Rowan Cabarrus Community College leading the state in revision to nursing program

Rowan Cabarrus Community College leading the state in revision to nursing program

SALISBURY, NC (WBTV) - From Rowan-Cabarrus Community College: In late 2013, Rowan-Cabarrus Community College was awarded a prestigious new grant to revise the Practical Nursing and Nursing Assistant curricula.

The grant was designed to align the Practical Nursing Program with the concept-based Associate Degree Nursing (ADN) curriculum to better facilitate a seamless transition for Practical Nursing (PN) and Nursing Assistant (NAS) 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 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 up-to-date with current industry healthcare 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 of the curriculum is the local control that colleges will have over some aspects of the NAS 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, RN, MSN, 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. “When change is coming, you can either accept the path that others lay out for you, or you can take the lead in developing what that path will be. I am pleased that our faculty has led this initiative that will influence nursing education and the healthcare workforce statewide.”


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 healthcare providers,” said Spalding.


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


“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, Carolina's 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., (ACEN) for its nursing programs. Rowan-Cabarrus has received this nationally recognized accreditation for both its ADN and PN programs. The ADN program is one of only 14 programs among the 52 community colleges in North Carolina that is nationally accredited, while the PN program is only one of five across the entire state to receive this accreditation.


“We are extremely proud of the nursing program's excellence and the service our nurses provide to our community,” said Carl M. Short, chair of the Rowan-Cabarrus Board of Trustees.


This project was extremely important, as these curriculum core courses have not been revised at the state level since the summer of 1997. Healthcare 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. It is estimated that 70-80 percent of the hands-on assistance to individuals with long-term and personal assistance needs are provided by direct care workers. Direct care workers include nursing aides, home health aides and personal care aides. In the United States, the direct-care workforce surpassed 3.3 million in 2010 and an additional 1.6 million new positions are projected by 2020.


“Many procedures that once could be done only in hospitals are now being done outside of hospitals, creating demand in other settings, such as outpatient care centers,” said Norris.


Research demonstrates a growing shortage of nurse aides, both nationally and state wide. The NC Long-Term Occupational Projections for 2006-2016 ranked hospitals and nursing/residential care facilities as top industries with growing employment. For the state, they estimate 6,500 nurse aide vacancies annually. Personal care aides and home health aides are projected to be the fastest-growing occupations in the country between 2010 and 2020, increasing 71 and 69 percent, respectively.


Thirty-three community colleges are currently approved to offer the Nursing Assistant (NAS) certificate program which is three semesters long. The curriculum was developed by the Division of Health Services and the North Carolina Board of Nursing.


The updating of the NA courses, brings the certificate program in line with today's healthcare 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. Career and College Promise provides a focused means for students to begin completion of college transfer credits or career training prior to their graduation from high school. Courses under Career and College Promise are offered to high school students with no charge for tuition.


High school students who are qualified to take community college offerings such as the NAS 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.


Cathy Norris was the grant's project director and Martha Freeze, RN., MSN, served as the curriculum development coordinator for the project. Committee members at the College included Emily Ward (secretary, PN Advisory Committee), Dr. Hope Yost (PN Advisory Committee), and Renee Hyde (secretary, NA Advisory Committee).


Curriculum Improvement Project grant opportunities are made possible with North Carolina State Board of Community Colleges reserve funds. Grants are administered by the Division of Academic and Student Services in the North Carolina Community College System Office.


The College is currently registering students for the spring 2015 semester. Classes begin on January 12. For more program information and course descriptions, please see the Rowan-Cabarrus website – – or call 704-216-RCCC (7222).