New RN bridge program for paramedics first of its kind in state

Sarah Powers

Staff Writer

Photo by Kenneisha Hoskins | Parkland Nursing  Nursing students Mirjana Miles, Elizabeth Alison, Lisa Harrison, and Shiiling Sze Tho practice feeling for veins to start IV’s with instructor Stephanie Manuel.

Photo by Kenneisha Hoskins | Parkland Nursing
Nursing students Mirjana Miles, Elizabeth Alison, Lisa Harrison, and Shiiling Sze Tho practice feeling for veins to start IV’s with instructor Stephanie Manuel.

It will now be a little easier for paramedics to train to be registered nurses at Parkland College.

On Sept. 11, the Parkland College nursing program announced approval by the Illinois Board of Nursing for a new paramedic RN bridge program, which will be the first of its kind in the state of Illinois.

Set to launch next spring 2016, this three-semester program (one semester less than the Associates Degree Nursing program’s usual four) will acknowledge the rigorous training required to practice first response medicine and start students in classes without having to re-learn basic principles.

“We have had several paramedics go through the nursing program in the past, but they were often frustrated that the education and experience they had acquired couldn’t be taken into consideration and a shorter program offered,” Michele Spading, assistant dean of nursing and faculty affairs said.

This program will expand previous skills and experience, streamlining the way to becoming a registered nurse. Beyond acute phase medical services, students will learn to support patients with different care needs using nurse procedures.

The success of Parkland’s already existing bridge program for practical nurses seeking to become registered nurses inspired faculty to extend the bridge as well as an increasing demand for other medically trained professionals wanting to take the next step in their careers.

“We heard from many paramedics that they were ready to take the next step in their health care career pathway to become registered nurses,” said Diane Cousert, Parkland’s assistant dean of nursing and faculty affairs, in an earlier press release. “The BON (Board of Nursing) agreed that there is a need for [paramedics] to take that next step without starting from the beginning.”

While most students enter the program with the goal of advancing to registered nurse with a bachelor’s degree in nursing, and eventually a master’s degree, the reality of real life often leaves many students stuck in step one with their LPN or EMT certificate, working to support themselves and gain experience in a job, not the classroom.

Deb Buchor, an instructor in the RN program, and Joanne Heck, nursing department program director, recognized the need for students who need to work as well as go to school to have a program that allows them the space they need to further their education alongside other responsibilities of life.

“The program is a great way for working students, single moms and people who want to take the journey of getting a nursing degree a little slower, one step at a time,” Heck said.

When those students feel they are ready, the bridge program will be waiting to make the transition as smooth as possible.

Wade Hales and Mary Butzow, faculty members in Parkland’s EMS-Paramedic program, have been working closely with Buchor, Heck and other nursing faculty members to design a solid program structure and education entry requirements.

While this program may be the first of its kind in this state, other colleges and universities have recognized the student need for a more specialized curriculum. University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Hutchinson Community College in Kansas, Mesa Community College in Arizona, Pensacola State College in Florida, and Lorain County Community College in Ohio are all leading the way in helping paramedics take the next step in their career paths.

The application deadline for the Paramedic to RN Bridge program closes Nov. 1. For more information about this program, contact Michele Spading, assistant dean of student affairs for the nursing program, at mspading@parkland.edu.

For more information about certificates and degree options for paramedics, visit the department website: http://www.parkland.edu/academics/departments/health/ems/.