Odessa College and Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center on Thursday announced an early decision articulation agreement aimed at increasing the number of bachelor’s degree prepared nurses in the Permian Basin.
Students will get their associate degree from OC and can take their bachelor’s degree in nursing courses entirely online. The process can be completed in as little as three years, a news release detailed.
Officials from OC and Texas Tech health sciences and nursing students were on hand for the announcement in the Zant Room of the Saulsbury Campus Center at Odessa College.
OC Director of Nursing Allisa Cornelius said they were excited about the partnership and pathway.
“The nursing program has been silently celebrating this for a little bit and now we’re so excited to share it with all of our friends and partners today,” Cornelius said.
“… Here at Odessa College. We never stop striving for excellence and never stop doing more and trying to be better … This partnership is an example of how we are willing to innovate and cultivate pathways and relationships for the betterment of our community and our students,” Cornelius said.
She added that the pathway secures the opportunity for students to complete the necessary prerequisite courses at OC and then seamlessly transition to earn their BSN from Texas Tech health sciences without leaving home.
Cornelius said OC is committed to increasing student enrollment and completion “and doing all that we can to grow and develop and create compassionate, qualified and caring nurses for the Permian Basin.”
“Data tells us that in West Texas, less than 50% of nurses are bachelor’s prepared. As we have known and have been witness to over the last 18 months, we desperately need more nurses. We need more nurses who are prepared to go into healthcare leadership and who have the desire to help … improve the healthcare in the Permian Basin,” Cornelius said.
With the partnership, she added, OC and TTUHSC are rising to the challenge.
“… We are answering the call in a belief that if we grow them in this community, we give them opportunities and they will, in turn, serve the community here,” Cornelius said.
She added that since the finalization of this pathway, that OC has 30 students who will sign their intent to enter Texas Tech University Health Sciences School of Nursing upon graduation from the OC nursing program.
Karla Chapman, TTUHSC associate dean of admissions, enrollment management and student affairs, said in a news release that through this pathway called early decision, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Nursing began partnering with associate degree nursing programs across the state.
This has allowed students to envision themselves furthering their education and laying the foundation of lifelong learning, Chapman said in the release.
She noted that the School of Nursing is celebrating its 40th anniversary.
Regional Dean of the School of Nursing Sharon Cannon said the school of nursing in Odessa started in 1985 and OC and the School of Nursing have partnered together on a variety of ventures.
President of Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center Lori Rice-Spearman, who grew up in Odessa, appeared in a video message.
“Our school of nursing leads the way among RN to BSN programs statewide in partnering with community colleges and building pathways for their associate degree nursing students to become bachelor prepared nurses. Through an early decision articulation agreement, students begin taking the necessary prerequisites from their home community college to meet our admission requirements for the school of nursing RN to BSN program. I’m extremely proud of the collaboration between our HSC School of Nursing and Odessa College over the past 35 years, which has led to the development of such an agreement between our two great institutions,” Rice-Spearman said.
“Odessa College and our HSC School of Nursing share a common goal to serve the healthcare needs of the Permian Basin, and a dedication to lifelong learning. This shared purpose, along with the respective leadership of President Greg Williams and Regional Dean Sharon Cannon, has supported this opportunity to partner and create an innovative education pathway for Odessa College associate degree nursing students who have the vision and drive to pursue a bachelor’s degree in nursing,” Rice-Spearman added.
Two students continuing on to a bachelor’s degree are Mercedes Madrid and Hayley Francisco.
“It’s an exciting opportunity to be able to go to Tech after we graduate,” Madrid said.
They said it will make moving on to a BSN easier.
“It offers a very clear pathway to continue on to get your BSN and it offers you the opportunity to start working for a hospital and go to school online while you finish your bachelor’s,” Francisco said.
She added that a benefit of earning a bachelor’s degree in nursing is having more knowledge about how to care for your patients and being able to work as a team on your unit to provide better patient care long term.
Madrid said she has wanted to be a nurse since elementary school.
“I’ve always wanted to be a nurse and I’ve always wanted to help people. I feel like this is a great way to serve that purpose, especially because there’s a greater need for nurses,” Madrid said.
Francisco said she has wanted to be a nurse since high school.
She had been admitted to the hospital and enjoyed the relationships she built with her nurses during her stay.
“It made me think that that was something I would want to do,” Francisco said.
Asked why she wants to go into the profession with the pandemic raging, she expressed determination to keep going.
“Nurses are just in such high demand, and so to let something like this hold you back from something you want to do would just be unfortunate,” Francisco said.
Cannon said Texas was talking before the pandemic of needing 27,000 to 28,000 more nurses.
“It’s even more now,” she said.
Cannon noted that a lot of the nurses who have worked through the pandemic are tired.
“They’re retiring early and the shortage is going to be even greater,” Cannon said.
Chapman noted that there is a lot of reliance on traveling nurses right now.
“But there’s a real need for producing our own nurses, in our own community and that stay. … That’s what a lot of hospitals are having to (do), hire traveling nurses, and they do certainly a fine job but they aren’t here. They aren’t home. They’re not going to stay here,” Chapman said.