From the very moment it was announced, there was tremendous pressure on the Accelerated Program for Non-Nurses (APNN) to succeed.
Faced with a significant budget deficit and increased competition from other schools of nursing, both locally and nationally, Dean Patricia Chiverton, EdD, RN, FNAP, made the decision in 2001 to phase out the traditional four-year bachelor’s degree program. Instead, the school would focus on its RN to BS program and graduate programs before adopting what was then a relatively uncommon approach to baccalaureate education: a 12-month nursing-intensive course of study for exceptional learners who had already earned a bachelor’s degree in another field.
While the number of students declaring nursing as a major declined, the school was receiving an increasing number of inquiries from recent college graduates and older adults seeking a career change. Many had worked alongside nurses or felt a deep personal connection to nursing after witnessing the care a loved one received. From that opportunity, the APNN was developed.
Since enrollment was limited to students who already had a college degree and therefore had met all general education requirements, the program could be laser- focused on immersing students in nursing education. By aligning all of the educational content and clinical experiences in a set chronological progression over three semesters, the school could offer students a chance to prepare for a nursing career in a single year.
It was a vast departure from the past 75 years of nursing education at the University of Rochester, which had long promulgated the four-year nursing major as the preferred route into the profession. But despite the shorter time frame, students would still get more than 700 hours of clinical experience, and with ample support from faculty and staff, they would achieve an impressive 96 percent pass rate on the NCLEX national board exams. Many of the program’s graduates distinguish themselves professionally, often rising through the ranks for promotion at a faster clip than their predecessors.
Separating out the new program from the old curriculum and ensuring that students could favorably build on their past education and experiences was an experience fraught with anxiety and tense moments. After all, it was a risky move to eliminate the familiar four-year program, and the future health of the school – its enrollment – relied heavily on the program’s success. But the new program had critical support of senior faculty, and the program’s advocates were able to successfully position it to prospective students and feeder schools as a worthwhile career investment that could be quickly recouped.
The last students from the “traditional” path graduated in May 2002; the next day the state approved the School of Nursing’s plan for an accelerated, second-degree program. Remarkably, the program was up and running with admitted students three months later at the start of the fall semester.
“There were many times it was sheer grit and determination.... and an unbending belief in Rochester nursing,” said Rita D’Aoust, PhD, ACNP, ANP-BC, CNE, FAANP, FNAP, FAAN, associate dean of teaching and learning at Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing, who was the APNN program director from 2002-2010. “However, once our graduates were in practice, employers would tell us these were some of their best nurses.”
When the program began in the fall of 2002, accelerated nursing programs were still new and somewhat unproven; the UR School of Nursing’s program was one of three in New York and 25 in the entire country. By 2016, there were 272 accelerated baccalaureate programs and 69 accelerated master’s programs available in 47 states, plus the District of Columbia, Guam, and the Virgin Islands.
The UR Nursing program has also grown rapidly during that time. Starting with a small cohort of 23, the program now graduates nearly 200 annually with a diverse and highly talented pool of students filling 66 slots in each of three cohorts that run throughout the year. Applications to the program have soared, with prospective students ranging in age from 21 to 62. They enter with various backgrounds and professional career experiences and hail from locations all over the U.S. and around the world.
From its modest beginnings, the program has now graduated more than 2,000 students. Boosted by the 12-month timeframe – which compares favorably to the 15 months or longer for other programs – UR Nursing’s APNN ranks among the best programs competing nationally for students of the highest quality who want to be challenged and supported on their way to reaching their new career goals.
“This program is making a significant difference in health care,” said Dean Kathy Rideout, EdD, PPCNP-BC, FNAP. “In just a relatively short amount of time, our nurses are progressing into advanced practice and leadership positions, spreading the impact of a University of Rochester School of Nursing education here and all across the nation. I can’t wait to see what the next 15 years brings.”
Where Are They Now
APNN Class of 2003, FNP Class of 2006
“I am currently working as an FNP, RNFA with Geneva General Surgical Associates, part of Finger Lakes Health. I work with three physicians
specializing in general surgery/colorectal surgery in Geneva, N.Y.
After leaving URMC in 2008, I have been working at the Finger Lakes Health system. I worked as a hospitalist for about eight years. In 2015, I decided to switch to surgery. I came back to the School of Nursing and received my RN First Assistant certification and have loved the OR ever since.
Going through the accelerated nursing program and then going straight through the NP program was the best decision I ever made. My experiences at the School of Nursing and working at URMC gave me a great foundation to build my practice on.”
APNN Class of 2003, PNP Class of 2005
“For the past five years, I’ve worked as a pediatric nurse practitioner in the Pediatric Emergency Department at Golisano Children’s Hospital.
Previously, I spent more than 10 years in the Pediatric ICU as a bedside nurse, transport nurse, nurse leader, clinical nurse specialist, and nurse manager. I’ve received multiple Strong Stars and been nominated several times for nurse practitioner of the year.
What has stuck with me the most about my time at the UR School of Nursing is the support we received during our career transition. We were experts in our fields and chose to return to the novice path. In true nursing fashion, the entire faculty and staff were understanding and supportive of the challenges we faced. We were never alone. It was through them that we were each able to be successful in our true calling.”