Del Mar College graduates first cohort of Bachelor of Science in nursing students

The first graduates to earn a bachelor's degree from Del Mar College walked the stage Friday.

Fourteen nurses completed the college's new RN to BSN program this summer. The program allows current registered nurses who already have an associate degree to earn a bachelor's degree in nursing.

"The biggest benefit is going to be to the community," Nurse Education Department Chair Jennifer McWha said. "We continue to have a nursing shortage locally, statewide and nationally. Over the past couple years there's been a big push for health care agencies; they want more BSN-prepared nurses."

The degree program began in fall 2021 after the Del Mar board of regents approved it in 2020. The college's nursing program also offers certificates in nursing and vocational nurse education and associate degrees in nurse education and registered nurse education.

McWha said that while the college was preparing to introduce the program, it consulted with local hospitals.

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"We spoke to all the chief nursing officers of the hospitals, and all of them said the same thing: 'We need at least double the number of BSN nurses,'" McWha said.

McWha added that the bachelor's-level training is tied with better patient outcomes.

Assistant professor of nursing Casey Moebius said the big difference between associate degree nursing programs and bachelor's degree programs is the BSN nurses learn to assess beyond the individual patient, looking at families and communities.

With the BSN degree, graduates can move into management and leadership positions. Nurses with BSN degrees can also continue their education by pursuing master's degrees or more advanced roles such as nurse practitioners.

"We need bedside care nurses that are more highly trained," McWha said. "We need nurse researchers. We need nurse educators."

The Del Mar RN to BSN program is hybrid, with some in-person labs and online classes. Participants typically also work full time while taking courses.

Among the RN to BSN graduates was Elizabeth Rovira, who earned her associate degree in 2009. When she saw that Del Mar would be offering the program, she signed up immediately.

"I knew it's a great school," Rovira said. "It was affordable and it was local."

Rovira is interested in advancing her career and pursuing more leadership roles.

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On Wednesday, the RN to BSN graduates joined other students who have completed their licensed vocational nursing and RN programs for a pinning ceremony.

Speaking during the ceremony, Rovira said nursing is stressful and emotional, as well as rewarding. Rovira described her first stressful shift in an ICU and the emotional toll of speaking with grieving families.

"I know the ADN students right now are probably scared to death, but I promise I'm getting to the good stuff," Rovira told the crowd. "The good parts are knowing that you did everything you could for your patient every time, knowing that your patients weren't alone. Holding their hands, talking to them, getting to know them on a whole other level than a doctor ever could."

Nursing, Rovira believes, is an art. It is also caring, learning, patience, kindness and hard work, she said.

"Nursing is love," Rovira said. "Loving what you do, loving your patients, loving the feeling every time a patient hits one of their goals."

A second cohort will start the program this fall, and the college hopes to increase the number of students in coming years.

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This article originally appeared on Corpus Christi Caller Times: Del Mar College graduates first Bachelor of Science in nursing cohort