Published March 3, 2020
An accelerated baccalaureate degree in the School of Nursing has attracted talented, determined students who are switching careers in hopes of following their calling to enter the health field years earlier than more traditional nursing programs.
The full-time, 12-month ABS program is what School of Nursing faculty describe as a curriculum aimed at “highly motivated, career-minded” students who, upon completion, are prepared to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) to become a registered nurse.
The ABS program was approved in 2003, admitted its first students in 2004, and graduated its first class of 12 students in 2005. Since then, the program has gradually increased enrollment to graduate between 50-55 students each year since 2014, including 53 students in 2019.
The ABS students are also given the opportunity to accrue up to seven graduate credit hours, which later may be applied to a graduate program in a nursing specialty area of interest, giving students a head start toward a graduate degree.
The program hopes to attract students who have started or finished their bachelor’s or master’s degree in another area, but who follow their strong commitment to change careers and become nurses.
“Our ABS program is a wonderful opportunity for people in the workforce or graduates from other fields who are interested in pursuing a career in nursing,” says Catherine Mann, assistant dean for undergraduate studies.
“We find that the varied backgrounds of our ABS students often provide different insights into nursing practice that are informed from their previous degrees.
“Many of these students also remain at UB as graduate students in our early assurance program.”
Mann cites the 100% success rate of ABS students in the past two years on the NCLEX-RN licensure examination. This success rate demonstrates how this student group excels, Mann notes.
Lauren Kujawinski, who earned a bachelor’s degree in communication from UB in 2013, says her passion for becoming a nurse led her to change her career and enter the ABS accelerated nursing path. Kujawinski’s ardor to become a nurse reflects the intentions of many in the program, nursing administrators say.
“I decided to become a nurse after I experienced a health scare that required me to spend a significant amount of time under medical supervision,” Kujawinski says.
“I consistently observed nurses go far beyond their daily required duties for my benefit. Gradually, I felt myself become more and more inspired to be a nurse.”
Kujawinski’s mother is also a nurse. She says she gained a greater appreciation for her during her health crisis.
“I found myself wishing I had taken the career path she had in life, which resulted in me changing course and following in my mother’s footsteps,” says Kujawinski.
“There is nothing more meaningful than helping people through their worst days. I cannot imagine a profession with more importance and beauty. I truly believe that it is my calling in life to become a nurse, and I will stop at nothing to make my dream a reality.
“I am unwilling to put my aspirations on hold, as I now understand that our time on earth is precious and not guaranteed.”
After graduating from UB, Kujawinski worked a variety of jobs, including legal assistant, a health consultant and phlebotomist.
“I never felt quite fulfilled,” she says. “The decision to return to UB for nursing involved years of contemplation. Now, for the first time, I feel true excitement over my career aspirations in the field of nursing.”
Her dream is to work as a pediatric nurse, preferably here in the Buffalo area.
“I cannot imagine a more rewarding career than advocating for children who cannot do so for themselves,” she says. “Once I obtain my degree, I want to begin working as a nurse as soon as possible. I plan on working as a nurse until I reach retirement and then volunteer at the local children’s hospital.”
Kujawinski, 28, who will finish the ABS program in May, is pregnant with her second child, expecting to give birth soon. She has been pregnant the entire time she has been in the ABS program.
“Nothing in life is guaranteed,” she says. “So if I wanted to do something, I wanted to do it now and make it count. I meant it when I said I was no longer willing to put that dream of becoming an RN on hold.”
The SON’s accelerated baccalaureate degree program has graduated 618 students as of May 2019.
Clinical rotations for this program includes 700 clinical hours, many of which are offered in innovative Dedicated Education Units (DEU), a model for clinical instruction that provides an optimal teaching/learning environment for students, faculty and clinicians. Students are integrated into a clinical setting that accurately simulates nursing practice.
The ABS program has attracted students of diverse majors and disciplines, including psychology, communication, biological science, biomedical sciences, social work, studio art, sociology, political science, physics, pharmacology and toxicology, occupational science, nuclear medicine technology and neuroscience.
Other ABS students have earned degrees is medicinal chemistry, chemistry, medical technology, media study, management, informatics, history, geography, exercise science, English, electrical engineering, economics, biotechnology, biochemistry, art history, anthropology and nutrition.