The Arkansas Department of Higher Education gave final approval on Friday (Jan. 27) to Arkansas Tech University-Ozark Campus for its proposed Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Nursing.
The endorsement, which follows an initial approval from the State Board of Nursing in September, allows the campus to launch its new Registered Nurse (RN) program – an extension of its current Practical Nursing program.
“Health-care providers and students alike approached the Ozark Campus to offer this program, and we responded by creating a path for practical nurses to pursue the next step in their educational journey, an RN credential,” ATU-Ozark Chancellor Jo Alice Blondin said in a statement.
Theresa Fontaine of Alma will serve as chair of the RN program, which will begin offering courses in August. ATU-Ozark offers a Technical Certificate in Practical Nursing that qualifies students to test to become a licensed practical nurse, or LPN. The associate degree will allow Ozark Campus students to become an RN.
Arkansas Tech-Ozark’s nursing program is unique in that it allows current LPNs to obtain an RN degree, which allows them to transition into the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program at the main Russellville campus.
Because Arkansas Tech’s main campus in Russellville offers a bachelor’s degree in Nursing, nursing students who start on the Ozark Campus will be able to take all of the required instruction to obtain a bachelor’s degree within the Arkansas Tech system.
“The new LPN-to-RN transition program is the perfect program for our campus,” Fontaine said. “This new Ozark program will be a good fit for the student who wishes to become an RN, but needs to do it in stages because of family and financial responsibilities.”
Blondin said the campus has averaged between 70-75 nursing students per semester for the past 2-3 years. To handle ongoing and anticipated growth in the nursing programs, ATU-Ozark has plans for a new $5 million building that will serve all “allied health programs” and would include fitness center, Blondin said. A construction timeline has not yet been set.
Education & Health Services has been one of the more stable sectors of the Arkansas and Fort Smith regional economies. The sector employed an estimated 15,900 in the Fort Smith region during December, down from the 16,200 during December 2010, according to info from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Sector employment is up 20.4% since January 2001.
In Arkansas, the sector employed an estimated 170,800 during December, ahead of the 167,300 during December 2010. The sector employed 128,500 in Arkansas during January 2001.