Let’s Talk About the RN-BSN Degree Program

Centra College of Nursing 2019 graduate

For the past three years, Centra College has welcomed students to their RN-BSN degree program to help further the education of many nursing students. This program opens new horizons for these students to explore and new possibilities to grow their careers as they move forward. In our latest podcast, we get a glimpse of the degree from program director, Dr. Holly Puckett.

Speaker 1:

Thanks for joining us for this episode of Centra Scripts, where we talk health and wellness and practical tips for your everyday life. And now here’s your host, Kate Kolb.

Kate Kolb:

Well, thanks for joining us for this episode of Centra Scripts. We are always just so excited to have guests with us that can talk about things that they are passionate about, and I am very excited to introduce you all to Holly Puckett today. She works with Centra College, specifically with nursing and the programming there. And so Holly, thank you so much for being here today and being willing to talk to me.

Dr. Holly Puckett:

Absolutely, yes.

Kate Kolb:

I want to give them a little bit of your background, where you started before Centra, and what brought you to this point. So tell us a little about yourself.

Dr. Holly Puckett:

Sure. I’m Dr. Holly Puckett. I have been a nurse for a little over 10 years, and I’ve been with Centra for eight of those years. I started my nursing career down in Georgia and from there I came back home. I’ve been born, raised in Lynchburg, so this is my hometown.

Kate Kolb:

Oh, I didn’t realize that. That’s awesome.

Dr. Holly Puckett:

Yes. So came back and started my journey with Centra in 2012 and started off as a staff nurse there, progressed to a unit president, charge nurse, and from there, I decided to get my master’s degree. And I wanted to pursue nothing more than nursing education because that is my dire passion for this clinical practice.

Dr. Holly Puckett:

And so, I went back and got my master’s degree and started teaching at UVA for a little bit, for about a year. And then I saw an opportunity come available here with Centra at Centra College of Nursing, was the former name. And I started off as faculty here and taught an associate’s degree of nursing program, as well as the practical nursing program.

Dr. Holly Puckett:

And then from there, I saw a leadership position and I was looking to grow some more and took on accreditation, did that for about two and a half years. And then another position became available as the academic director, and I wanted nothing more than to be in that role because I love working with faculty and students and student services and having that collaboration. And the RN-BSN program is my strongest passion right now. And I really want to get it off on its feet.

Kate Kolb:

Yeah. Well, I love that. You can tell the passion that you have for what you do in just the words that you’re saying, and it’s really palpable to see that. And I think that makes a difference for people’s experiences when they come here, to know that the people that they are interfacing with are that passionate about it. And also, you look really young to have that much life experience.

Dr. Holly Puckett:

Oh, thank you.

Kate Kolb:

But that’s awesome. And we wanted to talk specifically to you today about the programming that you have here, specifically the RN-BSN program. And I know that that’s not a brand new program necessarily. When did it start?

Dr. Holly Puckett:

About 2017, January.

Kate Kolb:

Okay. So about three years ago then. What made you all want to put that into the programming that you offered here and what are benefits of that?

Dr. Holly Puckett:

We looked at the community, and that was our main focus at getting it launched. And there was a strong need because we had the ADN program here, and we were looking at the Institute of Medicine’s report for getting towards more of that baccalaureate degree of nursing. And they recommended 80% of nurses have that degree. So we wanted to branch off that and form that program as the RN, which was the ADN program to the BSN program. So it is a 12-month program. It’s three semesters in length, and many of our students finish in one year.

Kate Kolb:

Okay. That’s actually pretty impressive.

Dr. Holly Puckett:

Oh, it’s very impressive.

Kate Kolb:

It’s a very robust program to be able to finish in a 12-month time period like that. Now, I know one of the major things that you guys talk about with this, is that it is accredited. Can you talk a little bit about the associations that it’s accredited by and what those mean?

Dr. Holly Puckett:

It is fully accredited with NLN CNEA, which is National League for Nursing Commission for Nursing Education Accreditation. And that is a programmatic accreditor for nursing specifically. And we have been accredited with them since 2018. And prior to that, we were ACN accredited. However, we transitioned to a different accreditor, which was totally fine. And then also [APAC 00:04:16], which is our institutional accreditor and that’s for the entire college. So we are fully accredited and anyone that is seeking to pursue the RN-BSN program with us, they can go to any other school afterwards for graduation.

Kate Kolb:

That’s amazing. Now, for those who may be listening that don’t really understand, okay, what does RN-BSN mean? Can you explain a little bit about how that works in the educational format as you’re going through your courses?

