Skip to main content

Return To Campus Plan

Lipscomb University's comprehensive plan to return to campus.

Learn More


Now accepting applications for the new Endeavor Program, a unique educational experience designed for you!

Learn More

COVID-19 Update

Lipscomb University Novel Coronavirus COVID-19 update and response.

Learn More

Bison Talk Podcast - A journey through nursing: RN-to-BSN (Season 2, Episode 5)

Kim Chaudoin  0:01  
When you find your passion and pursue it, that's a very satisfying accomplishment. When you're able to instill that passion in others, that's a powerful opportunity. Chelsia Harris, associate professor of nursing and associate executive director of nursing for degree development in Lipscomb University School of Nursing is doing that every day as she inspires and trains those called to pursue nursing to find their passion and to follow it. Welcome to bison talk. I'm Kim Chaudoin and Dr. Harris is joining me today to talk about our passion for nursing and about Lipscomb's new RN to BSN program. Dr. Harris, thanks for joining me today.

Chelsia Harris  0:36  
Thank you. I'm so glad to be here.

Kim Chaudoin  0:38  
So nursing is something you are very passionate about. And we're going to get into a little bit of your journey to nursing in just a few minutes. But first, I'd love to hear your perspective of why nurses are so important to health care and to society as a whole. Why is their role so important to us as individuals and then just as a society?

Chelsia Harris  0:57  
Oh my goodness. So first of all, I believe with all my heart that nursing is one of the greatest professions on the planet. There are over 3.7 million nurses in the United States right now. And so that makes us one of the largest providers of health care among all the other health care providers in the nation. And so, nurses are really, we are individuals that are not only serving people at the bedside, we're not only serving people in the communities, but we're also the liaison between other healthcare professions for the patient or advocates for the patient. There's just so many things that nurses do we wear so many hats, that you can't just really kind of define us and put us in a box. We're pretty much everywhere in healthcare. So

Kim Chaudoin  1:43  
being trained and prepared at the highest level is critical. Lipscomb has a very good School of Nursing and one of the newest programs is the RN to BSN program. Tell me just a little bit about the difference between you know, the various trained nurses like the associate degree trained nurse, the baccalaureate degree trains nurse. And, you know, just think there's a push by the year 2020 for nurses to become BSN trained. So just tell me a little bit about that.

Chelsia Harris  2:12  
Having the back the bachelor's degree in nursing, there's actually research that supports that the nurses educated at the bachelor's level, have improved patient outcomes, lower medication errors, increase patient satisfaction. And a lot of institutions are really looking into that because Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement happens on patient satisfaction, improved patient outcomes, all the things that I just mentioned. And so there's a big push right now from big industries and hospitals and affiliated associates there that are trying to get their nurses to go on and pursue their education, not to mention that lifelong learning and just continuous pursuit of knowledge is going to push you and kind of catapult you into that next level and increase your ability to take care of your patients in an effective and efficient way. So Lipscomb RN to BSN program officially launched this winter, correct. We are actually taking applications right now for our February 2019 cohort. And so we only have 50 available spots for that February cohort. So as applications come in, and qualified applicants are reviewed and accepted, they'll begin taking spots. So if people are interested, we're encouraging them to apply quickly. But a

Kim Chaudoin  3:28  
lot of work has been happening over the last year or so to build the program. So tell me a little bit about that program. What makes it unique, and it's online. And so just tell us what we need to know.

