Written by Kristine Zaballos
Residents of southeastern Wisconsin will now have an opportunity to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing while remaining in the region.
A unique new program brings Edgewood College’s nursing program to the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater at Rock County campus, complete with a full faculty, clinical coordination expertise, and an innovative curriculum that integrates classroom instruction with hands-on clinical and simulation experiences.
The Bachelor of Science in Nursing program, set to launch with its initial cohort in the fall of 2023, is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and approved by the Wisconsin Board of Nursing.
The program is also the product of years of looking at solutions to fill a gap in nursing education in the Rock County area.
“The area our campus serves is the largest region without a four-year nursing degree program in Wisconsin,” said Tricia Clasen, dean of the College of Integrated Studies at UW-Whitewater. “This program will allow students to study face-to-face without traveling out of the region to earn their degrees. I credit Interim Chancellor John Chenoweth, then serving as provost of UW-Whitewater, with seeing the value of this collaboration to our campus and to the community and green-lighting the program.”
Clasen worked to develop the program with Edgewood colleagues Quinn Mullikin, the associate dean for Graduate Nursing Programs in the School of Nursing, Business, and Health Science, and Rachel Icke, the director of graduate clinical practica and ADN-DNP programs.
“It is an incredible opportunity for Edgewood College’s Henry Predolin School of Nursing to partner with UW-Whitewater and UW-Whitewater at Rock County to bring a locally based, face-to-face bachelor’s degree in nursing program to the Janesville area,” said Mullikin. “This collaborative nursing program aligns with our mission to grow nursing as a profession by educating students to be knowledgeable, accountable, responsible, ethical, and culturally sensitive graduates who will become leaders in a changing and diverse healthcare environment.”
Both Mullikin and Icke are Elkhorn natives who know firsthand what impact the program could have on southeastern Wisconsin.
“We know that patient outcomes are better with BSN-prepared nurses,” said Icke, who works in partnership with Mullikin to coordinate the program at Edgewood. “We’ve worked hard to craft a program that allows students to stay in their communities and take advantage of the exceptional clinical opportunities available at area health care providers such as Mercyhealth, SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital-Janesville, Beloit Memorial Hospital System and Rock County Public Health.”
As Edgewood College and UW-Whitewater at Rock County partnered to develop the program, Icke reached out to colleagues at area healthcare institutions to gauge their interest in the BSN collaboration, receiving a positive response. One industry professional was Michele Demmin, system director of professional development, nursing education and programs at Mercyhealth in Janesville.
“This is a big deal for Mercyhealth,” said Demmin. “Both UW-Whitewater and Edgewood are well known and respected, and it’s exciting to see them come together to provide a local program for nursing. Right now we have three hospitals in Rock County and just one nursing program trying to staff them — the collaborative BSN program will provide additional highly trained nurses, and the entire community and region will benefit.”
As planning was underway, the program was tailored to best serve the needs of area nursing students. Classroom work will take place in three days — including two days of theoretical instruction on the Rock County campus and one day of clinical practice — allowing students to continue to work or care for family as needed. Both the theoretical instruction and the clinical practice will take place with Edgewood faculty.
“Importantly, that clinical instruction will be with nurse managers and educators at the hospitals where our graduates are likely to be hired at,” said Mullikin, citing the tendency for nursing graduates to continue to work in the area where they completed their studies.
Seven students are expected to make up the first cohort of the program, which will begin in the fall of 2023. The program is expected to grow in groups of seven, reflecting the number of students assigned to one faculty member at a clinical location, with the hopes of a cohort of 21 students in fall 2024 and an additional 21 students in spring 2025.
“To meet the fall 2023 needs of the initial cohort, Edgewood College is investing in the equipment and we are tailoring our current space to maximize this opportunity,” said Clasen. “To expand much beyond that and meet the program’s full potential, we hope to be able to one day provide a state-of-art lab that will allow us to grow the program and really serve the region’s needs.”
Students in the program first complete an Associate of Arts and Sciences with a pre-nursing emphasis at UW-Whitewater at Rock County and then apply for priority admission into Edgewood College’s School of Nursing, Rock County campus location. UW-Whitewater students who have already completed their AAS and have the required coursework will make up the program’s first cohort.
As of Jan. 18, Icke was excited to see three completed applications for the fall 2023 cohort. By the end of the day, all three of them had been accepted. One of those students is Karlye Smrecek, a liberal arts major from Edgerton who has been enrolled at UW-Whitewater at Rock County since 2021. She had always wanted to go into healthcare and become an R.N., and was working with an advisor on campus to consider her options when she heard about the new program from Clasen, who then connected her with Icke.
“It was a perfect moment,” said Smrecek. “They created the program right when I was ready to do it.”
The program will allow Smrecek to continue to live at home in Edgerton and work part time as a CNA in Stoughton as she studies. And, just as she already feels at home on the Rock County campus, the clinical environment will feel familiar too.
“I was born at Beloit Hospital and have been a patient at both Mercy and Dean,” said Smrecek, referring to the three hospitals the program will be partnering with. “And I picked nursing because I have doctors and nurses in my family — including my Aunt Annie, who used to bring me with her to Beloit Hospital to see what it’s like to be a nurse.”
Smrecek isn’t yet sure what she’d like to specialize in, but once she and her fellow nursing students graduate, they face a bright professional future.
Rock County nurses report an average salary of $83,720. In southeastern Wisconsin there are more than 1,500 vacancies, making nursing a high-demand field. Nationally, nursing job opportunities are expected to grow by nearly 200,000 — or 6% — in the coming decade.
For information on UW-Whitewater at Rock County’s nursing degree pathway, contact Dean Tricia Clasen at 608-898-5072 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To apply to UW-Whitewater at Rock County, visit apply.wisconsin.edu/homepage.
Current UW-Whitewater or UW-Whitewater at Rock County students interested in applying to Edgewood College’s School of Nursing, Rock County campus location should contact email@example.com.