Dr. Holly Puckett:

It’s a bridge program and for someone that has the ADN, go into the BSN, you’re going to be looking more at evidence-based practice, leadership, a focus on community health, nursing theory, those different concepts. So you want to grasp onto expanding on the ADN to get to that BSN level.

Kate Kolb:

Okay. Very good. And then obviously with the full accreditation then, then they can take that and they can move even further into their career.

Dr. Holly Puckett:

Yes. Graduate school, doctorate school.

Kate Kolb:

Okay. Very, very cool. As far as the program itself, I know people are probably wondering, okay, we’re in the middle of pandemic life here, everything looks different, as far as the program and what it offers, what do the classes look like for somebody that’s looking to enroll in this?

Dr. Holly Puckett:

So each semester has four classes. Yes. Four classes. It’s 12 classes total and each class is eight weeks in length. And you will have two classes simultaneously with each other. And from there, it’s very manageable. I don’t know any other program that can provide that purpose. It’s very manageable.

Kate Kolb:

Now, are they in person for these classes or is everything distance learning?

Dr. Holly Puckett:

Everything’s distance learning, 100%.

Kate Kolb:

Yeah. Well, which is very well into the life we’re living right now. So that works. Now, with that then since everything is distance learning, are there still clinicals that are required for the program?

Dr. Holly Puckett:

So currently, yes. There are four practicum courses right now that do have practicum hours that are required. However, we’re in the midst of our curriculum change. We received a lot of feedback from our graduates and our students that completed the program. And I always look at feedback because what can you do more than stress that quality improvement and take that feedback and move forward. So we’re giving back and we are formulating a new curriculum that will take some of this practicum hours away. I think it’s about 200 hours that we’re taking away.

Kate Kolb:

But they will still have the chance to have some of that hands on learning opportunity as they go through this?

Dr. Holly Puckett:

Yes.

Kate Kolb:

So it’s not just the online learning, you’re actually integrating those things into your practice as you’re doing it?

Dr. Holly Puckett:

Absolutely.

Kate Kolb:

Okay. As far as involvement with… I know people will sometimes have this question, “Well, it’s 100% distance learning, do I really get the opportunity to know my professors well?” What is that relationship like between students and professors?

Dr. Holly Puckett:

So our faculty, they are just phenomenal. They are all doctorally prepared, which is something to say about RN-BSN program. There’s four adjunct faculty currently, and they really communicate with the students on a regular basis. Pretty much a couple of times a week, they’ll send out emails or they’ll even text or call them, it’s up to their discretion. Some of them hold Teams meetings, or Skype meetings with some of them, if there’s any issues or if they just want to clear up some communication errors.

Kate Kolb:

Okay. So you would say that this program definitely builds a relationship [inaudible 00:07:43]-

Dr. Holly Puckett:

Oh, absolutely.

Kate Kolb:

… between everybody. Which is great. I think from an educational standpoint, I used to work in higher ed before I came into healthcare and there was always that talk about, okay, what is the give back factor, what is the actual return on investment that students are feeling in this? So you feel like that return on investment is high for this program?

Dr. Holly Puckett:

Oh, absolutely. And the faculty are so involved with all the students’ work, their assignments, their discussion forums. I mean, they are constantly giving them feedback and responding to their discussion responses.

Kate Kolb:

Yeah. Well, that’s awesome. Now I know you and I talked a little bit prior to sitting down to this today and one of the things that you specifically talked about is that focus on leadership and evidence-based practice, research and words I can’t say, but-

Dr. Holly Puckett:

Higher level.

Kate Kolb:

Yes. Higher level stuff. But what is it that you feel like this program really does for the student as far as the well-roundedness of it all?

Dr. Holly Puckett:

Sure. Ultimately it prepares them to be that baccalaureate level prepared nurse, which often expands on opportunities for growth and development and opens a lot of doors for a management, leadership, possibly a director position, the ball’s in your court.

Kate Kolb:

Yeah. That’s amazing. So the opportunities go well beyond just saying, “Hey, I have this degree and I can add it to my resume?”

Dr. Holly Puckett:

Yes. Absolutely. And if they want to further their education.

Kate Kolb:

Yeah. Very cool. Well, talk a little bit about then who this program is for. Let’s talk a little bit about current demographic of who you use see enrolling and who you would love to see coming forward.

