Rural nursing is a completely different type of practice, considered by some to merit a sub-specialty of its own. Rural nurses must have a generalist type of practice, and understand challenges their patients face including distance to care, lack of insurance, adverse weather conditions, and cultural barriers to accessing care. Such is the case in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (the Yoop).
Mark Miron, director of Finlandia University’s RN to BSN program was kind enough to speak with me today regarding his program. I have been researching virtual reality simulation as a means to facilitate clinical or practical course content delivery for online, rural learners in RN to BSN programs. Typically, clinical placements are difficult to find and there is only limited course content regarding culturally competent care. Not so at Finlandia!
At the time that Mr. Miron took over the program, there were only two or three enrollees. By altering the pricing to be competitive with the majority of online programs and enhancing marketing efforts, he was able to grow the program to its current enrollment of about 20 students. While most students come from the Yoop, there are several learners from “downstate” Michigan and a few out-of-state. In his RN to BSN curriculum, he highlights culturally competent care, offering an entire course devoted to spirituality in health care. He also weaves threads of cultural competence into Mental Health Nursing in the regular undergraduate Baccalaureate program, which offers an elective specific to nursing in Finland called “Finland Connection”. Perhaps the most impressive cultural offering in Finlandia’s nursing curriculum – and one Miron is very proud of – is a trip to Tanzania for BSN students, including those in the RN to BSN program. While there, students have the opportunity to spend a week learning about health care challenges for this country’s population at Muhibili National Hospital in Dar es Salaam. It’s the only major hospital in a country of 45 million people. Staggering.
Mr. Miron views growing enrollment as the largest challenge facing his program. Although he has made significant progress, the administration would be happy to see the program expand even further. With growth come challenges of accommodating all learners in terms of faculty and other resources. But with their unique “price guarantee” this seems like it should be do-able. Finlandia offers one price – $15,000 for all RN to BSN learners regardless of number of credits needed. Whether a student needs 30 or 54 credits to graduate, once they hit $15,000 of expense they will receive no more bills. Guaranteed. Students have as long as 5 years to complete all curricular requirements. For students needing upwards of 48 credits, this is an incredible offer as compared to tuition rates from online giants such as University of Phoenix, Kaplan and SNHU.
Kudos to Mark Miron and Finlandia University for prioritizing the needs of working nurses striving to earn their BSN online, while ensuring that cultural competence is an essential part of their coursework. There is one aspect of Yooper culture, however, that is difficult to overcome. Folks up here are typically stoic. According to Mark, health care culture in the Yoop is exemplified by the proud statement, “I haven’t been to the doctor in years!” Perhaps one of his graduates will design a program to crack this nut. In the meantime, this little jewel of a program should get more attention.