In an effort to meet changing healthcare demands and a shrinking nursing workforce throughout the state, the University of Wisconsin School of Nursing has developed an accelerated baccalaureate nursing program.

The program, which is designed for students who have already earned a degree in another field, will enroll 32 full-time students who will begin coursework in May 2018.

Upon graduation, students will receive their bachelor of science in nursing and be fully prepared to become licensed nurses.

Students are chosen based on past academic success, previous healthcare-related experiences and readiness for what will be a very intense, rigorous and time-intensive 12-month program of study, Karen Mittelstadt, assistant dean for academic affairs at UW nursing school, said.

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“Like our traditional BSN program, the accelerated BSN will be competitive and selective,” Mittelstadt said. “I’m anticipating around 120 applicants for the 32 seats in our initial class.”

The nursing faculty has been working on the program for two years now as a response to the lack of registered nurses in Wisconsin, Mittelstadt said.

In a 2013 report, the Wisconsin Center for Nursing predicted a shortage of 20,000 registered nurses in the state by 2035.

As a result, there’s an increase demand for registered nurses, program director, Wendy Crary, BSN accelerated program coordinator, said.

“The UW School of Nursing has included in their strategic plan the goal of educating more nurses, and identified an accelerated second degree program as a logical step toward meeting that goal,” Crary said.

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Though the program will begin next year, some UW students are already thinking of applying to it, including UW junior Joanna Martinez.

Martinez said she had recently switched from a pre-nursing undergraduate track to majoring in human development and family studies because she realized her own interests did not entirely align with nursing.

But, she still loved nursing and came from a long familial line of nurses, so when she heard about the program, she wanted to give it a try.

“I realized that I don’t have to go through nursing in order to help people,” Martinez said. “Because of the accelerated nursing program, I realize that I can now get two degrees in subjects that I’m passionate about.”

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As the Oct. 1 application deadline approaches, Crary and Mittelstadt expressed hope for the program to develop leaders for the profession, as well as more highly qualified and prepared nurses.

Mittelstadt said the accelerated BSN is a good example of how the UW School of Nursing is working to meet the demands of students on campus and the needs of the state at-large.

Should she be accepted, Martinez said she hopes she can enhance her other degree through the accelerated BSN program and advocated for similar programs to be pursued in other academic departments.

“I think having it for other majors is helpful, especially because graduating with a degree in four years is sometimes very strict,” Martinez said. “This opportunity would allow for more people to have a more holistic approach to education, where you can get experiences in all factors that you’re interested in.”