Dr. Holly Puckett:

So currently the majority of our students are either prior alumni from Centra College of Nursing or Lynchburg General Hospital School of Nursing, prior name. And then also Centra employees. So that’s really our demographic currently, but I’m looking to expand beyond that. We can take any student from Virginia or any applicant from Virginia.

Kate Kolb:

Yeah. So that is the regionally sanctioned area. So you could go well beyond the walls of Centra?

Dr. Holly Puckett:

Oh, yes.

Kate Kolb:

That’s amazing. And we would love to see that. I think our-

Dr. Holly Puckett:

Yes. We’d love to see that.

Kate Kolb:

Yeah. Our community would love to open the doors to that and Centra would love to be involved with other people there as well. Let’s talk tuition and what that looks like for a program like this. Is it something where you feel like people coming into this program have had a lot of barriers that they’ve had to overcome with that? Or is it… What’s the affordability like in terms of what they’re looking at?

Dr. Holly Puckett:

So tuition I think is, it’s feasible. We do offer many discounts to various sources, or… I think it’s pretty well in the norm with tuition costs with other RN-BSN programs in our area with our discounts. We have one is a prior alumni discount, they get 50% off.

Kate Kolb:

Oh wow.

Dr. Holly Puckett:

That’s huge.

Kate Kolb:

Yeah. That’s significant.

Dr. Holly Puckett:

Very significant. Other discounts we offer for certain counties like Danville and surrounding counties of Danville, that region, that area, we’re offering 50% off as well. And then there’s also the Centra work agreement, which is what a lot of our students partake in. Specifically, that agreement, it’s a one year contract that they complete the program. They have to get an A or B in all the courses to finish the program and complete it fully. And they are only required to pay out for tuition a thousand dollars a semester. So 3000 total. But what that is, that work agreement, and there is a three year agreement to work for Centra afterwards.

Kate Kolb:

Okay. So you have your courses that you take and the benefit that comes from that and then you would pay back basically into the program?

Dr. Holly Puckett:

Yes.

Kate Kolb:

Which actually is something that I’ve seen across other programs like this and very similar to ways that… There’s been teaching programs that have done that before, nursing programs, that sort of thing. So not a bad deal at all.

Dr. Holly Puckett:

No. I mean, it’s a great deal.

Kate Kolb:

For sure. And I feel like… Would you say that graduates of this program have a lot options open to them as far as that work program through that?

Dr. Holly Puckett:

It’s what I see after they graduate.

Kate Kolb:

What percentage do you feel like probably goes that direction?

Dr. Holly Puckett:

Probably 60 to 70%.

Kate Kolb:

So that’s a pretty high-

Dr. Holly Puckett:

A lot of them have taken leadership positions after they finished this program.

Kate Kolb:

Yeah. That’s awesome.

Dr. Holly Puckett:

Yes.

Kate Kolb:

So retaining those students and bringing them into our community has been a big piece of this.

Dr. Holly Puckett:

Huge piece.

Kate Kolb:

That’s awesome. And I don’t know how many of our listeners have actually been to this facility and I realized that this program is online, but even just having this building available to them for other things that might be going on, it’s highly technological, lots of advances in terms of things that are available. So that’s a perk of the program too.

Dr. Holly Puckett:

Absolutely. And there is actually a course in the curriculum called the advanced health assessment, where the students have to perform a head to toe on video. And sometimes they’ll use the virtual learning center for that actual test.

Kate Kolb:

Which is amazing.

Dr. Holly Puckett:

Yes. That’s [inaudible 00:12:56].

Kate Kolb:

That’s part of the building… Yes, that’s attached on the other side.

Dr. Holly Puckett:

But Centra College here is gorgeous.

Kate Kolb:

Yes. They’ve done a great job with the facilities, and everyone who works here is amazing.

Dr. Holly Puckett:

Oh, thank you.

Kate Kolb:

I’ve never encountered anyone in this building that is not just fantastic to work with. So definitely, I’m also-

Dr. Holly Puckett:

We appreciate that.

Kate Kolb:

Yeah. Definitely also a side perk to all of this. What is your favorite part of this program and your interactions with it?

Dr. Holly Puckett:

The students and the faculty. The curriculum is great, but I think the interaction with the faculty and the students is just beyond amazing. I see it every day and the students are just applauding the faculty for being there every step of the way.

Kate Kolb:

Yeah. Well, let’s talk a little bit about that because you were able to actually get a few testimonials from some of your prior students and then also a faculty member. And so I just want to give a little shout out to a few of those people. And so can you tell us our first testimonial here.

