Equitable learning opportunities for new nurses

With over 130,000 students at Western Governors University (WGU) delivering online courses from the US, Dr Jan Jones-Schenk is the Senior Vice President and Executive Dean of the College of Health Professions. The College that Dr Jones-Schenk is Dean of, has approximately 30,000 students following healthcare curricula.

In January 2022, the University marks 25 years as a non-profit academic institution, focused on competency based education delivered through expanded access to rural areas and in an equitable manner to others in the United States. The focus for WGU has been in delivering education regardless of time or place especially in rural communities to locals.

In a competency based academic organization such as Western Governors University, a student has to demonstrate 100% of the competencies in a program of study. Dr Jones-Schenk talks about the increasing acceptance of nursing programs moving towards
competency based education, such as the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN).

One of the areas Dr Jones-Schenk talks about in relevance for people working in nursing is in palliative care. The manner in which the curriculum is model allows for ‘late breaking’ competencies. Western Governors University recognised the need in palliative care nursing education and has over the past 5 years led to 40,000 nurses having basic knowledge.

The value of nursing when caring for patients rarely has a hard benefit and as illustration Dr Jones-Schenk talks about when there may be more beds than nurses, patients can’t be cared for.

COVID has brought out challenges in delivering nursing care. Dr Jones-Schenk talks about the untraditional course delivered to help nurses with power skills to better equip nurses deal with more challenging situations.

In closing Dr Jones-Schenk reflects on the diverse talents that work together to deliver nurse education to dispersed students across the United States, and the need to continue to support access to quality education.

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