Chelsia Harris  3:38  
Absolutely. So it is an online format and that we wanted to make it accessible because many of these associate prepared RNs actually are out there working. Some are single parents, they're trying to really they want to further their education, but they don't necessarily know how or they don't have the modality and so we wanted to offer them something different, something That would be accessible not only the online piece, but what people don't really realize is between an associate degree and a bachelor's degree in nursing. There are some key components that have to happen. And that's leadership and management and nursing population or community health research and evidence based practice those types of things. But the part that others don't really realize is that most institutions, there's about 30 credit hours in between the associate degree and the bachelor's degree that are more liberal arts based courses. And so what we wanted to do is try to pick out and and find and research some of the things that nurses need at the bedside to really excel. And so instead of having another additional English course or an additional Fine Arts course or history, we have partnered with the College of Professional Studies here on campus, and we're utilizing things like problem solving and conflict management, the ability to maintain one's drive and Energy and avoid burnout and compassion fatigue, which is really crippling healthcare right now, especially our nurses, different things like that are the middle pieces to our program. And the beauty of it is that a nurse can come in, and he or she may have 15-20 years of experience where they've had prior learning. And so rather than requiring them to enroll in 30 credit hours of Liberal Arts, they get to come in during the orientation phase, which is the only two days that they're required to be on campus. And they'll participate and in a team environment and an assessment center where professional faculty assessors are watching their performance both individually and in group and, and just all different kinds of things that they participate in to see do they already possess these particular competencies at a a baccalaureate level, and if they do, they can earn credits up to 27 credit hours for completely free. So that's all $14,000 worth of savings is what that is. And so we believe that not only is that really kind of catapulting them into this ability to be a leader at the bedside and to further their career, but also providing them with a financial opportunity that they might not be able to, to afford otherwise, as well as just giving them credit for what they already know. Then once they, they either have earned all 27 credits, or let's say they earn on average, they earn about 15 to 21 is kind of what the statistics are saying right now. And let's say that they, they really need to beef up on their written communication, and that's one of those courses, they'll enroll in that development course, again, online, one on one with a faculty educator at the masters or doctoral level, who kind of just walk them through that and help them to really solidify that particular skill. And I'm believing with all my heart that these nurses are going to be set apart, and that they're going to be someone that the community and the nation eventually recognizes as nurses that they really want in their institution.

Kim Chaudoin  7:09  
There are a lot of nursing programs out there. What makes Lipscomb program so unique. 

Chelsia Harris  7:14  
There are many programs out there that people could choose from. For an RN to BSN degree, it just is what it is. But one thing that is really something that sets us apart is we will have small cohort sizes. I'm faithful to that the institution is faithful that we're, we're quality over quantity. Yes, we would love to have many people and we will eventually grow and grow and grow. But the goal is to always have the cohort sizes where we won't ever exceed 30 students to every one faculty. This allows for timely feedback, efficient feedback, effective feedback. It also allows for that community, the Lipscomb community that's we we feel and we enjoy every day on campus to bring that to the online and digital world and provide opportunities for those students to engage with our faculty at a level that's much deeper than necessarily just faculty student. And so we not only, I don't like to look at the integration of faith in that piece of it is just what I call slapping a scripture on the top of something and let's just dialogue about it. But truly integrating what it means to walk out your faith in that particular moment, or that part of nursing as well as providing a nourishing environment for the student. And so we have incredible faculty that we've already hired for this program specifically, and they are I mean, I can vouch for them highly educated, highly experienced, phenomenal individuals who love the Lord and who are going to provide this, this environment for the student to really learn and to grow. And so our goal is that we would nourish those students so that then they in turn can go out and nourish their patients and their teams and all the people that they collaborate with. So there's so many things that really set Lipscomb's program apart. But that's one of the things that I don't think that we've touched on yet was what I just mentioned. So

Kim Chaudoin  9:09  
so let's switch gears for a few minutes and talk about your journey to nursing. You have clinical experience that includes practice in medical surgical, acute care, outpatient cardiology, preventive health, primary family practice, and occupational and home health. Prior to joining the Lipscomb faculty, last year, you taught for eight years at the College of the Ozarks in Missouri, and you've spoken throughout the country, you have written books. Tell me a little bit about why you chose nursing as a career.