Dr. Holly Puckett:

[Meklah Vyas 00:00:13:57].

Kate Kolb:

Okay. And I was going to have you say that because there was no way I was going to say that name correctly, so-

Dr. Holly Puckett:

She’s wonderful.

Kate Kolb:

She speaks so highly of the program and she definitely talked a lot about that flexibility in learning. Just want to read a few of these words that she said to you all about the program. “So most of the students are continuing their education while working at the same time. And that can definitely be challenging. Professors and administrators are all willing to work with the students and everyone understands what it’s like to go to work, have family time, be involved in the community and go to school. Life happens and everyone has those moments, so it’s nice to know that you’re being taught by professors and teachers who understand that.” And I loved that. I loved how she expressed that because I do think most people that are looking to do this type of continuing education, of course, there’s life going on. And what does that look like when you’re trying to go back to school full time?

Kate Kolb:

So do you think that that’s probably a pretty fair assessment that most of the students feel that way?

Dr. Holly Puckett:

Yes. I think that the faculty and the students there, working together, especially because life does happen and we do get those circumstances if necessary.

Kate Kolb:

Yeah. And there was a second testimonial from a student named Teresa Worley and she said she’s currently in the RN-BSN program at Centra College. So she’s one of your current students right now. And I love that she said she’s working towards achieving her dreams.

Dr. Holly Puckett:

Love that.

Kate Kolb:

That just does such a big phrase and I love that that feels like she’s connecting with such a big dream of hers. She said the faculty have been exceptional and assisting and guiding on her journey, and she couldn’t think of attending anywhere other than Centra College. And what high praise for you guys just in her experience there.

Dr. Holly Puckett:

Well, I must say that these two students, they’re actually current students now in the program, and they were prior alumni from Centra College of Nursing.

Kate Kolb:

So that says a huge thing about all that they walked through with their previous programming and then to come back and be a piece of that as well.

Dr. Holly Puckett:

Absolutely. And they speak very highly of us.

Kate Kolb:

Yeah. Well, I love that. I love that both of them are so obviously happy with their experiences. And then you were able to talk to one of the faculty members as well. So tell us a little bit about that faculty member.

Dr. Holly Puckett:

So Jordan Vance, I can’t say enough about him. He is truly amazing. He is a nurse practitioner on the EDO unit at Lynchburg General Hospital, as well as who works as a nurse practitioner in the CMG offices. And then he is an adjunct faculty for us in the RN-BSN program. So-

Kate Kolb:

So he’s not busy at all.

Dr. Holly Puckett:

No, he’s not busy at all. And he always tells me, “I want more, I want more.” I’m like, “Okay, okay, hold on a sec.” But-

Kate Kolb:

So highly ambitious, got it.

Dr. Holly Puckett:

Very ambitious. Technologically savvy. He is doing the best that he can for the students. And he communicates with them on a daily basis, not just once, multiple times a day. And he’s there for his students 100%.

Kate Kolb:

That’s amazing.

Dr. Holly Puckett:

Yes.

Kate Kolb:

And just some of the things that he was saying are some of the things that you’ve already brought up about the program too, but he’s reiterating that, “One of the greatest strengths in the RN-BSN program is that it allows nurses who are already working to finish their BSN in an environment that is consistent with current nursing practice.” And I think you emphasize that earlier in what you were saying too. And he’s emphasizing too that all of the faculty are doctorally prepared and many of them are still in practice clinically. Clearly, you just explained.

Dr. Holly Puckett:

Yes.

Kate Kolb:

[inaudible 00:17:13] to all of us. So yeah, these are people that have their own life experiences going on, their own professional practices and still willing to pour-

Dr. Holly Puckett:

Busy life.

Kate Kolb:

Yeah. Still willing to pour back into that. So just amazing things that people are saying about the program on both the student side and the faculty side. And that’s so huge. I guess transitioning to the next thing then that we would want to talk about is, I know that enrollment is coming literally right around the corner.

Dr. Holly Puckett:

Right around the corner.

Kate Kolb:

Yeah. So talk a little bit about what’s coming up for the fall with the program and what that looks like for enrollment.

Dr. Holly Puckett:

Sure. So the next launch date for the program is August 24.

Kate Kolb:

Which literally is here.

Dr. Holly Puckett:

Literally around the corner. I know. And we are waiving application fees through August 1 currently, and we’re expect to launch the new curriculum and with that new curriculum comes less practicum hours.

