Michigan community colleges may soon be able to confer bachelor degrees in nursing (BSN), with Bills 5556 and 5557 now being considered by the State of Michigan House of Representatives.

Representatives John Roth of District 104 (Grand Traverse County) and John Damoose of District 107 (Chippewa, Mackinac, and Emmet counties) are leading this effort.

“The ability to offer BSN’s would help curb the education disparities of nurses, especially those working in more rural areas,” said Dr. Beth Corner, Director of Nursing at Mid Michigan College (Mid). “These bills would allow nurses to stay within their communities, access higher education more easily, and continue working in the rural hospitals where they currently provide care.”

For several years, the healthcare industry has been updating education and employment requirements—often mandating that nurses obtain a BSN.

“These requirements are not made without forethought or data,” shared Corner. “More advanced education and training has led to better patient outcomes.”

In Michigan, the goal is to have at least 80% of nurses with a BSN degree. In 2020, the number of BSN nurses was approximately 46.5%, according to the Survey of Michigan Nurses, which is far below the desired goal.

“Currently, a nurse would need to enroll in a university after completing their associate degree at a community college,” explained Corner. “The problem is that students do not always have the means to go to a university because of cost and location, and many do not have access to reliable internet service to take courses online.”

Mid’s Dean of Health Sciences, Barbara Wieszciecinski, and Director of Nursing, Dr. Bethany Corner, were asked by Representative Roth and Damoose to speak on the behalf of Michigan’s community colleges to share the challenges our health systems are facing and how community colleges BSNs could positively impact the current nursing crisis.

“Even though our students continue to face unprecedented situations, they also continue to work hard and succeed beyond expectations,” said Barbara Wieszciecinski, Dean of Health Sciences and Director of Nursing in Mt. Pleasant at Mid.

Corner testified, with Wieszciecinski attending in support, in Lansing at the State Capitol and in front of House Committees recently. During testimony, Dr. Corner explained her educational journey, which included obtaining her degree from a community college and then changing schools to finish her BSN through an online program out of state.

“My parents did not have the money to help me attend a university,” said Corner. “I was a single mom during nursing school and had to work full-time. Luckily, I had internet access, but many students do not.”

The bills will soon be voted on in the Michigan House of Representatives followed by the Senate.

“We are honored that members of Mid’s faculty and leadership teams were called upon to testify on such an important issue,” said Tim Hood. President of Mid. “Their expertise, eloquence, and hands-on awareness of the issues is second-to-none, and they did an excellent job advocating for our students.”
 
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