ABAC nursing program shortens graduate timeline

The nursing program at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College is making adjustments to provide students a way to get into the workplace faster.

ABAC Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Jerry Baker said ABAC students who enter the associate degree nursing program at ABAC can now complete their degree requirements in four consecutive terms, resulting in a graduation date five months sooner. Previously, students did not take classes during the summer term.

“By continuing the program during the summer session, the students who enter this fall should complete their degrees by December of 2019,” Baker said. “Under our previous schedule, those students would have graduated in May of 2020. Taking classes next summer picks up the pace a little bit.

“Another advantage is that when students stop attending classes, even during the summer, it takes a little while to get back into the classroom mode. This continuous cycle eliminates that break. I think it will help the students retain information and be current with the material covered in the classes.”

Dr. Jaibun Earp, dean of ABAC’s School of Nursing and Health Sciences, said the change will result in financial savings for the students and their families.

“Students who live in the dormitories or in an apartment will save that five months’ rent,” Earp said. “The demand for jobs is still out there so I believe these graduates will find jobs that much sooner.”

“These graduates will also go to work six months earlier,” ABAC President David Bridges said. “That’s going to put money in their pockets. Since the cycle is shorter, ABAC will also be able to produce significantly more nursing graduates over a period of years.”

A total of 77 students are scheduled to enroll in the associate degree program at ABAC at Tifton this fall semester, and 60 students are set to begin the ABAC at Bainbridge program. ABAC at Bainbridge students will also begin using the new format.

Bridges said ABAC plans to hire more nursing faculty so that future nursing classes will be larger than they are today. Guidelines dictate one faculty member for every 20 students enrolled in the nursing program.

“We have qualified applicants who are waiting for a seat in the program to open,” Bridges said. “By hiring more faculty, we can increase the number of students in each cohort and still adhere to state and national guidelines.”

Earp said students who apply to the ABAC nursing program need at least two semesters to take prerequisite classes before they are ready to enroll in the program. Graduates from the program are prepared to take the nursing licensure examination to become Registered Nurses.

Carol M. Smith, MBA, RN, NEA-BC, senior vice president, acute care and chief nursing executive for Tift Regional Health System (TRHS), welcomed the news of the scheduling change in the press release.

“ABAC produces fine nurse graduates and is being very proactive in establishing this accelerated program,” Smith said. “As our hospital system continues to grow with the new Cook Medical Center facility in Adel and the new patient tower at Tift Regional Medical Center in Tifton, our need for bedside nurses is at an all-time high. The demand for nurse navigators, case managers and nurse practitioners is also increasing as population health management emerges as the new delivery of care model.

“There is a nationwide shortage of nurses and many hospitals around the country rely on nurses from the international market; we always prefer to have homegrown nurses who are educated and trained on the local level. ABAC, a great partner for TRHS, recognizes our urgent need for quality nurses and developed this program in response.”

ABAC also offers the bachelor’s degree program in nursing in both Tifton and Bainbridge. Classes begin for the ABAC fall semester on Aug. 15.

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