Kate Kolb:

So that’s the pull.

Dr. Holly Puckett:

It’s the pull, yeah.

Kate Kolb:

You’re like a little less practicum hours. Yeah. As far as the cohorts that you’ve had before, talk a little bit about the size of classes and that sort of thing.

Dr. Holly Puckett:

So they have varied. Pretty much in the August cohort, we usually get a lot more students than we do in the spring cohort. [inaudible 00:18:27], it’s been 10 to 15 students, some have had six to 10 students, and I’m really looking to expand our enrollment, honestly.

Kate Kolb:

Yeah. That’s awesome. So if they are interested in this fall semester then like yesterday was when they needed to apply right?

Dr. Holly Puckett:

Well, yes. There’s a little wiggle room there.

Kate Kolb:

Yeah. But you are waiving the application fee, so that’s completely free to them to be able to do that. And then they literally would be able, if approved, they would be able to get started-

Dr. Holly Puckett:

Absolutely.

Kate Kolb:

… within weeks.

Dr. Holly Puckett:

We’re reviewing applications daily.

Kate Kolb:

Okay. Very cool. Well, if that is something that they are interested in, where do they go to start that application process?

Dr. Holly Puckett:

So we have our RN-BSN micro site and we are launching that effective today. So those that are listening, it is www.centracollege/bsn.

Kate Kolb:

Yes. So we made it as easy. Is it www.centracollege.com/bsn?

Dr. Holly Puckett:

Should be EDU. (Note: It is www.centracollege.edu/BSN)

Kate Kolb:

Okay. Tell you what, we will put that in the notes of the podcast and make sure that you have that information in there, but we will definitely get that settled in there for you. But they can go to your website?

Dr. Holly Puckett:

And they can apply online.

Kate Kolb:

Okay, perfect. That makes it easy. You’re not downloading anything. You’re not having to mail anything back.

Dr. Holly Puckett:

No stress.

Kate Kolb:

Everything is online. Great.

Dr. Holly Puckett:

And then Lauren Campbell, she’s our admissions coordinator and she’ll just review the applications as they come and she’ll reach out to the applicant and go over any details.

Kate Kolb:

Yeah. Well, that’s amazing. Well, it sounds fairly easy. It sounds like it’s not something… You don’t want people to have to jump through hoops in order to get involved in any of this, which is great.

Dr. Holly Puckett:

Yes, yes.

Kate Kolb:

Yeah. So is there anything else about the program that maybe we have not touched on that you just cannot leave this conversation without either reiterating or explaining?

Dr. Holly Puckett:

I think just to bring it home, those that are looking to expand beyond just the staff nurse or the charge nurse role, I think getting that BSN brings open a lot more opportunities for you to expand your growth and your professional development.

Kate Kolb:

And so it’s definitely something that you would encourage for people to look into.

Dr. Holly Puckett:

Absolutely.

Kate Kolb:

And really there is no… If you’re waiving the application fee, there is no hesitancy. And just take a look at it and see what you could do. Do you have more information about the program you said on that micro site? It’s-

Dr. Holly Puckett:

Yes. So I think tuition and academic calendar and curriculum information is on the microsite. If there’s anything that you need further, you can always email me.

Kate Kolb:

Okay, perfect. Yeah. I’m a planner in life, so I’m definitely one of those people. I can’t even go out to eat without downloading the menu first and trying to decide what I like. So this is definitely needed information that you have out there and that people can access pretty easily. And we are very excited about the program and what you guys are doing with it to expand it.

Dr. Holly Puckett:

Well, thank you so much.

Kate Kolb:

Yeah. And thanks again for just sitting down with me for this real quick conversation about it. And I’m looking forward to seeing what cohorts come in the future and who sticks around, maybe-

Dr. Holly Puckett:

[inaudible 00:21:32].

Kate Kolb:

Yes. Maybe becomes some Centra family around here. We would love that.

Dr. Holly Puckett:

We would love that.

Kate Kolb:

So Holly, thank you again so much for this.

Dr. Holly Puckett:

Thank you Kate.

Kate Kolb:

And you can find all the details about this on our website at www.centrascripts.com. And then we will also put in the notes for you, the additional resources that Holly mentioned. And thanks again for listening and we’ll catch you next time.

Dr. Holly Puckett:

Thank you.

Apply today! Application deadline for the Fall 2020 cohort is August 1. For more information about the Centra College of Nursing, visit https://www.centrahealth.com/CCON

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