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nursing students in scrubs
From left: Tracy Hernon, Jackalyn Patterson, Ally Bartley, Anna Hester, Kinsley Fitzsimons and Citlally Salgado are some of OSU-Stillwater’s students in the new nursing program.

Critical Care: New on-campus BSN degree will aid state’s health care industry

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Media Contact: Mack Burke | Associate Director of Media Relations | 405-744-5540 |

A much needed and highly sought after degree program is finally coming to Stillwater.

Oklahoma State University’s work to prepare health care professionals and enhance the health of Oklahoma took another step forward with the university welcoming its first class of nursing students to campus this fall. The new Bachelor of Science in Nursing on the flagship campus will help meet Oklahoma’s ongoing and critical shortage of nurses.

According to the Oklahoma Nurses Association, the state is ranked 46th in the U.S. for the number of registered nurses per capita. In 2021, the national average was 1,100 nurses per 100,000 people; in Oklahoma, there were only about 700. In 2021, 35% of the licensed nurses in Oklahoma were at or near retirement age, exacerbating the issue.

“The shortage of qualified health care providers in Oklahoma is only going to intensify without a focused effort to provide pathways of opportunity for aspiring nurses,” said OSU President Kayse Shrum, who started in the medical field as a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine. “As a physician, I learned firsthand the immense value nurses provide in patient care. You cannot run a hospital or clinic without their expertise. Increasing the number of graduates in critical areas is a key tenant of our land-grant mission, and I’m excited about the impact this new program will have, certainly for students, but also for patients and health care entities across the state.”

While OSU-Stillwater has offered an accredited, fully online RN to BSN completion degree since 2017, there has been strong interest from prospective students and health care partners in a four-year, on-campus degree.

“We have traditionally had hundreds of students each year inquire about a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. There’s a real desire to come to OSU, to be part of the nursing profession,” said Dr. Jon Pedersen, College of Education and Human Sciences dean.

Pedersen said he is grateful to Dr. Shrum and Provost Jeanette Mendez for their leadership and support in making the new BSN a reality.

“We feel very fortunate to be able to develop this program and to recruit not only from Oklahoma but surrounding areas. We want to make sure we get it right,” he said.

Dr. Alana Cluck, who is an RN, has served as director for the online RN to BSN completion degree, which has been ranked among the nation’s best online degree programs by

Cluck diligently worked to develop the on-campus, four-year degree. Housed in the School of Community Health Sciences, Counseling and Counseling Psychology — which is part of CEHS — the program is already accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

Once the university announced the program in March, preparations shifted into high gear. Faculty and staff worked for the remainder of the spring and early summer to admit the first class of students to the professional program and hire additional faculty. Visiting assistant professor Dr. Chris Fisher and clinical assistant professor Georgie Stoops have joined Cluck and clinical faculty Amy Birchfield. Renovation plans to create a new, fully equipped simulation lab also moved forward.

Cluck said the program is committed to an exceptional learning experience for students.

“We are ready to prepare leaders to meet the health care needs of individuals, families and communities in complex, challenging environments,” Cluck said. “Our students will have an opportunity to focus on underserved and rural populations as they learn to infuse prevention and total wellness practices in health care systems.”

Students will participate in 600 hours of clinical experience through partnerships with medical facilities such as Stillwater Medical Center, OSU Medical Center in Tulsa and more, gaining hands-on experience with patients in both rural and urban settings. Graduates will be well prepared to meet the dynamic health care needs of individuals, families and communities upon completing the program.

The new bachelor’s degree in nursing adds to a strong collection of health-focused programs in CEHS.

“About one-third of students studying in the College of Education and Human Sciences are pursuing degrees related to nutritional, physical, mental or relational health. With this new BSN, we’re strengthening our work to prepare graduates for high-demand jobs in the growing health care sector,” Pedersen said. “I’m excited about new opportunities to collaborate across degree programs and to expand on our existing partnerships with the health care partners.”

Photos By: Kelly Kerr

Story By: Christy Lang | STATE Magazine

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