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Rowan-Cabarrus leads revision of statewide nursing curriculum

In late 2013, Rowan-Cabarrus Community College was awarded a prestigious new grant to revise its practical nursing and nursing assistant curricula.

The grant was designed to align the practical nursing program with the concept-based associate degree nursing curriculum to better facilitate a seamless transition for practical nursing and nursing assistant graduates as they progress with their career training.

“The new curriculum encourages a focus on the big picture,” said Wendy Barnhardt, dean of health and education programs. “The revisions place an emphasis on broad concepts and prevalent health problems identified from the Centers for Disease Control, Institute of Medicine, regional and state data.”

This project will also improve the alignment of nursing curricula between public high schools and community colleges through the Career and College Promise program. The curriculum revisions will align the programs’ content with current industry health care standards.

The grant, awarded by the North Carolina Community College System, has allowed the college to lead a collaborative restructuring and revision process with other colleges across the state.

One new component to the curriculum is the local control that colleges will have over some aspects of the Nursing Assistant Certificate Program. For instance, through conversations with local industry, the group discovered that beyond the core components of the training program, local employers had specific needs.

“It made sense to give local colleges the control to be responsive to meeting the needs of their employers,” said Cathy Norris, director of the college’s nursing programs. “If administrative skills were an area of need, a college could require that in a new flexible part of the NAS Certificate program. Or if home health skills were an area of need, that could be focused on instead. The goal is to make the training as relevant as possible for what graduates will face on the job.”

“We are honored to have been chosen to facilitate this nursing curriculum improvement project,” said Dr. Carol S. Spalding, president of Rowan-Cabarrus.

The college’s nursing programs have a well-documented track record of success in both student performance and program recognition.

“I am very proud of our doctoral and master’s prepared faculty. They are well-educated and ensure that our graduates are ready to be active and engaged health care providers,” said Spalding.

Rowan-Cabarrus offers multiple nursing program options, including associate degree in nursing and licensed practical nursing.

“We are very proud that 90 percent of Rowan-Cabarrus nursing graduates are employed by Novant Health Rowan, the W.G. Hefner Veterans Administration Medical Center, Carolinas Medical Center-Northeast, long-term care facilities, hospice and other medical providers throughout the state” said Dr. Rod M. Townley, vice president of academic programs.

The college also holds accreditation from the prestigious Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, Inc., for its nursing programs. Rowan-Cabarrus has received this nationally recognized accreditation for both its associate’s degree in nursing and practical nursing programs.

The associate’s degree in nursing program is one of only 14 programs among the 52 community colleges in North Carolina that is nationally accredited, while the practical nursing program is only one of five across the entire state to receive this accreditation.

This project was extremely important, as these curriculum core courses have not been revised at the state level since the summer of 1997.

Health care trends have dramatically changed during this time. Today’s growing population of aging Americans, and individuals with disabilities or other chronic conditions, are outpacing the number of workers with the knowledge and skills to effectively care for them.

Thirty-three community colleges are currently approved to offer the nursing assistant certificate program, which is three semesters long.

The updating of the nursing assistant courses brings the certificate program in line with today’s health care standards. The certificate program will also provide an opportunity for high school students to enroll in a quality program through the Career and College Promise program at no charge.

High school students who are qualified to take community college offerings such as the nursing assistant certificate will graduate from high school with employable skills, potential higher wage earnings and a competitive edge in the admission process for the nursing programs.

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