In the Marian University RN to BSN online program, students do not waste time getting retaught content and skills they already know and do, such as health and physical assessment or pharmacology. Instead, they learn skills that modern nursing leaders say they want in nurses with a BSN degree.

These skills include strong leadership, communication, team management, and knowledge of health informatics and human resources. Marian University’s RN to BSN online program, designed with input from nursing leaders, offers students an education in these essential areas.

Marian built the program for nurses with an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN). In a recent webinar about the program presented by Marian University administrators and a program graduate, prospective students learned the benefits of the university’s commitment to aligning its curriculum with input from healthcare leaders.

In the past few years, curriculum changes reflect that commitment, Dr. Kimberly A. Udlis, Associate Dean and Chief Nurse Administrator, said in the webinar.

“The goal was not to create a better nurse, because we know that our ADN-prepared nurses are already excellent nurses, but more so to really develop these additional skills in our students and allow them to truly change their career trajectory and to genuinely change how they see the nursing profession,” Dr. Udlis said.

Following is an overview of some key points to emerge from the webinar about the degree program, which has been named a Top 10 RN to BSN online program in Wisconsin.

RN to BSN Online Program Designed with Input From Nursing Leaders

Udlis, who joined Marian University in 2017 and still maintains a practice as a nurse practitioner, said that several years ago, the faculty at Marian asked nursing leaders what they wanted to see in nurses who went back to college to earn their BSN. She said the responses they repeatedly heard included:

  • Leadership
  • Team management
  • Understanding the supply chain
  • Informatics
  • Understanding HR issues
  • Strong communication skills
  • Systems thinking
  • Population health

Marian revised its online RN to BSN program to reflect the needs expressed by those nursing leaders. At the same time, the program adheres to the established criteria all accredited nursing programs must follow.

“Knowing what our partners were looking for, we were able to revise our RN to BSN program to truly develop these skills that the nursing leaders are hoping to see in their nurses returning for their BSN,” Udlis said.

She said the Marian nursing faculty continues to meet annually with nurse leaders to discuss the trends in academics and practice and the linkages between the two. Udlis said the goal is determining “how best to work together to meet the needs of the nursing workforce.”

“We’re looking to create a different person with a different set of skills and knowledge at the baccalaureate level, and with our curricular revisions, we did just that,” she said.

Graduates also benefit financially from earning a BSN. According to ZipRecruiter, the average salary for nurses in Wisconsin with a bachelor’s degree is $76,485.

RN to BSN Program Courses and Faculty

Dr. Katie Hughes, director of Marian’s undergraduate nursing program, also spoke in the webinar, focusing on how the curriculum prepares nurses for success. She also emphasized that Marian nursing students aren’t retaking courses or getting “retaught.”

“You are already licensed professional nurses, and you use your nursing knowledge and skills constantly, probably more than you ever thought possible over the last 20 or so months,” she said, referring to the global pandemic.

She said employers look for BSN graduates who understand healthcare issues beyond clinical skills. She highlighted several courses that prepare nurses as well-rounded leaders.

Healthcare Economics and Policy: Students learn how policies and political processes shape the nature, quality, and safety of the healthcare environment and nurses’ critical role in the process.

Leadership and Healthcare Systems: Students analyze the impact nurses have on quality, cost, and access to care and how a nurse’s leadership affects patient outcomes.

Management and Nursing: Students explore problem-solving and ethical decision-making models used to improve productivity and performance in the healthcare environment.

The first course for all RN to BSN students is Professional Nursing Concepts, where they learn about national standards for baccalaureate education in nursing. The final course in the program allows students to synthesize everything they have learned and apply it toward a quality improvement topic, typically related to where they work. The students develop evidence-based strategies that support a change from current practice.

Courses are taught by nursing leaders with decades of experience in nursing leadership, economics, and policy. “You are learning from someone who has walked the walk,” Hughes said.

Features of the program include:

  • 100% online
  • Full-time and part-time options
  • Students can choose how fast they earn their degree – 3, 5, or 8 semesters
  • All classes except for Population Health-Clinicals are offered in 7-week sessions
  • Tutorials and resources are provided to support student success
  • Curriculum heavily based on input from community healthcare partners
  • Minimal textbooks to help reduce costs

Clinicals in an Online RN to BSN Program

Hughes said one of the topics prospective students ask about the most are clinicals and how working nurses accomplish them in an online program. In the Marian University online RN to BSN program, nurses complete clinicals as part of a 15-week course in which they concurrently study Population Health.

Hughes explained that the length of the course allows students “ample time to complete the clinical portion of the course and synthesize all you learn through the program.”

Clinicals are done in the student’s local community. A clinical placement coordinator at Marian University works with students to find a place to perform their clinical work.

“You don’t have to be here in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, where we physically are,” said Hughes. “You can be in Wisconsin, outside of Wisconsin. We will work with you to find a place to connect with.” Options can include local health departments, schools, nonprofit organizations, community-based management, occupational health nursing, or even the student’s current workplace if it has a population health component.

BSN students complete  90 hours of clinical, including onsite and online experiences. Students complete about half their hours at the clinical agency and half online. Online clinical activities include additional discussion forums reflecting on the student’s clinical experience and projects.

Why Marian University for an Online RN to BSN?

Rose Adelbush, who earned her BSN from Marian and is currently pursuing a master’s degree, said she “truly loved” her experience earning a BSN from Marian University. A traveling nurse, Adelbush said the online program met her needs of finding a quality program that gave her flexibility and control over when she did classwork.

“I’m so excited I ended up at Marian,” she said. “For me, getting my bachelor’s degree made by opportunities nationally just kind of endless. That’s what I really liked the most about getting this degree.”

She said she also enjoyed that Marian is a small school where she got to know her professors and felt comfortable asking questions. She said clinicals were not difficult to accomplish, even though she was working in rural Alaska at the time. “It was very easy to accomplish, very easy to do while working full-time. Just a really great experience,” she said.

A Wisconsin native, Adelbush also said she knew about Marian’s reputation for offering a high-quality education. In her remarks, Dr. Udlis also touched on that topic.

“Marian has a very strong history in educating nurses dating back to 1964 when the first BSN program was started. The first RN to BSN program started in 1980,” she said. “For over 40 years, Marian has been helping nurses achieve their academic goals with the RN to BSN program.”

Watch the full webinar here: