Contact: Allison Benner, College Relations Associate – Media, 610-740-3790

Program Aims to Reduce Costs while Improving Quality of Nursing Education

Allentown, PA (March 12, 2007) – The high cost of baccalaureate nursing programs is an issue affecting schools and prospective nursing students across the United States.  It is also a major contributing factor to the country's inability to respond to the current nursing shortage.  In an effort to address this issue and create solutions that can be implemented by other programs nationwide, Cedar Crest College's Nursing Department applied for and was awarded a prestigious grant from the U.S. Department of Education's Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE).

In receiving this three year, nearly half million dollar grant, Cedar Crest was one of only 51 total proposals that were awarded funds out of a total of 601 applications nationwide.  And of those 51 grants, just two, including Cedar Crest's, were given to nursing programs.

"This is a major achievement for the College and our nursing program," says Dr. Laurie Murray, chair of the Cedar Crest nursing department.  "Our proposal stood out because of its creativity and uniqueness in employing a cost-benefit analysis of nursing education tactics that will help meet the critical national need for nurses prepared at the baccalaureate level."

Baccalaureate nursing programs are one of the most costly programs, per student, for any college or university to operate.  This is due, in large part, to the sheer number of faculty needed to meet all of the clinical course requirements.  These courses contain both classroom and off-site hands-on clinical components.  But while a single instructor can teach 40 to 50 students in the classroom, one clinical instructor can only supervise an average of eight students due to hospital limitations for clinical rotations.

To combat this obstacle, Cedar Crest College will develop, implement and analyze the cost-effectiveness of two approaches; one involves a new concept in area hospital partnerships, known as Clinical Associates, for senior-year clinical nursing courses; the second will explore the integration of educational technology into junior-year clinical labs.

"Our Clinical Associates model is an innovation in the field of nursing education," says Dr. Wendy Robb, assistant professor of nursing and project co-director.  "If implemented, it would increase the number of students in each rotation without increasing the cost to the College while creating measurable benefits for the students and clinical sites as well."

The second approach involves utilizing educational technology such as on-line computer simulation software and high fidelity mannequins during the students' junior year to relieve the shortage of clinical lab space.  In particular, this portion of the study will examine whether the incorporation of self-paced clinical diagnostic software will allow students to learn a skill more quickly and allow the College to utilize its nursing laboratory hours and staff more efficiently.

"In-hospital clinical rotations will always be an essential part of a nursing student's education.  However, with limited hours onsite, students may not always have the opportunity to see in person all of the skills they are required to master," says Dr. Murray.  "Computer simulation and other educational technologies provide students with the flexibility of practicing a procedure when, and as often, as needed, without sacrificing in-class supervised reinforcement."

Throughout the intensive process, Cedar Crest's tactics and progress will be evaluated and analyzed not only internally, but also by a team of independent consultants.  By the end of the three-year study, Cedar Crest College's goal is to provide a model of educational program reforms that can be used as a resource for other collegiate schools of nursing.


The Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) is a unit of the Office of Policy Planning, and Innovation and is contained within the Office of Postsecondary Education, U.S. Department of Education. FIPSE's mandate is to "improve postsecondary educational opportunities" across a broad range of concerns. Although a small program, FIPSE has established a record of promoting meaningful and lasting solutions to various, often newly emerging, problems and of promoting the highest quality education for all learners. Through its primary vehicle, the Comprehensive Program grant competition, FIPSE seeks to support the implementation of innovative educational reform ideas, to evaluate how well they work, and to share the lessons learned with the larger education community.

For more information about the Cedar Crest College Nursing Department and the FIPSE grant, please contact the College Relations Office at 610-740-3790.






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