Impacting the Health Care Crisis through Online Nursing Education
As our nation continues to grapple with the current health care predicament, the College of Nursing at University of Phoenix is doing something about it.
“To improve health care, we must have practitioners with advanced education who can design new models of care,” says Marilyn Klakovich, DNSc, RN, NEA-BC. “The advanced education offered in our nursing programs is really having an effect on the health care crisis. University of Phoenix programs give nurses the leadership and critical thinking skills necessary to have a greater impact on the health care system.”
Online education provides access to higher learning for nurses who would otherwise not be able to return to school. The often unpredictable and round-the-clock schedules of nurses make it difficult to commit to a traditional program. Nurses in rural areas are often excluded from higher education because of the distance, time and expense involved in traveling to a traditional college. “With an online program, these nurses can stay in their communities and continue to serve as they develop their skills.”
Klakovich wasn’t always an advocate for online learning.
“I was very skeptical about online education,” she says. “University of Phoenix was my first experience and after my first class, I was sold.”
The opportunity for in-depth discussion and learning in the online environment is one reason Klakovich prefers teaching online. “In a traditional classroom, when an instructor asks a question the response needs to be immediate. Students don’t have time to think. However, with our asynchronous online model, students have time to think about their response. They can look at the material in a more in-depth manner and internalize it. Or they can do independent research before responding,” she says.
According to Klakovich, who has been teaching at University of Phoenix for 18 years—the last 10 online—the asynchronous online discussion format means nurses can log on when it fits their schedules and continue their discussions well beyond the limited sessions of a traditional setting. In addition, learning teams, which are an integral part of both local-campus and online courses, develop leadership and team skills. “This is especially important for nurses who must interact with people in multiple disciplines to provide patient care,” says Klakovich. And the adult learning model draws on the experience of adult learners. “Nurses have a lot to share—and learn—from each other.”
Many universities have seen a rise in the demand for online education and have begun offering online programs in an effort to address the changing needs. But it’s how University of Phoenix approaches it that makes the difference for Klakovich. “It’s the combination of these three aspects—the asynchronous schedule, the learning teams and the adult learning model—that really creates a valuable learning opportunity for our students.”
Another way University of Phoenix is responding to the current health care climate, is by helping to increase the pool of nurses trained at appropriate levels. “Despite the economy, there’s always a need for nurses. In fact, we need nurses who are educated at a different levels,” says Klakovich. “Currently, there is a large percentage of nurses educated at the associate’s level which is very technical, skill-based training.” However, with one of the largest Colleges of Nursing in the nation, “University of Phoenix is shifting the percentage so we have greater numbers of nurses educated at higher levels—which is necessary to implement change,” says Klakovich.
The University recently introduced a Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing program. “Expanding to that level of education addresses our nation’s need for more doctorally prepared nurse educators and researchers. Through the online modality, we are opening this level of education to nurses who wouldn’t be able to attend a traditional Ph.D. program.”
As one of the most high profile and innovative for-profit universities in the nation, University of Phoenix has at times been the easiest target for critics and antiquated academics to take aim at; to this, Klakovich responds “I invite them to look at some of the projects our students produce.”
In both bachelor’s and master’s degree programs, students identify a problem in their workplace, research solutions and implement them. “Some of the projects have made significant and long-term changes in the health care settings where our students work. Our students are doing things that really make a difference—as opposed to creating academic exercises,” says Klakovich.
As the health care debate continues in Washington, D.C., University of Phoenix faculty and students are finding solutions.
This article originally appeared in The Chronicle of Higher Education.