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Health Science Center launches baccalaureate nursing program in Del Rio (11/13/98)

The School of Nursing at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio has taken its undergraduate flexible process track to Del Rio, where 10 students are enrolled in the bachelor's program. The new offering, approved by the Texas Board of Nurse Examiners this summer, is presented in association with Sul Ross State University Rio Grande College.

"During the last legislative session, a bill was passed that mandated more access to nursing education in South Texas," said Dr. Barbara Lust, RN, associate dean for students in the School of Nursing. "The Health Science Center is partnering with Sul Ross to provide those educational opportunities."

To assess the needs of the underserved area, Dr. Suellen Reed, director of academic projects and grants in the School of Nursing, made numerous visits to the Del Rio area and talked with area education and nursing professionals. Commented Dr. Lust, "They found that the area had numerous LVNs [licensed vocational nurses] and RNs [registered nurses] without a baccalaureate and that potential students preferred evening and weekend classes. So they decided the flexible track would be most resourceful for us and for them."

The flex process track is designed for students who already have 60 hours of college credit and certification as an LVN or RN. The Del Rio program enables students to complete bachelor's degree course work on a part-time basis.

Imelda Garza, who earned her RN certification about five years ago, is one of the first 10 students. "Until now, there was no opportunity in the area to earn a degree in nursing," she said.

Citing the convenience of the flex process, Garza added, "My family and I live in Crystal City, which is about a 90-minute drive to Del Rio. I work, my husband works and our 14-year-old daughter has a very full schedule. The idea of a big university working with you and providing evening and Saturday classes is really wonderful. The School of Nursing has been very supportive."

"There are numerous participants in this program," Dr. Lust said. "Val Verde Regional Medical Center is Del Rio's major hospital. We're using its skills lab and its interactive video system (VTEL) for distance education." The School of Nursing has a complementary system, opening the door to various distance education opportunities.

The only other nursing program in the area is an LVN program offered by Southwest Texas Junior College (SWTJC) in Uvalde. SWTJC has been a strong proponent of the School of Nursing bachelor's program and is permitting the nursing students to use its library and other resources at its Del Rio campus, Dr. Lust said. The students also have Internet access to the Briscoe Library at the Health Science Center.

"At the same time we were setting up this program, we received approval to incorporate the Texas Articulation Model (TAM)," Dr. Lust said. "TAM gives more credit to LVNs and RNs coming out of diploma and associate degree programs--it's giving them credit for their prior nursing experience. LVNs now get 18 hours credit for nursing and RNs get 30, so the courses each group takes are a little different. LVNs are still required to take two credit-by-exam courses in the first semester. RNs are bypassing those and going directly to the second semester."

Seven of the 10 students are LVNs and three are RNs. Eight are women and two are men. The program is coordinated by Dr. Adrianne Linton, associate professor and interim chair of chronic nursing care.

"All of the LVNs recently passed both credit-by-exam courses and are preparing for the health assessment course where they will be joined by the RN students," said Dr. Lust. "The course in health assessment is the first course in the second semester of the program." The course will be taught by Rebecca Schneider, MSN.

Dr. Lust indicated numerous area RNs and LVNs were trying to complete the 60 semester hours of prerequisites to be eligible for the program next year. The School of Nursing will work with two cohorts of students--one that entered this fall and another that will enter in fall 1999--for an approximate four-year commitment. Sul Ross will take over the program when the third cohort of students is admitted.

"The Del Rio students are a motivated group," Dr. Lust said. "They have a lot of support, particularly from the director of nurses at Val Verde Medical Center—she is in our early master's program here. There's also a lot of community support and support from other educational institutions."

This broad affirmation was apparent at the baccalaureate program's inauguration ceremonies conducted this fall at the Rio Grande College. Honored guests included Dr. John P. Howe III, president of the Health Science Center; Dr. Roberto A. Cuellar, president of the Val Verde County Medical Society and president of the board of trustees of the Winter Garden Border AHEC Inc. of the South Texas Area Health Education Center; Mayor Roberto Chavira of the city of Del Rio; state Rep. Pete Gallego; state Sen. Frank Madla; Dr. Vic Morgan, president of Sul Ross State University Alpine; and Waylon Cowan, president of the board of directors, Val Verde Regional Medical Center.

"Nurses in the area have been hoping for some kind of program like this for a long time," Dr. Lust said. "While a lot of energy, time and resources go into an off-campus site, the School of Nursing wants to meet the need for higher education in South Texas."

Contact: Joanne Shaw