more nurses
with bachelor's degrees. In 1995, the National Advisory Council
on Nurse Education and Practice, addressed this issue:
"Nursing clinical problem solving and differential diagnoses
require a sound foundation in a broad range of basic sciences. Increasingly,
difficult social and economic circumstances require knowledge of
behavioral, social and management sciences. Good oral and written
skills are required to communicate observations, analyze data from
a variety of sources
and to assist patients in identifying
and choosing from care options. A broad perspective and understanding
of health and factors affecting health are needed by registered
nurses to fill their roles in this reconstituted health care delivery
The advisory council went on to say that research shows a baccalaureate
education, with its broader, more scientific curriculum, best fulfills
these requirements and provides the sound foundation for a variety
of nursing positions.
Macon State's Bachelor of Science in Nursing is welcome news to
officials of area health care facilities.
"The BSN nurse is more prepared to take on a leadership role
and this is something our profession is critically short of,"
said Virginia Bartoldo, nursing director at Houston Medical Center.
"The average age of today's nurse is about 45, so we need to
start training tomorrow's nursing leaders now to take up the cause
when these nurses begin to retire."
Tracey Shepard, center, is a Macon
State nursing graduate who now directs renal care services
at the Medical Center of Central Georgia. She's shown here
with current nursing students Amanda Riley and Louis Copeland.
Beth Tripp, nurse recruitment, retention and education director
for Coliseum Health System in Macon, said that while hospitals will
continue to need associate's degree nurses, only in baccalaurate
programs can students get into research and in-depth study of vital
topics, such as the economy of health care.
"We need nurses to assume roles in nursing research and apply
that to current practice," she said.
Close Knit Group
An integral part of Macon State's academic offerings for more than
three decades, the associate's degree nursing program has produced
more than 2,200 graduates, many of whom continue to live and work
as RNs in the region.
Tracey Shepherd, for example, is a 1989 graduate who is now director
of renal care services at the Medical Center of Central Georgia.
To continue along a management career path, Shepherd feels she needs
her bachelor's degree, and she's been working on it off and on through
the Medical College of Georgia and Georgia Southwestern University.
Dr. Diane Craine, third from left,
interim chair of Macon State's nursing program, is shown with
a group of nursing students at the Houston Medical Center.
From left to right is Laura Ecklund, Kim Frazier, Ursula Holleman,
Stephanie Edalgo, Dawn Johnson and Susan Corthell.
Now that Macon State will offer the bachelor's degree, Shepherd
said she'd like to finish at her alma mater.
"In my position I get to advise nursing students during their
clinicals, and I've been encouraging them not to stop with their
associate's degree," Shepherd said. "It's best to keep
going toward that BSN while they're used to going to school."
Dr. Diane Craine, interim chair of MSC's nursing department, expects
to see many Macon State nursing alumni return for their bachelor's
"We hear that all the time from our graduates," she said.
"They know it's important for career advancement to complete
their bachelor's degrees and they've been waiting for Macon State
to get the four-year program."
Macon State nursing students are a well-mixed group of young women
and men just out of high school and older adults seeking second
careers or preparing to enter the workforce after rearing children.
Often seen around campus clad in medical scrubs, they are among
the most closely knit groups in the college community. One of the
most active student organizations on campus is the Macon State College
Association of Nursing Students (MSCANS), which spearheads a campuswide
Salvation Army toy stocking drive for needy children each holiday
Lenda Dillard is a 1975 Macon State nursing graduate who went on
to get her bachelor's from the Medical College of Georgia and her
master's from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Now an associate
professor of nursing at Macon State, as well as a nurse practitioner
who runs the campus health clinic, Dillard said nursing students
and faculty tend to bond because they spend so much time together
in class and clinicals.
Macon State nursing students take
a break from their clinical training at Coliseum Medical Centers.
In the background from left to right are Cindy Phillips, Renee
Gay, Angelica Jackson, Kristie Vaughn and Richard Sorrell.
In the foreground are Beatrice Coppock and Geraldine Poole.
"A lot of the students have families, work full-time and go
to school, so there's a lot of camaraderie among them," Dillard
said. "They feel like they're in this together and they support
each other every step of the way."
Louis Copeland, 42, is a second-year nursing student who decided
to change careers after working at Robins Air Force Base for 18
years. Copeland said the program has been challenging but he's making
it through thanks to the encouragement of the Macon State nursing
"The faculty is just great," said Copeland, the married
father of a 5-year-old daughter. "They want all their students
to succeed and they are always willing to take the time to help
Like Copeland, second-year nursing student Cathy McFarland was
attracted to nursing for the opportunity to take care of people.
McFarland, 23, who commutes to Macon State from Powder Springs,
said her experiences during a clinical rotation at a public school
solidified her desire to be a nurse.
