First cohort of 37 Nursing students lined up on stairway
The first cohort of 37 students graduated with Bachelor of Science in Nursing degrees from the BGSU School of Nursing in April. (BGSU photo)

A new chapter: BGSU School of Nursing celebrates as first cohort of graduates enter workforce

Class represents first bachelor’s-level nurses to be fully BGSU educated

By Laren Kowalczyk ‘07

After providing pre-nursing education for more than half a century, Bowling Green State University reached a significant milestone in its commitment to addressing the nation’s rapidly growing demand for nurses.

In April, the first cohort of students with Bachelor of Science in nursing degrees graduated from the BGSU School of Nursing, marking a new chapter in the University’s history of nursing education.

The class of 37 students comprises the first fully BGSU-educated bachelor’s-level nurses to enter the workforce.

“BGSU has provided pre-nursing education for more than 50 years, and now we have our own program. It’s very fulfilling to have played a pivotal role in every step of these students’ journeys to becoming registered nurses,” said BGSU School of Nursing Director Dr. Shelly Bussard.

BGSU established the School of Nursing in the College of Health and Human Services in 2020, and the first cohort began classes in Fall 2021.

With a graduation rate of more than 90%, Bussard said she’s excited about the continued impact the program will have on the future of healthcare in Ohio and across the country. 

Additionally, nearly 100% of the class is employed. About three-fourths of the students secured conditional job offers months before graduation.

Bussard attributes those impressive accomplishments to the high standards set by the faculty of the School of Nursing, which include a focus on innovative practices and student-centered support.

“We built an incredible level of support into our program that I believe retained the students and helped them succeed,” Bussard said.

Dr. Shelly Bussard supervising students in simulation lab in Central Hall.
Dr. Shelly Bussard supervises students in the simulation lab in Central Hall.

The BSN program modeled its approach to student support after the University’s 100% online RN to BSN program and created an environment where faculty and staff are accessible, compassionate and encouraging.

The program also added the unique position of an academic success advisor to offer students support in all aspects of life, not exclusively academically.

The advisor, Pat Hoover, is a retired nurse and educator with a master’s in nursing and was among the first graduates from the BGSU nursing consortium more than five decades ago.

“She wanted to return to BGSU and support the students,” Bussard said. “I think she’s a piece of our puzzle that really sets us apart. She’s not an advisor in that she’ll tell you the next course you need to take, but she is there to offer students any kind of support they need. Students can come to her and feel cared for.”

Nursing students completing coursework on computer in class
The first cohort played a crucial role in helping shape the program through feedback and recommendations. (BGSU photo/Craig Bell)

Shaping the program

As a new program, Bussard said soliciting student feedback has been a top priority.

Students were surveyed after each semester and encouraged to suggest ways for faculty to make improvements going forward.

One of the most significant changes the students inspired was dedicating a faculty member to the nursing skills lab once a week. The lab is open daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. for students to practice various skills. In Spring 2023, a faculty member was assigned to the skills lab once a week.

Bussard said faculty and staff are also working on making the online courses more engaging based on student feedback.

“This program will continue to evolve,” Bussard said. “We value the students’ opinions and suggestions on improving all aspects of our program. We hope the new cohort will continue providing honest feedback that allows us to shape the program to serve them best.”

Kristen Neate
Kristen Neate will begin a nursing residency program in August at Fisher-Titus Medical Center in Norwalk, Ohio.

Nursing residency

The supportive environment and guidance students came to know at BGSU will continue for several students who were accepted into residency programs.

Nursing residency programs provide recent graduates with six months to a year of dedicated supervision before they take their own patients.

The programs traditionally exist at large metropolitan hospitals, but Bussard said similar programs are beginning to emerge at smaller regional hospitals to help with retention.

Kristen Neate ‘23 will begin a year-long residency in August at Fisher-Titus Medical Center in Norwalk, Ohio, where she works as a nurse’s aide.

