New BSN Program Integrates Art Concepts, iPads, into Accelerated Nursing Program

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – This summer, a cohort of 33 postbaccalaureate students have begun classes in a new accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing program that – in a first for U.S. nursing schools – integrates the Arts disciplines across the curriculum.

The collaboration between the College of Nursing and Health Sciences (CONHS) and the Department of Art & Design in the College of Liberal Arts is funded by a $2.5 million Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) four-year grant. The new postbaccalaureate curriculum will focus on interprofessional community based primary care, with an emphasis on chronic disease prevention and management, including behavioral health. The award supports CONHS in recruiting, preparing, and graduating 84 post baccalaureate students and building primary care competencies in 120 practicing RNs over the four-year period.

“We’re all aware as consumers that health care delivery models are changing. Acute care – such as hospitalization, for example – is very expensive, so care is moving to the community with a strong focus on primary care, which includes health maintenance, health promotion, and disease prevention,” CONHS Dean Julie Hoff said. “We need to educate nurses to have primary care competencies so they can participate on teams practicing to the full scope of their nursing license.”

The BSN is a four-semester program that includes nine semester hours of graduate course work – dual credit to BSN students – and seeks to be paperless: students are provided an iPad to access texts and apps to complete course assignments.

“It’ll be nice to have something more compact that I can take notes on in class,” said Elizabeth Stulting, a member of the inaugural class. “I’m also very excited about my book costs being paid, since they will all be loaded onto the device.” 

To support the new BSN program, CONHS and Department of Art & Design faculty, along with the Art Museum of South Texas, have created the Islander Center for Nursing. Chair of the Department of Art and Design and Professor of Art Rich Gere, Co-Principal Investigator on the HRSA grant, said this approach to health care incorporates the arts in order to improve nursing skills through observation, communication, aesthetic knowing, teamwork, empathy, cultural competencies, active listening, sensory perception, ethics and process-based problem-solving.

Like nursing, the creation and appreciation of art is an extremely detailed and subtle process. The project goal is to enhance connectivity between nurses and clients. By helping nursing students refine their observation of details, they will gain heightened insights into the individual needs of their patients, according to Gere.

“Students will take a drawing class, but we’re not teaching drawing, we’re teaching observation,” he said. “In visual assessment methods, we have empirical knowing, which is a factual and aligned knowing with quantitative explanations, and then we have ethical knowing, which draws on one’s moral values. Aesthetic knowing reflects the nurse’s perception of the patient’s needs. And so again we’re looking to enhance skills and sensitivity, empathy, and detailed observation through this art class.”

The admissions committee narrowed the list of 160 applicants to 33 for the inaugural class. To prepare for the students, nine interdisciplinary faculty collaboratively built the new 22-course curriculum during the first year of the grant. Drs. Katelijne Acker and Heather DeGrande, who applied for and were selected by Apple to participate in a weeklong training in Austin are now Apple Learning Academy Specialists, led the team in curricular design, creating new courses, and building iPad knowledge and skills. Additionally, all grant team members have completed their Apple Teacher training.

“Going paperless represents an opportunity for students to focus on the content and not necessarily writing notes in the classroom or fumbling through a textbook,” said Acker. “Together with the art component, this made for an innovative program.”

Cherish Clanagan, another member of the inaugural cohort, comes from a long line of nurses – including her great grandmother, grandmother, and mother.

“Nursing has always been in my blood,” said Clanagan. “When I initially applied, I didn’t know we would get an iPad. Now that I know, I’m incredibly excited about it because it’s one less thing to worry about. People in other nursing programs have to pay for these things on their own, so it’s definitely a weight that’s been lifted off my shoulders.”

Additional Information

To see more photos from the May 29 nursing orientation and iPad reveal, click here.