With the start of the new semester a month ago at Iowa Western Community College, 14 students embarked on an adventure few junior college students are afforded: they’re pursuing bachelor of science degrees from an accredited four-year university while attending the local Clarinda campus.

Pennay Lilly, an associate degree nursing instructor at IWCC-Clarinda, said the bachelor of science nursing program at Nebraska Wesleyan University, which is now offered in Clarinda, uses an individualized plan of study to meet the student’s needs. She emphasized the flexibility of the BSN program.

Groups of students, called “cohorts,” begin a program of study together, based on their joint needs and availability.

“We require a minimum of five students to start a cohort,” she said. “Then, they attend classes in five- to eight-week sessions, meeting at least once a week face-to-face with their instructors.”

Lilly said the program also allows for dual enrollment at both IWCC and Nebraska Wesleyan, which allows a student to take classes from both institutions simultaneously, all from the relative comfort of their “home” campus in Clarinda. The vast majority of pre-requisites for the BSN program at Nebraska Wesleyan can also be taken in Clarinda.

“They’re very transfer-friendly, which was one of the main reasons we were able to make this partnership work,” Lilly said. “That’s pretty unusual for a university-community college relationship, but it also means the student benefits from taking all of those classes at a reduced price through IWCC.”

Chad Wellhausen, campus director at IWCC-Clarinda, said the new partnership with Nebraska Wesleyan will provide a number of new opportunities for the blossoming nursing program in Clarinda. Like many other IWCC initiatives, the BSN program at Nebraska Wesleyan is focused on working adults and non-traditional students.

“Nebraska Wesleyan’s dedication to the students, physical presence on our campus and strong understanding of healthcare in Southwest Iowa make them a great partner,” he said. “The addition of the BSN program allows us to not only continue to provide quality nurses to the area through our ADN program, but also take it to the next level and develop future leaders and managers in the healthcare industry through the BSN program.

Lilly said many universities are shying away from support for lower-level nursing, emphasizing instead bachelor- and master’s degree programs. Nebraska Wesleyan, she said, is trying to provide support to all levels of the nursing profession.

“Nursing homes need [licensed practical nurses], [associate degree nurses], and [registered nurses]. Hospitals need BSN’s and [master of science nurses] for leadership,” she said. “A lot of psychiatric care centers and nursing homes are looking for good healthcare providers, but how many will go and do that kind of work with a master’s degree?”

And, the growing nursing program at IWCC-Clarinda is providing additional benefits for Southwest Iowa. Recently, IWCC ADN students have begun taking clinical rotations in the Medical/Surgery Department at Clarinda Regional Health Center.

“The hospital also wants to work with us to increase the education and leadership levels of its staff, so we’ve begun offering to their staff opportunities to train in our simulation lab,” Lilly said. “It’s a great opportunity to locally educate the leaders in the healthcare profession. This is all going in a very positive direction, and it will only help the community even more.”