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UMFK students earning nursing baccalaureate degrees through innovative on-line program

June 11, 2004

NR04124

Deborah Guilmette, a registered nurse and student enrolled in the University of Maine at Fort Kent's bachelor of science in nursing program, may only have met her professor and advisor Jenny Radsma once, but she feels as though she knows her instructor as well as any student could.

That's because Guilmette, a resident of South Gardiner, Maine, is in regular contact with Radsma, not in a classroom across the desk from her, but through a growing on-line community of learners that are choosing UMFK's RN-to-BSN distance learning option, which allows registered nurses to complete their baccalaureate degree at home while continuing to work.

There are currently 90 nurses, mostly from Maine, but from other states and Canada as well, actively enrolled in the on-line program through the Fort Kent campus. An additional 60 nurses are enrolling or have completed some course work toward their degree.

"I had some initial hesitation regarding on-line education, but it has been and continues to be an incredible learning experience for me. The nursing professors are always willing to answer questions and alleviate concerns from students taking on-line classes and this makes the experience a very positive one," said Guilmette. "Without the UMFK on-line nursing program, I would be unable to pursue baccalaureate nursing studies, given the nearest programs are a minimum of two hours away, in Portland or Bangor."

Guilmette is in the same predicament as many other nurses throughout the state. With full-time employment as a community mental health nurse, and two part-time jobs as an emergency room nurse and sexual assault nurse examiner, as well as a husband and family, demands on her time are many and varied.

After concluding that taking months or years off from work or many evenings away from home to complete a bachelor's degree in nursing were out of the question, Guilmette learned about UMFK's unique on-line program, which allows her to log onto her computer, at her convenience and complete her coursework.

"The on-line RN-to-BSN studies option is an educational pathway available for those RNs who desire career mobility and professional development. The availability of on-line courses supports the unique needs for flexibility and access of both local and distant adult learners who want to complete the BSN degree while working," said Rachel Albert, director of UMFK's division of nursing.

Those needs are taken into consideration from the moment a nurse is accepted into the program with the appointment of an advisor who works with them to help plan their course of study.

Important decisions made before a nurse enrolls in the first class include determining whether they will pursue their goals as a part- or full-time student, and what credits from previously completed courses will be applied toward the BSN degree requirements.

Although the length of the program is dependent on these factors and others, most students take a minimum of two years to complete their studies.

"This program is designed to be flexible and responsive to individual student needs," said Albert. "However, quality of education is maintained through adherence to curricular, university and accreditation requirements, educational theory, and professional standards."

It is that combination of flexibility and quality that is drawing more students like Guilmette to UMFK's RN-to-BSN distance learning program.

"It has been an invaluable experience for me to be able to participate in this on-line experience. The ability to log onto my computer at home to take quality courses available through a publicly funded state university is important to me. The courses I have taken are rigorous, are intellectually challenging, and contribute to my professional growth as a nurse, all of which is a godsend to me," said Guilmette.

For more information on UMFK RN-to-BSN distance learning, visit the program's website at www.umfk.maine.edu/academics/programs/nur/rnbsn, or contact the UMFK division of nursing at (207) 834-7580.