B.S. in Nursing to break down stigma of mental illness

Monday, March 10, 2014 5:50:00 PM

The Ruth S. Coleman College of Nursing’s new pre-licensure Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program will integrate a mental health strand into the curriculum, helping to break down the stigma associated with mental health care. 

The college determined that the infusion of mental health concepts was a critical component of the curriculum in order to care for persons across the lifespan who experience mental illness. The mental health strand will offer an understanding of the impact of mental illness on the patient, family, and community; and break down the stigma associated with people with mental illness.       

Dries, Kelly

The program will provide key mental health concepts and practical application within four specific mental health courses, totaling 27 credits, to provide a holistic and collaborative approach to caring for individuals with mental health issues. The overall program will require 120 credits. 

The mental health courses are aligned with several goals of the Nursing’s Voice Initiative, including expanding nursing’s capacity to provide better mental health services. The strand will also help to educate nursing students about the rewards of a mental health nursing career, and ensure that nursing students’ skill sets are optimized for the latest trends in healthcare delivery.  

Nursing’s Voice is a collaborative partnership lead by the Faye McBeath Foundation, local health systems, schools of nursing, and community service providers.  Nursing’s Voice seeks to help transform mental health services through enhancing the role of nurses in providing and managing care.  

“Students will gain a greater understanding of concepts to meet the needs of persons with mental illness,” said Kelly Dries, dean of the college. “Instructional strategies will teach nurses about mental health, break down the stigma associated with mental health issues, and help to remove barriers to working in the field. We felt very strongly that these concepts should be embedded within the program.”

The infusion of a mental health strand into the curriculum is made possible in part by a $25,000 grant from the Faye McBeath Foundation, a private, independent foundation providing grants to tax-exempt nonprofit organizations in metro Milwaukee.  

The college has offered a Bachelor of Science in Nursing Completion (RN-BSN) program since 1983, designed for associate degree nursing (ADN) or diploma prepared registered nurses (RN) looking for enhanced career opportunities, promotions, and management positions. The new BSN program is a pre-licensure program and is therefore open to students with no prior nursing experience. As a four-year degree program, it allows enrolled students to have a more traditional college experience.

An August 2012 academic program analysis by Noel-Levitz, a higher education consulting firm, reported that only 2% of high school seniors are interested in an associate’s degree in nursing, however 25% are interested in health professions and health sciences, including nursing.  

Stritch’s new pre-licensure BSN program will also be unique as students can select a concentration in their clinical practice, including nursing experiences in the Hispanic/Latino community, and faith-based nursing. The Hispanic/Latino population was selected due to the large Hispanic/Latino community in metro Milwaukee; the faith-based nursing concentration was chosen for its direct alignment to the mission of the University. 

The new BSN program will take four years or eight semesters to complete, and is designed to be delivered face-to-face.  The curriculum is designed to allow students to take a core nursing course early in the program and not in the sixth semester as with many other programs.  

The pre-licensure BSN program will replace the existing Associate of Science in Nursing program. However, the existing Bachelor of Science in Nursing RN to BSN Program will continue to serve registered nurses seeking professional advancement.