Just two months into the new academic year at Mary Baldwin’s Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences, the school is welcoming a new group of students — nurses seeking bachelor’s degrees — into the charter class for its new RN-to-BSN program.

MDCHS RN to BSN Charter Class - August 2015

Twenty-seven local nurses are pursing their bachelor of science in nursing at Mary Baldwin’s Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences.

The 27 students enrolled in the new post-licensure program — many from the Shenandoah Valley and Central Virginia — are already employed in a variety of health care settings, including nearby care facilities such as Augusta Health, Sentara Rockingham Memorial Hospital, Western State Hospital, University of Virginia Health System, Washington and Lee University Student Health Center, Retreat Doctors’ Hospital, and Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community.

The online, asynchronous curriculum allows students to complete the bachelor of science in nursing with a high degree of flexibility, something important to Dylan Fix, a busy mother of three who works full time in the labor and delivery department at Augusta Health in Fishersville.

“The online format is very exciting — I can sit down and do my work at 4 a.m., noon, or 10 p.m. — whatever works for that day rather than having to physically leave the house and go to a class,” Fix said.

The launch of the RN-to-BSN program at Murphy Deming was timed perfectly for Fix, who had planned all along to earn her bachelor’s degree, but first wanted to acquire real-world experience. After nine and a half years working in the field and bolstered by tuition reimbursement from Augusta Health, she’s ready.

“I want to obtain a BSN for my own gratification, and I also know that if I plan to change career directions at any time, an applicant with a BSN is going to be more desirable than an associate-degree prepared nurse. There are also nine other co-workers from labor and delivery who are also starting this adventure, so having that support is amazing,” Fix said. “It is exciting to be a part of the charter class for RN to BSN. I think we are already counting down to graduation in May 2017.”

The RN-to-BSN curriculum consists of 34 credits and is initially being offered in a part-time, five-semester track, according to Drew Gogian, program director. “A full-time, three-semester track will also be offered beginning in fall 2016. Completion time will vary based on student preference, as the program allows students to take courses at their own pace as needed.”

"MDCHS RN to BSN Charter Class - August 2015"

New students in the RN-to-BSN program explore the electronic classroom with program director Drew Gogian.

The new students — who are joining first- and second-year physical therapy and occupational therapy classes at Murphy Deming — had a one-day, face-to-face orientation session on August 21, which included multiple sessions by various representatives from student services as well as a comprehensive information technology presentation with initial set up and participatory learning activities. Most importantly, Gogian said, the orientation day provided ample opportunities for socialization.

“Students and faculty had a wonderful lunch together on the back patio, and a charter class picture was taken in front of MDCHS,” she said.

It was an affirming experience for Mallory Utz, a registered nurse at Western State Hospital in Staunton.

“After attending orientation, I am positive I have made the right choice as to where I will receive my bachelor’s,” Utz said. “I am excited to be a part of history in the making and making the new program a success.”