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UW-Eau Claire Nursing Staff Member Assumes Responsibility for State Program

RELEASED: Oct. 2, 2008

Lorraine Smith
Lorraine Smith

EAU CLAIRE — Lorraine Smith, assistant to the dean at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire's College of Nursing and Health Sciences, has been named state director of the BSN@Home program, formerly known as the Collaborative Nursing Program.

A registered nurse with a master's degree in nursing, Smith has been advising nursing students at UW-Eau Claire since 1993 when she was hired to assist with the Native American Nursing program grant project that was in place from 1993-2003. Over the years her duties have broadened and she now splits her time between advising and advocating for all nursing students at UW-Eau Claire and directing the statewide program. Smith assumed her new duties July 1.

"I've been enjoying the challenges of this position and meeting new people," said Smith. "I was lucky enough to have retiring state director Sharon Nellis available to mentor me and I learned a lot from her."

Smith also said that Interim Dean Mary Zwygart-Stauffacher and former Dean Elaine Wendt, now retired, were encouraging and supportive during the application process and transition to the new position.

The BSN@Home program is for practicing nurses with an associate degree or diploma in nursing who want to earn a bachelor's of science degree in nursing but have limited access or time to travel to a campus offering that degree. Participants may take general education courses at or through any college that offers courses that transfer to the one of five participating campuses they choose as their home institution — UW-Eau Claire, UW-Madison, UW-Green Bay, UW Oshkosh or UW-Milwaukee — but nursing courses are taught over the Internet and available to students registered in the nursing programs at any of these five.

Each of the five nursing schools teaches one of the five core nursing courses in the program's shared curriculum: Leadership and Management, Theoretical Foundations, Community Health Nursing, Research, and Health Assessment. UW-Eau Claire faculty, for example, teach the Leadership and Management course. Students earn their degree from their home institution. They can also take elective courses, and the five participating schools may offer different electives.

Smith said the demand for these flexible program services keeps increasing because nurses who have a BSN tend to advance more in the field, be promoted to leadership positions and go on to get master's and doctoral degrees. When the Collaborative Nursing Program was first offered in 1996, 78 students were enrolled and they were taught through a distance education method known as audio graphics. By 1998, that number had grown to 198, and in 2000 the program switched from the audio graphics technology to Internet courses.

"In 2006 we celebrated the program's 10th anniversary and it got its new name: BSN@Home," Smith said. "Currently we have more than 300 students enrolled for online courses, with close to 140 taking more than one course. Many more students are active in the program but not currently taking courses online. The demand has been very high."

So high, that one of the BSN@Home courses was offered each of the past two summers, and Smith said they plan to offer two courses each summer from now on. During the academic year, two or three sections of the five core courses are now offered, and Smith said the plan is to offer three sections of all courses by 2013.

"We are currently recruiting faculty to make it possible to teach three sections of all courses by that time," said Smith, who said the logistics of coordinating such a complex program can be daunting. "I was used to advising individuals, which I still do here at UW-Eau Claire, but now I'm also advising at the program level, and that's quite a change. But so far, I love it."

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NW/JB

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