School of Nursing Seeks Students Statewide for Online R.N./B.S. Completion Program for Spring 2001

01/23/01    Portland, Ore.

Students From Around the State Find Internet Nursing Program a Success

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When Wendy Swain, 28, of Powell Butte, Ore., wants to go to class, she gets in her pajamas and goes to her desk in her upstairs bedroom. Jennifer Graylands, 35, of Seaside, retreats to her desk in the living room when she wants to go to her classes. They both flip on their computers in their own homes whenever it is convenient for them and listen to video lectures, chat on the Internet with other students, or watch a video presentation as part of their studies.

Swain and Graylands are studying online for their bachelor's degrees in nursing at Oregon Health Sciences University's School of Nursing. Swain usually goes to her Internet classes from 8 p.m. to midnight. Graylands usually takes her classes on weekends or when her 9-year-old daughter, Emily, is in school.

They are two of the 12 students currently enrolled in OHSU's School of Nursing's R.N./B.S.-Online program. The school is seeking 20 additional students mostly from Oregon rural areas for its spring, baccalaureate completion program for registered nurses.

Swain did not know much about online computer use before she enrolled in the program last spring, she said. "It's been a great experience. This distance-education program has been really user-friendly. I can go to school at 2 or 4 a.m. It has allowed me to keep my current job. I don't have to commute. I don't have to dress up, and I can stay in my own community," she said. Swain is the administrator/nursing supervisor for the Crook County Health Department in Prineville. She has an associate's degree in nursing, but a requirement of her job is that she earn a bachelor's of science degree in nursing.

Graylands commutes to a Portland-area hospital three days a week to work as a labor and delivery nurse. "I wanted to get my bachelor's of science degree in nursing, and this program has been a penny from heaven for me," she said.

Besides an orientation weekend for incoming students, all of the course work can be done online.

"My job is pretty busy and it's very physical. I'm on my feet a lot. It's nice I can just come home and sit at my computer," Graylands said. She hopes to continue her studies to become a midwife in a

The online program was created to help nurses in rural areas finish their university educations and get their bachelor's degrees, said Catherine Salveson, R.N., Ph.D., director of the OHSU's School of Nursing's statewide R.N./B.S. program. "The Internet has broken down the barriers for rural nurses, whether it's due to geographic distance, their work schedules or family responsibilities. It allows them to study on their own time," she said.

The program, which is in its second year, is part of a five-year grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It will not replace the school's ongoing courses for R.N.s, but rather represents a computer-mediated, fully distance-delivered approach for rural R.N.s.

"Nurses in rural areas are being required to function in ever changing profession roles. As a statewide school of nursing we see it as our responsibility to create ways that allow nurses to obtain the skills they need in an increasingly complex health care environment," Salveson said.

Students admitted into the R.N./B.S.-Online program need to have access to a computer while they are in the program. However, there is grant money available to students for computer hardware and software. Instruction and ongoing support also is provided so that the students can use their computers to communicate with their instructors and each other, order their textbooks, connect with library and Web resources, and turn in assignments -- all the things that a traditional student would do in person on campus.

Admission is open to any Oregon-licensed R.N. seeking a bachelor's degree in Oregon. Preference will be given to those who live in rural areas, which is defined as being at least 75 miles from any of the OHSU School of Nursing campuses in Ashland, Klamath Falls, La Grande or Portland.

"Nurses in rural areas are the backbone of health care delivery in Oregon, and this program is designed to add strength, competence and knowledge to their efforts in caring for all Oregonians," Salveson said.

Like their on-campus counterparts, R.N.s in the R.N./B.S.-Online program will have to complete all the nursing and general education courses OHSU requires for a bachelor's degree in nursing. Program advisers will assist students in identifying required non-nursing courses, such as writing and chemistry, that they can take through local community colleges or by distance-learning from any accredited school. Experience counts in the OHSU program. Students can challenge courses for which they have met the learning goals through prior work and life experience. In addition, R.N.s in the program can tailor their courses to focus on one particular aspect of nursing in which they may be especially interested. For the two clinical courses required in the program, faculty will work with students and health care agencies in their local communities to locate advisers with whom the students can work.

Interested nurses should contact the program by Feb. 15. To apply for the R.N./B.S.-Online program contact Karen Thomas, academic program representative, School of Nursing at 503 494-7725 or e-mail; or visit the Web site at

For questions or more information about the R.N./B.S.-Online program, contact Lorraine Cook, R.N./B.S.-Online project manager, at 541 552-6736, or

Note to editors: Digital photos of Wendy Swain and Jennifer Graylands are available on request. If you are interested in interviewing any of these students, please contact Christine Decker, OHSU News and Publications, 503 494-8231.

These students are currently enrolled and willing to be interviewed in the OHSU R.N./B.S.-Online program:

  • Cynthia Davis, North Bend
  • Robin Ehrhardt, Junction City
  • Lisa Fasanella, Port Orford
  • Carol Fenton, Oakland
  • Jennifer Graylands, Seaside
  • Terrie King, Coquille    
  • Linda Stohlman, Cave Junction
  • Wendy Swain, Powell Butte
  • Shannon Weybright, North Bend
  • Colette Whelan, Bend
  • Teresita Wong, Brookings