"Just to love on children and make them feel better when they
are sick is the best feeling in the world," she said. "I'm
definitely going to get my BSN because I know it would be best for
Dr. Diane Craine with student Kimberly
Frazier at Houston Medical Center.
Another advantage to nursing is greater job security and flexibility
than many other fields. Unlike some professions that require licensure,
RNs can move anywhere in the U.S. without retaking their board exams,
thanks to reciprocal agreements among the 50 states. Job settings
are ubiquitous, from hospitals to nursing homes to public schools
to industrial plants. An RN can work in pediatrics one year and
emergency services the next.
Most employers of RNs also offer flexible work schedules. For example,
a nurse could work three 12-hour shifts then have the next four
The earning power is good, too. In this state, RNs make an average
of $36,960 annually, according to the Georgia Career Information
System. Nurses with advanced degrees make more.
"I enjoy working with patients, but I also wanted financial
stability," said Renee Gay, 34, a second-year Macon State nursing
student who formerly worked as a certified medical assistant. "Nursing
offers an avenue to be financially self-reliant."
New Health Sciences Complex
The bachelor's degree is just one factor Macon State expects to
help boost enrollment in the nursing program. Another is the construction,
currently underway, of the $16.2 million Nursing, Health Sciences
and Outreach Complex on the west end of campus. When completed by
fall 2003, the complex will include state-of-the art teaching facilities
for the nursing program, including a technologically advanced 10-bed
"patient" unit where students will practice. All classrooms
will be completely wired for information technology and distance
learning, allowing, for example, nursing students to watch a surgical
procedure as it takes place at a medical facility anywhere in the
Geraldine Poole reviews a chart
at one of the floor nursing stations at Coliseum Medical Centers.
"The B.S. degree and the new facility are going to allow us
to develop a premier nursing program for this region," Bell
In addition to degree programs, other Macon State initiatives designed
to address the shortage of RNs include a bridge program for licensed
practical nurses (LPNs) who seek RN licensure and a re-entry program
for former registered nurses who wish to resume practice.
One of the students in the LPN bridge program is Michelle Smith,
30. Smith was working as a medical receptionist when she decided
to pursue the nursing career she had always wanted. Needing to get
back into the workforce quickly, she opted for an 18-month LPN program
at a technical college. Now she's taking the next step by earning
her nursing degree at Macon State while working part-time in the
emergency room of Spalding Regional Hospital.
"I enjoy the fast-paced environment of nursing," she
said. "It's different every day. The best thing is when you've
done a good job and you've been attentive to your patients and they
tell you how much they appreciate it. That can make all the difference
on those days when you're stressed out."
The challenge for nursing degree programs everywhere is to identify
and recruit more students and prepare them for what is admittedly
a demanding profession, but one that is also among the most rewarding.
"There aren't many jobs where you get to help a mother give
birth and, in the same day, perhaps hold the hand of somebody who
is dying," Craine said. "It's a privilege to work in a
field where you get be with people at such intimate times."
Macon State's nursing program will
move from its current location, left, to state-of-the-art
facilities in the new Nursing, Health Sciences and Outreach
Complex, now under construction on the west end of campus.
State College Nursing Programs
Science: Macon State's
B.S. in nursing is known as a "completion" degree
because it is specifically designed for registered nurses
with associate's degrees who are already in the workforce
and want to complete a four-year baccalaureate program. Students
are eligible to enter the program once they have completed
an associate's degree in nursing, earned state licensure as
RNs and entered the workforce. It is also open to graduates
of three-year hospital diploma programs. The baccalaureate
nursing program will consist of 60 academic credit hours beyond
the associate's degree. RNs with their associate's degrees
can begin now to take the core courses and electives they
will need to enter the B.S. program. New students can start
now to work on their associate's degrees in nursing in anticipation
of continuing on in the bachelor's degree program after entering
the workforce as RNs. Macon State expects that many students
will continue to work full-time as registered nurses while
pursuing the four-year degree on a part-time basis.
of Science: The A.S. curriculum combines nursing and general education courses. Graduates are eligible to take the National Council Licensure Examinations, successful completion of which certifies the graduate as a registered nurse. An associate's degree is the first step in a professional nursing career.
Mobility : This
program gives licensed practical nurses the opportunity to
complete at least 21 credit hours in the Macon State nursing
program to earn their associate's degrees, thus becoming eligible
to take the NCLE to become a registered nurse.
Program : Macon
State's "RN ReEntry" initiative is aimed at nurses
who have not practiced for at least five years. The program
consists of 12 credit hours and includes classroom instruction
and clinical experiences at health care facilities in the
midstate. Students who successfully complete the program will
be eligible for re-licensure without having to re-take the