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Sauk, Three Other Community Colleges Recognized for Online Nursing Program

December 2010

Sauk Valley Community College has been honored with the 2010 Innovation Award from the Illinois Council of Community NIOIN Award Group PhotoCollege Administrators’ (ICCCA) for its co-development and involvement with the Northern Illinois Online Initiative for Nursing (NIOIN) program. This is the first time in Sauk’s history that it has received this prestigious ICCCA award.

Criteria for the Innovation Award includes program objectives, audience appropriateness, uniqueness, budget feasibility, ability to implement, and sustainability. Sauk shares this award with Rock Valley, Kishwaukee, and Highland Community Colleges.

Receiving the 2010 Innovation Award at the recent Illinois Council of Community College Administrators’ Conference are (photo, left to right): Heather Peters, director of nursing Kishwaukee College; Janet Lynch, dean of health careers, SVCC; Kathy Johnson, NIOIN coordinator retired; Lois Lundgren, assistant dean of health careers, Rock Valley College; and Cassie Mekeel, coordinator of nursing, Highland College.

NIOIN is the first locally-controlled online nursing program in the state (and possibly the nation) that is a cooperative between educational institutions, which makes it unique from other online nursing programs. Sauk and the other schools offer NIOIN in addition to their traditional nursing programs to help combat the nursing shortage by adding well-trained nurses through a partnered hybrid online nursing curriculum. NIOIN is as challenging and demanding - if not more so - as a traditional program and it is not for all nursing majors. Only 10 students are eligible for acceptance from each college and NIOIN applicants must meet additional requirements. Students take all nursing classes online, and complete hands-on skill labs and clinical experiences at their respective colleges and at regional health care facilities. Upon graduation, NIOIN graduates are eligible to take the national nursing exam.

Thirty out of 31 graduates have passed the NCLEX examination, and the program boasts a 28-member NIOIN faculty from all four colleges. NIOIN has received positive feedback from the participating faculty, students, and new employers.

NIOIN’s road to success began in 2005. Nursing leaders from Sauk, Highland, Kishwaukee, and Rock Valley attended a presentation on an online nursing program at an Arizona community college. They felt this region would benefit from such a program but desired more local control and evaluation for quality instruction. Together, they forged a partnership, brought in the Workforce Investment Board, and eight area hospitals partners that included CGH Medical Center, KSB Hospital, Freeport Health Network, Kishwaukee Community Hospital, OSF St. Anthony Medical Center, Rochelle Community Hospital, Rockford Health System, and Swedish American Hospital. Over the next two years, they developed funding, quantitative and qualitative units of measure, a budget, curriculum, support from the state’s nursing act coordinator, scholarships for master’s degree candidates that would teach for NIOIN, in-kind support, a program director, and much more.

The Illinois Board of Higher Education, Illinois Board of Nursing, and each participating college approved NIOIN in 2008. That December, the first 31 students were accepted and began classes in January 2009. All 31 students graduated on time with a 100 percent retention rate. The participating hospitals provided $428,500 for seed money and additional costs, and each college provided labor, marketing, instructional technology, and human resources.

The ICCCA is comprised of administrators from the state’s 48 community colleges and serves the interests of its members and advances the common needs of community colleges.