Another nursing degree launches in Iowa

News Track: ISU aims to 'give our graduates advantages'

Beardshear Hall on the Iowa State University campus in Ames on Tuesday, Mar. 31, 2015. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Beardshear Hall on the Iowa State University campus in Ames on Tuesday, Mar. 31, 2015. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

Amid growing demand for nurses nationwide — particularly those with more education — Iowa State University over the summer pitched a new degree pathway for registered nurses looking to attain a baccalaureate.

Iowa’s Board of Regents in June approved the new program, making ISU the latest school to offer some type of nursing degree in light of a nurse shortage that has infiltrated Iowa.

Before the ISU addition, 16 other approved and accredited RN-to-BSN programs existed in Iowa — including on online program at the University of Iowa. But ISU achieved board approval, in part, by demonstrating a sustained need.

In documents provided to the regents, ISU cited a 2012 report indicating just 29 percent of 46,780 registered nurses in Iowa had baccalaureate degrees. A 2016 report from the Iowa Board of Nursing and the Iowa Organization of Nurse Leaders found 46.5 percent of Iowa nurses had a higher degree, below the national average of 65 percent.

Many institutions, including the UI Hospitals and Clinics, list baccalaureate or master’s degrees as preferred of their staff nurses. In 2016, UIHC began encouraging staffers without an advanced degree to get one in five years.


The Higher Learning Commission on Feb. 20 approved ISU’s new nursing degree, to be administered by its Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition. Coupled with support from the nursing board, that marked the final step in the approval process.

The university expects between 30 and 40 students in the program this fall — a figure they expect will swell in subsequent years. The department is in search of a clinical assistant professor to teach alongside Virginia “Ginny” Wangerin, clinical assistant professor and director of nursing.


“The level of excitement and support from alumni, potential students and the community has been amazing,” she said in a news release.

She’s been taking calls from interested prospective students for months.

To qualify for the new program, students must have an associate degree in nursing with licensure and meet all ISU admission criteria.

The new program requires 22 nursing course credits, six food science and human nutrition courses and six from an “approved course list” — with an allowance for students to enroll in electives tied to specific career interests.

ISU has pitched the program as unique on many fronts.

“The uniqueness about our program is our ability to integrate courses in human nutrition and disease prevention into the nursing curriculum,” Ruth MacDonald, interim senior associate dean of that college, said in a statement. “Understanding the important role of food and nutrition in health will give our graduates advantages in patient care that will translate into improved health outcomes.”

ISU also is looking to provide a seamless path for those with RN degrees from the Des Moines Area Community College.

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