Insight: Spring 2008

Spring 2008

Northern Exposure: Nursing Initiative Blooms In Skagit

UW Bothell Nursing Program Makes Impact In Mount Vernon

By Cliff Meyer

Falyn Crosby Falyn Crosby
When Jillian Brock and her classmates graduate with a BSN this year, their friends and family might choose to present them with tulips instead of roses.

That's because they are enrolled in the new Northern Counties RN-BSN initiative of the UW Bothell Nursing Program, meeting for classes one day a week in a classroom in the Work Source Skagit office building, Mount Vernon, not far from millions of those famed Skagit County bulbs. The initiative, begun in pilot form in 2006 and formally approved last year, is annually enabling 30 to 35 nurses with associate degrees to complete their UW bachelor's degree in as little as five quarters.

And it's getting rave reviews. Says Brock (BSN '08), "I like the small, personal setting. It's intimidating to go to a big university."

Erin Ocegueda (BSN '08) agrees, and adds, "Everybody is coming from a nursing background. We're all working. We have families. We all understand each other."

Erin Ocegueda Erin Ocegueda

Despite being some 53 driving miles from Bothell, the students are receiving the same high quality of teaching and service. The director of the UW Bothell Nursing Program, Professor Mary Baroni, taught a class in fall 2007, the first official quarter, to show the school's commitment to the community. The other faculty member that quarter was UW Bothell Lecturer in Nursing Elizabeth Madison, a Bellingham resident whose first degree was earned at Skagit Valley College.

Madison's alma mater is providing library access for the students, and Bellingham Technical College, Everett Community College and Whatcom Community College are also key academic partners.

"There has been a strong nursing leadership collaboration," notes Baroni, who points out the schools all saw the critical need for access to a high quality RNBSN program north of the Bothell-Seattle area. "Our community college nursing partners provide a strong clinical foundation for nursing practice and recognize that the associate degree is only the first step toward a successful nursing career," she says, adding that, "nurses who continue on with their education are further equipped to successfully advocate for their patients and address the complexities of the system that go beyond knowing how to practice a particular skill or procedure."

UW is a prestigious program and certainly nationally recognized. We are fortunate to provide this to our staff and we need to continue to develop strong, compassionate leaders in nursing. Jan Iverson Skagit Valley Hospital Chief Nurse Executive

Adds Cynthia Scaringe, chair of the Nursing Department at Skagit Valley College, "If RNs expect to progress to administrative or managerial positions at their clinical facility, a BSN is a requirement."

The students work in varied settings, such as hospice and public health, but about half are at Island Hospital (Anacortes), Providence Everett Medical Center, Skagit Valley Hospital (Mount Vernon), St. Joseph Hospital (Bellingham) or United General Hospital (Sedro-Woolley). The institutions are providing important support, including ensuring that staff have the flexibility to attend the Mondayonly daytime classes.

Skagit Valley Hospital Chief Nurse Executive Jan Iverson says that access to a local RN-BSN program is serving a key need. "Some staff choose to go the online distance learning route; however, I truly believe that having peer-to-peer dialogue is more valuable."

"UW is a prestigious program and certainly nationally recognized," she adds. "We are fortunate to provide this to our staff and we need to continue to develop strong, compassionate leaders in nursing."

UW Bothell plans to continue its work in the region. Chancellor Kenyon Chan says, "The nursing cohort in Mount Vernon is a clear example of our commitment to access to this part of the state and we will continue to explore other ways to better serve the citizens in the northern counties."

Paul Kuntz Paul Kuntz

On a recent sunny but cold Monday, the students sat in their classroom, bubbling over with enthusiasm for the classes in the program, which include "Critical Thinking" and "Social/Cultural Variations in Nursing Practice."

"An associate degree is all about facts and procedures," says Morgan Hendricks (BSN '08). "This degree is making our careers grow in a completely different way."

Of the 33 students, most of whom expect to finish their BSN in August or December 2008, 12 live in Skagit County, nine in Snohomish County, nine in Whatcom, and three in Island County, including Miguel Arteaga (BSN '08).

Arteaga, who works partly in care management and planning, says his coursework has already helped him face the challenges of coordinating health care professionals whose input is needed for a patient to be discharged. "Instead of being the person in the middle, I try to make it a cohesive group and see that the patient's benefit is the main thing," he says.

Miguel Arteaga Miguel Arteaga

Since joining the RN-BSN program, he has new terminology and insights to understand his work and efforts of others. As he says, simply, "Knowledge is everything."

To learn more about the UW Bothell Nursing Program's Northern Counties initiative visit If you'd like to inquire about ways to help sustain and grow this program offering, contact Elizabeth Swanson at 425-352-5295 or


  • Students enrolled in fall 2007: 33
  • Students of color: 7
  • Students by gender: 29 female/4 male
  • Oldest associate degree: 1973 (1 student, Everett Community College)
  • Newest associate degree: 2007 (14 students, various colleges)
  • Driving mileage from Mount Vernon classroom to UW Bothell: 53
  • Driving mileage from Mount Vernon to Canadian border: 50

Did You Know: The Northern Counties Nursing enrollment comprised about 25% of UW Bothell's new fall '07 Nursing Program enrollment?

Mary Baroni Mary Baroni
Morgan Hendricks Morgan Hendricks