New collaboration to create workforce of better prepared nurses


The University of Akron, Stark State College and Summa Health System are coming together to educate and train licensed practical nurses (LPNs) to become registered nurses (RNs) through a dual-degree, cost-effective and accelerated LPN to BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) program. The collaboration was created as a result of the growing complexity of patients in critical care units and the need to have more RNs at the bedside.

The accelerated program, the first of its kind in the area, commences fall semester with a cohort of 33 LPNs who are employed full-time at Summa. Within a two-and-a-half-year period, unlike the traditional four-year period at other LPN to BSN programs, nurses will earn an associate degree (ADN) at Stark State College and a BSN at The University of Akron. The ADN degree will take 18 months to complete, and the BSN one year to complete over fall, spring and summer semesters.

As part of the shared curriculum, students will complete their BSN work at UA.

The scope of practice, capabilities and level of training among LPNs and RNs are different, as defined by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. For example, LPNs cannot perform patient assessments or develop a patient's plan of care. Although LPNs are employed in many areas at Summa, they will no longer work in the intensive care or telemetry units at Summa Akron City Hospital.

Career advancement

"In addition to moving to an all RN staff in our critical care units, we are also focused on having our bedside RNs be BSN-prepared at a minimum," said Lanie Ward, senior vice president of Patient Care Services and Chief Nursing Officer at Summa Health System. “We support the Institute of Medicine/Future of Nursing report that recommends 80 percent of bedside RNs be BSN-prepared by 2020. That's why we worked to reach an easy and effective solution to keep our LPNs local and support their individual growth to become BSN nurses. This collaborative training program will allow LPNs to advance their education so that they can continue serving and caring for our patients well into the future."

A robust and thorough 128-credit hour curriculum includes flexible class schedules to allow LPNs to continue working full-time while enrolled in the program. Additionally, students will undergo accelerated testing, several rotations in topics such as leadership, research and diversity; and advanced training on how to better care for complex patients, including those who require palliative and older adult care.

Relevant curriculum meets patients' needs

"The shared curriculum model between the two colleges to be used in our LPN to BSN program is relevant, yet realistic, and will produce competent, qualified practitioners who will be able to meet the community's needs," said Dr. Elaine Fisher, University of Akron School of Nursing interim director and professor of nursing. 

Once LPNs finish their degrees, they will return to their units within Summa as RNs, or they may apply to transfer to another unit within the hospital system, if desired.

Judy Stauder, Summa Program coordinator for Stark State, sees this program as a very positive step toward helping nurses achieve higher levels of education. "This fast-paced, intense program provides the same quality curriculum as the traditional program and is designed for seamless transition from LPN to ADN to RN to BSN, allowing students to accomplish their goals more quickly.

Additionally, all LPNs in the cohort will receive partial tuition reimbursement, and several others have been granted full scholarships. LPNs will be students in the program from August 2013 until December 2015.

Media contacts: Sarah Lane, The University of Akron, 330-972-7429 or; Irene Lewis Motts, Stark State College, 330-494-6170, ext. 4275 or; or Erica Rosenthal, Summa Health System, 234-312-5033 or