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FMU secures $492,221 HRSA grant to help veterans earn BSN degree

Wittmann-Price,Ruth2013Francis Marion University will offer a revolutionary new registered nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN) program specifically for veterans of the military through a $492,221 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).              

FMU officials learned they had been awarded the grant last week.

The grant will offer ex-military RNs with two-year degrees a fast and convenient path to a BSN degree through FMU’s acclaimed nursing department. Vets who enroll in the new program will receive personal attention and counseling, and will have an opportunity to acquire course credit for their military experience. That latter piece, says Dr. Ruth Wittmann-Price, project director and chair of the FMU Department of Nursing, is what sets the FMU program apart and allowed the college to win the grant from a highly competitive field of suitors.

“The goal of this project is to recruit 10 veterans each academic year and use knowledge gained during their prior military service to participate in evaluative, competency-based simulation experiences that will provide them with college credit,” says Wittmann-Price. “We don’t need to teach the military how to be professional. This will give them a good start towards their BSN.”

Wittmann-Price noted that 10 students is a goal for the program, not a maximum limit. She called the goal “very attainable.”

FMU President Dr. L. Fred Carter says the program’s ability to both engage veterans and help improve healthcare in the region makes for a terrific combination.

“I’m very proud of Ruth and our nursing faculty in their effort to secure funding for this vitally important program,” says Carter. “This grant will support the transition of veterans in the nursing profession and further enhance accessibility to health care across the region and state.”

Wittmann-Price says veterans will benefit from the quality of FMU’s program; its competitive tuition pricing, which can be funded with existing veterans tuition programs, and the convenience of a 30-hour course of study that’s all online. But the most unique piece is the one-day class that recognizes the special skills and experiences that veterans bring to the table in a very tangible way.

Veterans entering the program will have the opportunity to pick up three hours of course work – one tenth of the program requirement -- in a single day by attending a course at FMU’s high-fidelity simulation laboratory in the Lee Nursing Building on the FMU campus. During that session the students will review and demonstrate the clinical skills necessary to deliver safe patient care in a professional manner. FMU’s simulation lab uses realistic computerized mannequins to replicate the multi-faceted patient environment of the clinical setting.

While the program serves the needs of vets in a state that is home to hundreds of thousands of ex-military, it will also address nursing needs in the Pee Dee Region and in the state of South Carolina. That is part of the impetus behind the grant.

The Institute of Medicine (IOM), a national think tank on healthcare issues, is calling for 80 percent of RNs to be BSN prepared by 2020 to promote best nursing practice across the state and the nation. A BSN is a four-year degree, which includes additional course work beyond the basic program offered through two-year RN program. Only 40 percent of RNs in the state are BSN prepared. Many hospitals and healthcare organizations in the state and the nation have already adopted the IOM recommendations as an organizational goal or standard.

The grant will fund salaries for program staff, including a new research assistant who will assist in tracking graduates and program effectiveness. It is a three-year grant.

The program furthers FMU’s commitment to providing a spectrum of healthcare education in the Pee Dee and beyond. FMU is planning to begin work on its new Health Sciences Center in downtown Florence later this year, and will begin its first RN-to-BSN classes at a new Low Country campus in Mt. Pleasant this fall. The Health Science Center will house a variety of mid-level medical practice schools when it opens, including Nurse Practitioner, Physicians Assistant and several therapy programs currently in development. The center will also house some third- and fourth-year medical students from the University of South Carolina’s School of Medicine.

Dr. Rhonda Brogdon, Crystal Graham and Devin Cribb also of the Department of Nursing, and Dr. Jane Madden, FMU’s director of the Grants Development Program, assisted Wittmann-Price in securing the grant.

For additional information about the HRSA grant program, contact Wittmann-Price at, or at 843-661-4625.


Last Published: October 28, 2014 9:11 AM
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