New bachelor’s degree begins next fall

Texas Wesleyan University will begin offering a Bachelor of Science in Health Science degree program this fall, according to university administrators.

The BSHS program is specifically designed to provide an alternative option for associate-degreed registered nurses in need of a bachelor’s degree, said Dr. Bruce Benz, chair of the School of Natural & Social Sciences.

“Wesleyan chose to add the BSHS program over the traditional Bachelor of Science in Nursing program in attempts to solve the saturation problem in local nursing schools,” Benz said. “There are just not enough spots for nursing students in many BSN programs. We want to encourage enrollment of local students to satisfy a need.”

Most universities that offer the BSN program have become very selective due to the high demand of nursing students, Benz said. A majority of schools accept undergrad students within the school over transfer students.

“The nursing field has created its own problem,” Benz said. “More and more hospitals are now looking to hire nurses with bachelor’s degrees rather than associate degrees due to their critical thinking skills, managerial training and health development planning skills.”

It is getting harder for associate-degreed nurses to advance in most medical and health care fields, Benz said, because when hospitals look to fill their administrative positions, they look for nurses with bachelor’s degrees.

“We are facilitating access to employment opportunities offered in nursing that require a four year degree,” said Benz. “We are providing an outlet for associate-degreed nurses.”

The new program will offer two concentrations, one in biology and one in social sciences, Benz said. The biology concentration allows students to apply to graduate degree professional programs like Wesleyan’s Graduate Programs of Nurse Anesthesia, while the concentration in social sciences is for students who wish to advance their health science career.

Debra Maloy, MHS and director of GPNA, said the new degree program offers a unique route for associate-degreed nursing students, one that will not make them retake many of their core nursing courses.

“We honor their associate degree and their accomplishments,” Maloy said. “The program uses a science-based focus that allows nurses to be successful in graduate school. So many nurses that already hold a degree in nursing want to further their education. This program has so much to offer nurses who want to continue on to graduate school. I feel like a kid in a candy store when I look at the course catalog.”

Wesleyan’s undergraduate science programs worked closely with GPNA in the development of this degree to insure students will be well prepared for graduate school, Maloy said.

“I hope when they get done they will come straight to us and enroll in our GPNA program,” Maloy said. “We have been getting calls for over a year.”

The program is anticipating 10 to 15 students enrolled within the first year or so, Maloy said.

“I am excited about the wealth of information we have to offer nursing students,” Maloy said. “I believe many nurses will be interested in our course work.”

Dr. Marcel Satsky Kerr, dean of the School of Natural and Social Sciences, directed a 10-member faculty committee that directed new degree plan. In April, Wesleyan President Frederick Slabach honored the committee with a President’s GEM Award.

Slabach wrote that the new program “puts us in a great position to compete with area colleges and universities that already offer affordable, streamlined nursing and health science programs,” according to

Dr. Marilyn Pugh, associate professor of psychology, said that each member of the planning committee had specific ideas to bring to the table.

“Faculty from the School of Natural and Social Sciences collaborated with faculty from the Graduate Program in Nurse Anesthesia, because we (NSS) offer most of the necessary classes and they (GPNA) know which courses will qualify students to enter the GPNA program and other health-related fields,” Pugh said. “We had many meetings discussing which undergraduate classes were absolutely necessary, which were desirable, and which were probably not necessary for this particular degree.”

Pugh said there are few, if any comparable programs in the country.

“Wesleyan will attract nurses who want to change their direction without sacrificing the academic credit they have already achieved,” Pugh said. “Once the new students begin to spread the word, the numbers could increase substantially.”

Benz said that implementing the new degree will not increase the school’s budget or mean hiring additional staff.

“Current course offerings satisfy competency requirements for these nurses pursuing a four-year degree,” he said.

Wesleyan will recruit nurses with associate degrees from a number of area schools, such as Tarrant County College, Navarro College in Corsicana, and Weatherford College, Benz said.

“This provides Wesleyan with a great opportunity,” Benz said. “This is what Wesleyan does well.”