The Institute of Medicine (IOM) Future of Nursing Report (IOM, 2011) recommends that 80 percent of registered nurses have a BSN degree by the year 2020. Multiple studies suggest that barriers to BSN completion include cost, time, family commitments and lack of employer support. Because the demand for highly educated nurses is expected to outpace most other occupations over the next decade, we must continue to find ways to remove barriers to the BSN degree. The The University of Wisconsin –Milwaukee (UWM) College of Nursing is committed to removing barriers to BSN education and offers one RN-to-BSN curriculum in three modes – BSN@Home, BSN@Work and School and the UW-Flexible Option. The UWM College of Nursing is the only UW Campus offering an RN-to-BSN degree program in the UW-Flexible Option. All program options are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
Because many registered nurses are non-traditional students with past college credits who are working in full time jobs, traditional educational approaches do not always meet their needs. The UW-Flexible Option competency-based education (CBE) model is a unique approach that can open access to specific groups of students who are not enrolled in traditional forms of higher education. This new program option began enrolling students in early 2014 and twelve students have successfully completed the UW-Flexible Option RN-to-BSN program as of May, 2016. Approximately 125 additional students are currently enrolled and making progress towards degree completion. Program length varies for every student. The first UW-Flexible Option BSN graduate completed the program in less than twelve months – other students choose to work at a slower pace and complete the program over a longer time frame.
The UW-Flexible Option is self-paced, competency-based degree program that allows students to progress toward a BSN degree by demonstrating knowledge they have obtained through past and current coursework, studying, employment and other learning experiences. FLEX student’s progress toward a degree by successfully completing a series of faculty created competency assessments that demonstrate mastery of required course and program outcomes. The program does not offer academic credit for life or previous nursing experience. However, students receive credit upon the demonstration of clearly defined competencies required of BSN prepared nurses. Students can begin the program on the first day of any month and there are no mandatory log-ins or discussion posts. Student learning in FLEX is not measured by time in class or time online, but by successful completion of assessments that demonstrate competency. UW-Flexible Option graduate Carla Lundeen RN, BSN states, “I have gained a lot of knowledge on the job. FLEX lets you gain credit for what you know. It does not matter where, when or how you learned it – as long as you can use it to complete your assessments, you can move ahead.”
One unique feature of the UW-Flexible Option program is that students have a dedicated Academic Success Coach (ASC) who provides mentoring, advising and helps the student to navigate through the program. The ASC is the student’s first point of contact for questions and concerns and is an important member of the learning team in FLEX.
The UW-Flexible Option program is currently accepting qualified applicants who hold a Wisconsin license as a registered nurse.
Find more information about the UW-Flexible Option RN-to-BSN program at:
Lisa Mihlbauer MS, RN, IBCLC, CNE
Clinical Associate Professor
Director of RN-to-BSN Completion Programs
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee College of Nursing