Kent State and University Hospitals Awarded $4 Million Grant to Develop an LPN-to-BSN Pathway

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LPN-to-BSN Leadership Team, August 2023
CLEVELAND--Tracey Motter, DNP, RN, associate dean of academics, and Mary Kutchin, Ph.D., APRN-CNS, lecturer, faculty researchers from Kent State University’s College of Nursing, recently received nearly $4 million in grant funding from the Health Resources and Services Administration to develop an LPN-to-BSN pathway called the LPN Education Advancement Program (LEAP).

In partnership with Erin Slay, DNP, MHA, RN, system director of ambulatory nursing, and Holly Ma, DNP, MS, RN, NPD-BC, system director of nursing education and nurse leader center at University Hospitals (UH), this program will provide licensed practical nurses (LPN) at UH the opportunity to increase their skill set by removing barriers that may have prevented them from furthering their education, thus enabling them to provide better quality care and patient outcomes. The mission of LEAP is to build a strong, quality, Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)-prepared nursing workforce in Northeast Ohio.

“Many individuals choose to become an LPN because that’s what they have access to,” Motter explained. “It’s typically a 10-month program, and they can start making a living and have healthcare right away, but that’s not usually where they want to stay. Many planned on continuing their education, but life may have gotten in the way.”

Starting this month, Kent State will admit 36 LPN nurses from UH into the program using holistic admission. This process is not based on GPA alone but rather considers attributes of the whole individual, including life experience. Each applicant will also submit a short essay about how they have overcome a challenge in nursing. 

“This tremendous team of valued caregivers continues to demonstrate their commitment to UH, and we are pleased to be a part of providing a much-needed and requested professional career path educational opportunity for them,” said Michelle Hereford, MSHA, RN, FACHE, UH system chief nurse executive and Ethel Morikis Endowed Chair in Nursing Leadership. “Not only does this program address the need to grow the UH nursing pipeline, but more importantly, it helps our caregivers achieve their educational and career goals.”

Upon acceptance into LEAP, UH will cover tuition waivers for each of the students while grant funds will provide stipends toward living expenses, as well as pay for the students to have one day off each week for the first two years and two days off during the last two years of the program. Additionally, grant funds will be used to hire an academic advisor who will solely support these students and help them navigate any academic challenges that may arise. Grant funds will support LEAP for four years.

“We surveyed the LPNs at University Hospitals to find out if they had a desire to go back to school and what barriers were preventing them,” Kutchin shared. “The top two responses were time and money. We know how busy these students will be in the program, so providing days off to dedicate to schoolwork will set them up for success.”

During the first two years, students will complete their prerequisites and general education requirements, which may be taken at any institution. For the final two years, the students will come together as a cohort at UH for their remaining lectures and will utilize the simulation and skills lab in Henderson Hall on Kent State’s Kent Campus. All clinical rotations will take place at various UH facilities.

“Typically, LPNs complete an LPN program, then earn an associate degree and finally go back to school again to obtain their BSN. On average, it takes six years or more to complete while working full time,” Motter emphasized. “Our program is unique because it is a quicker route to becoming a BSN-prepared nurse. The UH partnership and grant funding take away the LPNs’ barriers of time off, money and tuition. Nearly 50% of our survey respondents were members of underrepresented populations, so this program has the potential to address diversity within the nurse workforce as well.”

Completion of the LEAP program will aid students in improving their socioeconomic status as they will have more opportunities to advance in their career to work with higher acuity patients or be considered for entry-level leadership positions as a BSN-prepared nurse.

“Participation and success in the LEAP program will go far beyond the individual student,” Kutchin stated. “My mother was a single mom, and we were on assistance when she was paid to go to LPN school. Now her three children have master’s degrees. Educational opportunities such as these provide a multigenerational cycle of success strong enough to break down the cycles of poverty.”

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