On Saturday, November 18, 2017, the first group of nurses from South County Health to enroll in the RN to BSN program at the University of Rhode Island was rewarded for their academic efforts. Before an audience of family, friends, educators and South County Health administrators, the 21 registered nurses received their baccalaureate in science degrees in nursing, along with the traditional pin that represents the spirit, science and art of nursing.
South County Health encourages its nursing staff to continue their education, offering tuition reimbursement to enroll in the RN to BSN cohort program at URI or other academic pursuits. Each of the nurses in this graduating class is employed by South County Hospital, South County Home Health or South County Medical Group. Although coming from various entities within South County Health, they attended classes as a group, and participated in on-line courses in the hybrid program.
According to Anne Schmidt, RN, vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer, South County Health’s objective is to employ a higher percentage of baccalaureate level nurses as part of a continual effort to improve patient care. She said is consistent with the Institute of Medicine’s Future of Nursing goal to create a more highly educated nursing workforce.
“Education is essential to ensure that nurses will have the skills they need to care for a burgeoning, highly complex, older patient population, many of whom are living longer and managing more chronic conditions. There is mounting evidence that links nurses who have BSN degrees or higher, to improved patient outcomes,” Anne said.
At the commencement, Anne’s remarks reflected the confidence and pride she has in her nursing staff.
“You became each other's teachers, coaches, advocates, caregivers and partners for the duration of this transformation. And you comforted each other when the fear or anxieties about how to make a successful transition was almost overwhelming. Continue to develop togetherness as nurses by taking the lessons that you have learned from each other and transferring them to the patients that we care for. It’s through these relationships that we have the power to affect lives and reduce patient suffering.”
In addition to the 21 graduates who received their degrees, one was awarded posthumously to Kathy DeGraide, a beloved member of the nursing staff who died in November 2017.