The University of Louisiana at Monroe offers numerous online educational opportunities for students who want to pursue their bachelor’s degree while they continue to work in their chosen career.
That’s exactly what drew Tim Cotita of Monroe to ULM’s online nursing program. A full-time RN, he has served the last four years as program manager in the Diabetes and Nutrition Outpatient Clinic for the St. Frances Community Health Center.
ULM’s online Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing – primarily focused on giving diploma and associate’s degree registered nurses the chance to advance their education to the next level – is just one example of how the university strives to accommodate working adults who need the flexibility of an online education.
“I had taken traditional classes here and there, but when I read about the online program’s availability, I realized that it would coordinate with my work schedule so much better,” he said.
Not that an online course is the path to easy street, according to Cotita, who received his Associate’s Degree in Nursing in 1980.
“I’m doing great, but let me tell you, I had a statistics course through the math department that was fairly painful. There was lots of wailing and gnashing of teeth on that one!” he said, with a laugh.
Nor are all online programs cut from the same cloth, according to Cotita.
“What’s been really good is that I think that a lot of people assume because a program is online that it is like a ‘diploma mill’ in which you just pay for the courses and walk away with a degree,” he said.
“It’s not like that. You have a lot of interaction with your professors, the same professors as you would have in a traditional nursing course, so it is a very hands-on educational experience. At least, that’s the way it has been at ULM.”
The fact that his employment had already created opportunities for him to interact with many of ULM’s nursing professors also made Cotita feel right at home.
“This is a good example of the flexibility our program offers,” said ULM’s School of Nursing Director Dr. Florencetta Gibson. “This program affords us the opportunity to tailor a bachelor’s program for students such as Tim who have extensive work experience, as well as some college-level courses, which can count as credit earned.”
Gibson explained that RNs who hold an unencumbered license might be awarded up to 41 hours of nursing credit upon completion of the appropriate pre-requisite courses. Thirty-two hours must be earned through online instruction offered by ULM, for a total of 125 hours toward the Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree.
Students must meet specific admission requirements to be accepted into the RN to BS in Nursing online degree program, including graduation from a state-approved diploma or associate degree nursing program, proof of current licensure, personal professional liability insurance, and health insurance and a minimum corrected, cumulative grade point average of 2.0 in all required pre-nursing courses (excluding grades earned in developmental education courses).
Studies show hospital mortality rates are decreased with a higher educated staff, said Gibson, and companies could benefit when employees take advantage of online offerings that expand the knowledge base of nursing staff. Additionally, recent reports suggest that the demand for RNs is expected to grow by two to three percent each year.
“There is a growing demand for students who want an online education. It makes sense to offer these sorts of opportunities now,” said Gibson.
“It will make a difference,” said Cotita. “One of the things that institutions are moving toward is showing the excellence of care that is offered through having a highly educated workforce. It is also very important as a recruitment tool.”
For several years, ULM’s Department of Nursing students have shown a 100 percent pass rate on the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), a test considered the final hurdle in a nursing student’s career.
And, although Department of Nursing officials are still awaiting the final report regarding re-accreditation, a recent Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education exit interview was very favorable, according to Gibson.
More information about the ULM School of Nursing may be obtained by visiting www.ulm.edu/nursing.
Photo of Tim Cotita courtesy
Photo of Florencetta Gibson by ULM's Office of University Relations