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First Cohort of Integrated Nursing Pathway Program Graduates

Students say teamwork and dual advising key factors in success

The first class of a unique new partnership program between the University of Colorado College of Nursing and the Community College of Aurora (CCA) graduated May 23, 2013.

During the fall of 2010 the CU College of Nursing, in partnership with CCA, created the Integrated Pathway to Baccalaureate Nursing Education Program (INP). The first in Colorado, this innovative program enabled qualified students to simultaneously apply at CCA as well as CU College of Nursing. One of the primary goals of the program was to expand access to baccalaureate nursing education for community college students. While completing their last year of prerequisite courses at CCA, students in the program take a nursing class taught by CU faculty that focuses on quality and safety. Once they transition to CU, they remain in the same cohort until graduation from CU College of Nursing.

“Individual support by students in the cohort is key to making this program work well. They must rely on each other by way of group projects and presentations, and this not only improves their communication and writing skills but also builds confidence they will carry with them to CU,” says Gina Iannelli, MPA, MSC, CCA’s INP retention/advising specialist.

Susan Bonini, RN, MSN, CU College of Nursing’s INP coordinator/ advisor and Iannelli’s counterpart agrees, as do the students.

“The students identify the cohort model as a huge benefit and they stay in the cohort group as they progress through their course work at the College of Nursing. They tell us that developing friends and networks helps them stay motivated and on track with studying.”

MJ Gani, a native of Dushanbe, Tajikistan, the first in her family to attend college in the United States and one of the 15 original cohort members says, “Throughout the program we stayed connected and supported each other in many ways. Starting at CCA we learned to work together and created a support system that has been beneficial in our transition to CU. We have developed a bond that is unique to us, the first cohort.”

“Yes,” agrees Denise Elwell, another member of the original cohort, “the best part of the program was the cohort staying together and working together. The more we worked together, the better we did.”

Another unique aspect, which has been a factor in the successful program, is the dual advising model.

Bonini says, “This advising model provides the students with the guidance and resources from the start of the program through graduation. Since we see the students and have one-on-one sessions with them, we are able to provide individual guidance and resources they may need.”

“The program gives them support they would not typically get in their first year of the traditional pathway,” explains Iannelli. “This includes exposure to the nursing profession by taking key courses both at CCA and CU. Students become ‘socialized’ into the nursing profession, gaining insight into what skills are needed along with the ability to practice those skills in the classroom setting.”

Bonini adds, “We also provide students with additional education sessions on topics such as: developing more effective study habits, how to write a professional paper, learning APA format. We feel providing these additional sessions helps the students prepare for the rigors of the nursing program at the College of Nursing.”

“I think this program offers students an opportunity to obtain a bachelor’s degree in nursing when they might not have considered that as an option”,” says Bonini.“Many of these students are first generation college students and have no idea what opportunities and options exist. Often these students might have considered an associate degree in nursing (ADN) instead. The INP program offers them the bachelor’s upfront."

This was the case for Elwell.

“I was originally attending the Community College of Denver (CCD) and was interested in their ADN program because I am an older student and didn’t think a bachelor’s in nursing was achievable in the time frame I had set for myself. Being new to the industry, I was not aware of the preference for BSN nurses in hospitals. Luckily, I was referred to CCA and the new pathway program that was just getting off the ground. The more I learned about the program, the more excited I became!”

“I feel this program benefits students who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to pursue such a degree,” says Iannelli. “The community, in turn, benefits from their education.”​​