Husson University is reviving an online program designed to help working nurses advance their careers to fill gaps left as an anticipated wave of veteran nurses retire.
The university’s “RN-to-BSN” program is designed for students who already hold nursing credentials and want to earn a bachelor’s-level nursing degree, according to Dr. Alicia Murray, director of the program and an assistant professor in Husson University’s nursing school.
Obtaining the more advanced nursing degree allows students to fill leadership and mentor positions left open when veteran nurses retire, Murray said. Many retirements are expected in the coming years, because a fifth of Maine nurses are 55 to 64, according to the Maine Department of Labor. Those retirements open positions for new nurses entering the workforce.
While 1,000 newly licensed nurses joined Maine’s workforce between 2015 and 2021, the state is still projected to have a shortage of 1,450 nurses in 2025, according to a report from the Maine Nursing Action Coalition and Maine Hospital Association.
The COVID-19 pandemic also strained Maine’s nursing base and caused many to leave their careers due to burnout. But the pandemic also gave the public a new awareness of and appreciation for health care professionals, Murray said.
“That helps validate the career and fuel that passion for caring for people, because we’ve cared for more people of all ages in the last two or three years than we have for a while,” Murray said.
Under the new program, Husson will graduate an additional 60 to 80 nurses each year, Murray said.
Husson’s new program also can act as a necessary stepping stone for the growing number of students who want to earn a master’s degree in nursing and become family nurse practitioners, psychiatric nurse practitioners or nurse educators, or take on other advanced roles.
“There are so many more opportunities for nurses rather than getting your degree and going right into acute care,” Murray said. “There is flexibility and variety in the number of roles they can assume and that’s exciting for students. The enthusiasm and dedication is there, and it’s nice to see that from the younger generation.”
Making the program entirely online reduces barriers for students who may be living out of state, working, raising families or have other obligations holding them back from advancing their education, Murray said.
The program kicks off in January 2023, and there is no enrollment limit.
The program length can range from one to four years, depending on the number of previously earned credits student transfer and how quickly they advance through the material, Murray said.
The program costs $338 per credit hour, roughly $60 less than Husson’s standard online courses.