CMC follows nursing education trend by offering bachelor’s degrees

CMC follows nursing education trend by offering bachelor’s degrees

First two-year college in Colorado to offer BSN degree

By Carrie Click

This summer, when Colorado Mountain College made public that its accrediting body had approved a Bachelor of Science in nursing, a number of Colorado nurses’ lives changed.

Instead of wondering when and how they’d ever be able to advance their education, working registered nurses suddenly were given the opportunity to enroll at Colorado Mountain College at a reasonable cost and in a program that allows them to continue to work while living at home. It’s an unprecedented offering in Colorado.

“CMC will be the first two-year college in Colorado to offer a BSN degree and is on the leading edge of this new trend in nursing education,” said Betty Damask-Bembenek, the college’s director of nursing education.

And the world of nursing is definitely changing.

The Institute of Medicine’s 2010 report, “The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health,” is considered the blueprint to nursing, according to Nancy Smith RN MS CNS, Valley View Hospital’s director of staff development and a nurse at the hospital herself. A leading recommendation from the report is for 80 percent of practicing nurses to be at the bachelor’s degree level or above by 2020.

Smith said out of the 230 nurses the hospital currently employs, 58 percent have their bachelor’s or master’s degree, and a few are at the doctorate level.

“Nurses are in a position of being change leaders,” Smith said. “They’re coordinators and collaborators of care.  “They must engage with physicians and other health care professionals to deliver efficient and effective care and assume leadership roles in the redesign of the health care system.”

So what can patients expect from a nurse who earns a Bachelor of Science in nursing?

“A broader scope of knowledge,” said Sandy Hurley, the chief nursing officer at Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs. “The technical aspects of nursing are already there, but there’s a [new] level of leadership.”

Registered nurses long anticipated degree

The degree, which throughout the nursing community is known as “RN to BSN,” is being offered in eight-week blocks starting this fall semester at two of CMC’s locations: Spring Valley near Glenwood Springs and Breckenridge in Summit County.

Since it’s a hybrid program – much of the course work is completed online – any nurse with a current state nursing license can conceivably complete the degree while continuing to work. Just one to two times per semester, a class may be held on campus or via interactive video or a Web app. During the course of the degree, one or two classes might require attending in person at Breckenridge or Spring Valley.

RN to BSN functions somewhat differently than a standard four-year bachelor’s degree, as students must have already attained a level of nursing proficiency. Currently, CMC offers a two-year Associate of Applied Science in nursing, which qualifies students to become licensed registered nurses. To enroll in the college’s new bachelor’s program, students must already have earned their associate degree in nursing and hold an RN license in the state of Colorado, in addition to other requirements.

Damask-Bembenek said the news has been anxiously anticipated and generating excitement among nurses wanting to advance their degree in nursing education.

“Many practicing RN and nursing graduates [have been] waiting for this program over the past four years, since CMC was granted approval to offer up to five bachelor’s degrees,” she said. The college first introduced a Bachelor of Science in business administration and Bachelor of Arts in sustainability studies, and two additional degrees are pending approval.

Since Colorado Mountain College started offering associate degrees in nursing since 1998, the college has graduated approximately 500 nurses. “I have received phone calls and emails from previous graduates who have been wanting to continue their education but did not want to travel,” said Damask-Bembenek.

Traveling, or picking up entirely and moving to a new town to attend school to earn a bachelor’s degree, is not only difficult logistically, but is often expensive, and online degree programs can be cost prohibitive. The new degree helps to reduce those barriers to learning higher-level skills.

“I know we’ve had nurses who are going out of state [to get their degrees],” said Valley View’s Hurley, “And even those staying in-state and going online – the cost per credit hour is higher [than CMC].”

Hurley said she too has been fielding inquiries from Valley View Hospital nurses inquiring about Colorado Mountain College’s new bachelor’s degree. Many of the registered nurses they employ already hold Associate of Applied Science degrees from the college.

“There’s a lot of excitement among the nursing staff here [at Valley View],” Hurley said.

The need for nurses is expected to grow as older nurses retire; baby boomers age and need more health care, and the role of nursing changes.

“RNs are the largest occupation in the health care industry,” explained Damask-Bembenek. “There is a projected state employment demand for RNs to increase by 30 percent by 2018.”

Colorado Mountain College’s Bachelor of Science in nursing has submitted an application for candidacy status with the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. For more information about Colorado Mountain College’s RN to BSN program, go to or call 970-947-8257 or 800-621-8559.

Cutline for attached photo:

Nursing students at Colorado Mountain College in Breckenridge practice their clinical skills during a lab in the spring of 2014. Working registered nurses can now earn their Bachelor of Science in nursing with a new degree program offered this fall at Colorado Mountain College. Photo Ed Kosmicki

Debra Crawford

Public Information Officer | Colorado Mountain College
802 Grand Ave. |Glenwood Springs, CO  81601|

970.384.8535 | 970.309.1486 |

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