Through its flexible online programs, University of Phoenix has been able to work collaboratively with Kaiser Permanente to understand nurses’ needs, time constraints and desire to ensure that their educational objectives are met.
Cheers and confetti filled the room where hospital staffers celebrated at Kaiser Permanente Irvine Medical Center in Southern California. It was 2017, and the hospital had just received the prestigious Magnet Recognition from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).
The next year, the Anaheim Medical Center also achieved Magnet Recognition, becoming the second of Kaiser Permanente’s 36 California hospitals. This was a momentous accomplishment, as about eight percent of hospitals nationwide have achieved this designation.1 Magnet Recognition is considered the quintessential recognition of quality patient care and innovations in nursing practice for hospitals.
The success story started in 2015, when the Irvine hospital reached out to University of Phoenix (UOPX) to aid in attaining the goal of having 80 percent of its nurses with at least a BSN degree. Since then, the University has helped Kaiser Permanente nurses advance from a two-year degree to a bachelor’s degree. Some nurses continued to earn master’s degrees in nursing and business administration as well.
Martha Dispoto, chief nursing executive at the Anaheim Medical Center, said that strong education alliances with universities have been a critical component of their success.
“The journey to attain Magnet designation involves a variety of moving parts and multiple levels of support throughout the Kaiser Permanente organization,” Dispoto said. “The University has been a key part of that goal, and their continued support will ensure that even after we attained Magnet designation, our nurses and other employees will be able to realize their continued education and career goals.”
Qualifying for Magnet Recognition has many layers, including a requirement that a high percentage of a hospital’s nurses have at least a bachelor’s degree in nursing. That’s where University of Phoenix entered the story. The University created a learning center on the Irvine hospital campus.
Today, a number of employees at Kaiser Permanente’s Southern California’s 15 hospitals are enrolled at UOPX. Many of the courses at the Kaiser Permanente hospitals are online, which makes advancing one’s education a “pretty seamless opportunity,” according to Dr. Kathleen Winston, dean of the University’s College of Nursing.
Winston said that online degree programs provide working adult nurses the opportunity to go to school in the hours each week that work best for them.
“The vast majority of nurses have clear priorities of family, job and school — in that order. They may be working 12-hour shifts, juggling getting the kids to school and soccer practice. They need the flexibility to manage the workload.” Winston said. “We come to them or they choose the online program opportunity.”
Education can be a complex system, she continued. That complexity — as well as a lack of flexibility in programs — can become a barrier for adult students who have families and jobs.
“It’s daunting,” Winston said. “It’s overwhelming. And, sometimes we discover it becomes unmanageable for students.”
Kaiser Permanente recognizes that finding time to go back to school can be hard for nurses who routinely work three to four 12-hour shifts a week. Through its flexible online programs, University of Phoenix has been able to work collaboratively with Kaiser Permanente to understand nurses’ needs, time constraints and desire to ensure that their educational objectives are met.
Collene Bay-Andersen, UOPX vice president, healthcare and academic alliances, Workforce Solutions Group, said Kaiser Permanente employees have an added incentive to pursue higher education: special pricing.
The University offers Kaiser Permanente employees working toward an RN-BSN the ability to take as many courses as they can for a flat rate, which matches the amount that qualifying employees can obtain through the Ben Hudnall Memorial Trust scholarship. A modified TAP benefit was also recently announced that allows for little-to-no out-of-pocket cost or all Kaiser Permanente employees, not just Ben Hudnall recipients.
“These programs are not only helping provide access, they’re helping to provide an opportunity for nurses to go back to school in a program that works for them,” Bay-Andersen said. “Those students can pursue higher education without the added financial stress.”