When Richard Brett, RN, BSN, joined Christiana Care in 2007, he was prepared with an associate’s degree from Gloucester County Community College in New Jersey. Learning about Christiana Care’s tuition assistance programs for nurses, he quickly decided to further his education both for his own professional development and to meet the national nursing professional goal to have more bachelor’s-prepared nurses in the U.S. “This program is one of the reasons I joined the nursing team at Christiana Care,” he said. He completed his Bachelor of Science in nursing from Wilmington University in 2011. “With a BSN,” he said, “I can become the nurse I want to be.”
Supporting academic advancement is vital to attracting and retaining the most talented nurses, said Diane P. Talarek, RN, MA, NE-BC, chief nursing officer and senior vice president of Patient Care Services. “We want to be partners to all our nurses as they build on their expertise,” she said. “An important part of our partnership is offering the opportunity for our nurses to further their education.” Christiana Care’s tuition assistance program for nurses supports the educational goal endorsed by the Institute of Medicine’s Future of Nursing report, calling for a minimum of 80 percent of all nurses to have a BSN by the year 2020. Christiana Care offers a prepay program for nurses pursuing bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees at Drexel University, Immaculata University, the University of Delaware and Wilmington University. Christiana Care pays full tuition for nurses enrolled at these schools. If nurses choose to go to another school, Christiana Care provides tuition reimbursement.
“Over the past several years, we have worked to expand the number of schools in our nursing prepay programs,” said Michelle Collins, manager of Nursing Professional Development and Education. “This effort has helped more nurses across our system advance their education. Our prepay programs are especially popular as a method of tuition assistance.” Dannette A. Mitchell, CCRN, MSN, APN, ACNS-BC, clinical nurse specialist of the intensive care unit at Wilmington Hospital, earned her master’s degree at the University of Delaware in 2013. She wanted to take her knowledge and skill set to a higher level. With her busy schedule, Mitchell appreciated the support from Christiana Care’s Nursing Professional Development and Education department. “Christiana Care did more than help me with the financial side of getting my master’s degree. I had support through my entire journey,” Mitchell said.
“When nurses contact us about continuing their education, we partner with them every step of the way,” said Staff Education Specialist Jennifer Painter. “We can provide support including assistance with outlining a plan for them to reach their academic goals.” Once nurses are enrolled in a program, explained Painter, “we can help arrange their precepted experiences and assist with creating a flexible, balanced work schedule with support from their managers.”
Promoting education and advancement is in keeping with being a Magnet designated health system, said Janet Cunningham, RN, MHA, NEA-BC, CENP, associate chief nursing officer and vice president of Professional Excellence. “We are committed to the best possible career experience for each nurse and the best possible health care experience for every patient and family,” she said. “Encouraging our nurses to further their education is important to all of us at Christiana Care. It advances our nurses’ professional development, it creates better patient outcomes, and it furthers the profession of nursing.” Professionally, Brett said, his BSN positions him for advancement on the clinical ladder and, most importantly, makes him a better nurse. “I learned so much in my program,” Brett said. “All this support reinforces how valued nurses are at Christiana Care.”