Juggling work, life, and education has gotten easier for many St. Louis-area nurses, thanks to onsite learning opportunities offered by Webster University’s Department of Nursing.
BJC HealthCare and Webster’s Department of Nursing have collaborated on onsite learning since January 2011, when a cohort of R.N. to B.S.N. students began taking classes at BJC’s Center for LifeLong Learning, 8300 Eager Road. Another R.N. to B.S.N. cohort started in August 2011; a third starts this month. A cohort of BJC nurses who are pursuing the M.S. in Nursing with a leader focus took its first class this past summer.
Beginning in January 2013, SSM Health Care will offer Webster’s M.S. in Nursing with a leader focus, also in a cohort format. Classes will be held at SSM corporate headquarters at Olive and Lindbergh.
Onsite learning for nurses is an idea whose time has come, said Jennifer Broeder, Department of Nursing chair and associate professor.
“With new legislative mandates put forth by the Institute of Medicine, nurses are being encouraged to return to school. In turn, they seek convenience with education. The nurses really like the ease of going to school at their employer sites.” she said. “The cohorts offer another opportunity to serve the community, to extend ourselves a little further, and in the end, influence the delivery of quality, safe care for patients.”
“…they love the camaraderie of studying with each other.”
The cohort aspect of Webster’s onsite nursing programs has been an important selling point for students who enroll in the BJC program, Broeder said. “They really want the face-to-face contact, and they love the camaraderie of studying with each other.”
That camaraderie increases as students progress through the program, Broeder noted. Having taught the first BJC cohort’s initial class and another class this past summer, she said she was amazed at how comfortable students had become with each other in a year and a half.
Feeling comfortable with each other can be an important learning aid, Broeder added. “I tell them, ‘This is the place to test your skills and ideas, to do your presentations and get honest feedback.’”
Among BJC students are some from outlying areas who take classes by videoconferencing. A student in the first cohort participates from Alton, Ill.; four in the second cohort conference in from Farmington, Mo.
“The groups are really good about including anyone participating by videoconferencing,” Broeder said. Students arrange their chairs so teleconferencing students can see them; they ask for long-distance students’ feedback and try to build rapport with them.
Videoconferencing students are asked to come to the classroom for final presentations; yet, for the majority of the time, they are able to avoid the commute to St. Louis.
Videoconferencing “allows us to stretch out to rural areas.”
Broeder said the nursing faculty is pleased to have videoconferencing as a learning tool. “It allows us to stretch out to rural areas,” she said.
Debra Savka and Angela Williams, members of the first BJC cohort, said they are enjoying their time as Webster students.
“The teachers care, and it shows,” Williams said. “They’re always here early, and they always make themselves available.”
Savka credited good timing for her decision to enroll in Webster’s nursing degree completion program. “I was ready to go back to school, and I liked what Webster had to offer,” she said.
With most of her coursework behind her, Savka reflected on the program’s benefits. “For me, it’s more the self-awareness that I’m gaining,” she said. “I’m able to take things one more step with my job. Before I just did things, but now I know why I do them. “
Savka said her supervisor has commented that her self-esteem has doubled since she has been in the Webster program. Savka agreed with that assessment. “There’s a big difference in how I carry myself, how I talk to other people,” she said.
Bachelor’s degree a long-time objective
Both BJC students said that earning a bachelor’s degree has long been one of their objectives.
“It was a personal goal,” Williams said, “and my next personal goal is to get a master’s degree.”
Without hesitation, she added that she already knows that she wants to purse her M.S.N. degree in the same manner in which she is pursuing her B.S.N.—through a Webster University cohort program.