In the program, Neate will work alongside an experienced nurse and rotate through various units in the hospital. She’ll also take classes and enhance her skills in the simulation lab.

“I’m glad I have the chance to experience so many different areas before choosing one,” Neate said.

While at BGSU, Neate said there was a strong emphasis on learning clinical judgment, and students were provided realistic expectations of the careers they were preparing to enter.

“I learned how to use clinical judgment, why you need it and how to build it,” she said. “I understand how to reflect on what I’m doing, adjust and provide the best patient care possible. This program also gave me such a good idea of the profession and all the opportunities available.”

Alex Johnson admiring his pin at the BSN pinning ceremony
Alex Johnson, admiring his pin at the inaugural BSN pinning ceremony, accepted a conditional job offer at the Cleveland Clinic before graduation. (BGSU photo)

‘Highly prepared’

Fellow nursing graduate Alex Johnson ‘23 was among the many students to accept a conditional job offer before graduation. 

Johnson plans to work in the heart and lung transplant step-down unit at the Cleveland Clinic main campus once he passes his licensure exam.

Johnson said the Cleveland Clinic’s strong reputation in cardiac care  — ranked No. 1 for cardiology and heart surgery by U.S. News and World Report since 1995 — and his interest in cardiovascular and thoracic care drew him to the position.

“I’ve always considered the Cleveland Clinic in a league of its own,” Johnson said. “It’s known worldwide for its heart care, and I loved the atmosphere when I interviewed. I’m looking forward to being part of a world-class hospital.”

Johnson said through the University’s cutting-edge program, he learned the latest evidence-based practice and used the most up-to-date technology and equipment.

“BGSU has supported us immensely in ensuring we’re being taught what’s required of modern nurses,” Johnson said. “I feel highly prepared to enter my career.”

Aside from the clinical knowledge, Johnson said faculty and staff prioritized mental health. 

Bussard said the goal is to help students develop healthy coping strategies in college to carry into their careers.

The relaxation room in Central Hall, home of the School of Nursing, offers a calming environment to provide overwhelmed or anxious students a place to reset.

“We encourage students to take a moment in the room just to breathe and relax,” Bussard said. “They need to prioritize self-care and wellness now, so they have an idea of what works for them as they begin their careers.”

Timothy Ray - a nursing student - at graduation
Timothy Ray celebrates graduating from the BGSU School of Nursing in April.

Making a difference

Timothy Ray ‘23 plans to join his former classmate at the Cleveland Clinic, though the pair will likely work in separate buildings at the sprawling campus in downtown Cleveland.

Ray interned at the Cleveland Clinic main campus the summer before his senior year and considered the experience a defining movement in his journey to becoming a nurse.

“I was very nervous on the first day of my internship, and on my last day, I felt very comfortable in that environment,” Ray said. “I drew on the knowledge I learned at BGSU. I saw many of the disease processes we learned about, and I knew interventions to implement. That first year of nursing school prepared me for that internship.

“I also gained a lot of clinical judgment in those three months, which increased my confidence.”

Ray continued to build confidence and lean on the support of faculty, staff and his classmates throughout the remainder of the nursing program, which he said contributed to his success.  

“The BGSU BSN program is amazing,” he said. “The professors would help whenever I needed it. Our cohort formed a close bond. We were a team and worked together to help each other. We had study groups and would spend hours studying and quizzing each other.”

Ray said he feels well-prepared to begin his full-time career at the Cleveland Clinic. He’s shadowing several units, including neuro intensive care, hematology and oncology to determine which path he'd like to follow.

“We’re all going into a really tough profession, and there will be hard days. But we’ve been prepared really well by BGSU and have the skills to make a difference."

“My long-term goal is to make a difference in healthcare. Even if I can make something slightly better, and if each of the students from my cohort does that as well, collectively, we can make a pretty big change.”

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Media Contact | Michael Bratton | | 419-372-6349

Updated: 06/01/2023 12:36PM