I am a 2005 graduate of the WSSU Accelerated Program and have been working at Baptist for two months. We are the third accelerated class to graduate from WSSU. Prior to our class graduating, there were approximately 35 previous graduates at Baptist. We are under a bit of a spotlight there since we are from a new program and we are all working there.
At the orientation for the program in late 2003, we were told that we would have no life during the program and as the dean stated "we will own you for the next thirteen months". This was exactly the way it was. A typical week had at least 3 days of 5+ hour lectures and clinicals were often 12+ hr/days at least twice a week. Per course, our clinical hours generally exceeded the state requirements by 20% or more. Add to this a huge amount of reading, often on additional material not covered in lecture; papers, projects, and more extensive care plans
requirements than I have seen from friends in other BSN or ADN programs. There are few accepted excuses from class and almost none from clinical. Illness or childcare is not even considered.
I think it is important to note that the accellerated program is quite separate from the "traditional" BSN program there. My impression was that the traditional program was more organized and had more consistent faculty.
No entry nursing program makes one an expert, it just creates a foundation the way for a long path of learning. However, the question of how prepared we are as new nurses is an obvious one and has been a concern of mine. During my interviews for a position at Baptist, I had the opportunity to ask this question to a few unit managers. I have repeatedly heard that the WSSU accelerated graduates have shown to be as prepared or more prepared than the "normal" BSN graduate. From a personal standpoint, a relative was recently in a Baptist ICU post surgery. Her first two nurses were previous accelerated graduates and they appeared very competent.
Just this week an instructor from a local ADN program told me she was hearing very positive comments in the hospital about the WSSU accelerated graduates. An intangible but important point is that most of the graduates of this program have had extensive career experience, often with more earning potential than nursing. While our past experience was seen as a detriment not to be mentioned during the program, in the working world it will help us be better employees and better future leaders.
As for the negatives... from the start of our program it was amazing how disorganized it was. Our initial books arrived two weeks after the start of a four week class; throughout the year instructors were recruited at the VERY last minute to teach lecture or clinical; a lecture pace so fast and classes so long that classmates would get mad at each other for asking questions; an administration rooted in the philosophy that students are blank slates and have nothing to offer, especially those that had previous experience. I loved my first college experience 20 years ago and maintain faculty relationships to this day. Thus I started the accelerated program naively excited to be back in an academic environment. I learned some basic history of the university. I even bought a T-shirt. However, there was no time or effort made to integrate the program with the university. My departing feelings of WSSU are mainly relief that the stress and frustration is over.
The administrative atmosphere was very much one of intimidation and belittlement ( I do not say this lightly). Our class was an adult group with the average age well over 30. Throughout the year it was emphasized how nursing was "totally different" and our past work experiences "meant nothing". In a meeting late last year with the dean and program director, a classmate brought up a clinical instructor that was quite rude and disrespectful to students (we generally had very good instructors). In response, we were told how brutal the nursing working environment would be and we had no room to complain. We were told that we could expect our co-workers and managers to be fifty times worse than any clinical instructor. I found the negative statements about nursing to be bizarre and indicative of their opinion of nurses.
Luckily, I can say our instructors did not share this view. The WSSU faculty were generally good, well prepared and in one case, extraordinary. The only truly bad instructor we had was part time and as I understand, will not be teaching there in the future. I hope the coming change in administration is overdue and hopefully will create a more enlightened and pleasant environment for the faculty.
To sum up, I feel prepared to start nursing, but know I have learned just a small part of what I will need. The accelerated program was the most stressful period of my life and I would tell anyone considering it to expect no less. I say this coming from a former career where I dealt face to face with very stressful manufacturing situations all over the country and internationally, usually by myself.
The WSSU accelerated program was unnecessarily disorganized, but ultimately not lacking in clinical or classroom content. It is not a program to be in if your goal is to enjoy learning, but it was effective. Out of the forty in the class, only one did not pass the NCLEX on first sitting. I would do it again, but I would keep my head much lower, not question, don't offer as much help, and try to be as anonymous as possible. Ironically, this was the good advice given to a group of us early on by a few finishing students in the first class.
The "real world" of nursing has been far more pleasant and less stressful than the accelerated program was. In my short time as a working RN I have found the management and RNs I have worked with quite helpful and encouraging. I soon will be going "on my own" without a preceptor and while I have much trepidation I know I will have support if I need it.