Chelsia Harris  9:38  
Oh, my goodness, great question. It is a big question, but it's a question that is worthy to be answered. And I think probably I always had a little bit of this heart in me. I feel like God kind of inspired me as a young child. My dad worked on cars for a living and he would get injured or something You would have a little cut or scrape. And I constantly was like, Oh, Daddy, let me let me help you. And I was bandaging in him. But I don't think I actually really thought about nursing per se until I was about 16-17 years old. And I had a Great Aunt Mart was her name. And she was just a phenomenal individual in my life, basically a grandmother figure to me, and she was eighty-four years old when I was completing my senior year of high school. And I would often go over to her home and we would spend hours and hours together and I would help her around the house. And as she continued to age and unfortunately had plenty of debilitation and things that she was facing and her health, I would help to bathe her and I would help to do some of the things that were related to her health care needs. And so, one day she she asked me if I'd ever thought about working with a quote the old people she said, and I kind of laughed and I said, you know I don't know that I've really thought about it that much. But but i think i think that's a good idea. And so we kind of went through this, this dialogue, if you will. And that was kind of the catalyst to really, you know what, maybe maybe I can do this, maybe this is something that I can do. And so I started nursing school when I was 17 years old, entered right into a Bachelor's of Science and nursing program at Arkansas Tech University. Then, shortly after that, I mean, I went straight into practice, practice at the bedside as a medical surgical nurse for a few years, really got my feet wet there and fell in love with nursing of, I've always loved people and had a passion for helping people. And so I think that just really fueled the fire and felt that God was calling me to something more and he wanted me to continue that education. And so I applied to Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, thinking that this little girl from Arkansas I would never get in and could never do that. But God is so much bigger and his plan is so much better than anything we can imagine. And my husband and I, I'll get teary eyed thinking about this. We packed up everything, sold a business. My husband had 35 employees, and he said, What are you waiting for honey? And so we packed it all up in June of 2006. And I did not get my acceptance letter to Vanderbilt until July 2006. So talk about a faith journey. That was a faith journey, and started there. I finished my Masters of Science and Nursing in 2008. got certified as a family nurse practitioner, and thought I was going to go serve rural Arkansas. That was my goal. I'm going to have a clinic, put my sign out front and serve these people whom I love so much, and that was not God's plan either. I did go and work as a nurse practitioner in a small community hospital served over 850 employees in that hospital for a few years, and then got a phone call asking if I'd thought about teaching. And I immediately said, No, I'm not going to happen. And the director of the College of the Ozarks School of Nursing their program, she said, Well, would you mind praying about it? And well, you know, when you start praying about something, again, God's plan is going to come to fruition in his heart man plans, his plans his way but the Lord directs his steps. Correct. So I said, Okay, I'll pray about it. Well, to make a long story short, I started teaching at 26 years old at college of the Ozarks and their BSN program, and I continued to work as a nurse practitioner while I did that to to keep up my clinical practice. So for eight years, I taught RNs in the bachelor's program that they have there and they do have a phenomenal program as well. And I feel like that was just training ground. For me, and God really sharpened me in those moments and loved fell in love with nursing education. 

Kim Chaudoin  14:07  
Tell me how your journey led to Lipscomb

Chelsia Harris  14:10  
I can take absolutely no credit whatsoever. Totally God. My husband is in the entertainment industry. And he actually he has a bluegrass record deal. And he's working on that pursuing that he's he does stand up comedies and marriage ministry. I'm really not sure what he's not into. To be real honest. He's pretty incredible and amazing. But when we were in in Branson, Missouri, where we just most recently lived, he, he just really wasn't kind of finding what he would call where God wanted him. And I noticed that in him and so I started to pray about how can I better serve and honor my husband, and I'm just going to be real honest and transparent with you. I had it made where I was. I loved my job. I loved where I lived. family was all there within a two hour radius, any of my extended family, but really, really felt pressed upon my spirit that that I'm supposed to be seeking out something to honor my husband. And so started looking into to come into this area because this is my husband's world. This is what he loves Nashville, Tennessee is the heart of what he does. And so I started praying about it. And I really had not heard much about Lipscomb University. I'm just being honest. And a friend of mine said, you know, you ought to reach out to Lipscomb and see if there's an opportunity there. And, and so I did and connected with a sweet, sweet lady on campus who picked up the phone, Catherine Terry, and spoke with her for about two hours. And in those moments, I knew that this was exactly where I was supposed to go. I did not apply anywhere else. I did not seek any other opportunities. I just knew that God wanted me here and I wasn't sure How you would get me here. I wasn't sure what that looked like. I wasn't sure what my role would be. But through a series of events, lots of interviews and trips here and visiting with different administrators. I know that this is where I'm supposed to be that this is the season that I'm supposed to be walking in right now. And I can't tell you how excited I am. I know more people at Lipscomb University in the 14 months that I've been here on this campus than I ever knew in the eight years that I was at college of the Ozarks and, and not to say anything that calls you the Ozarks wasn't fantastic, but that's the community. That's the people at Lipscomb, that's the, the family that we have here. I feel like we have great intimate relationships with so many people. It's such a loving place, and I think that everyone that I've met radiates the light of Christ. And that's something that you just don't get everywhere you go.

Kim Chaudoin  16:57  
One of the things that really interests me about your career are your writings. Your publications include topics such as physician assisted suicide, compassion, fatigue, advanced practice nursing and nursing education. And I really, especially that that idea of compassion fatigue, and just the daily spiritual experience among nursing assistants, who are, especially in the long term care setting is something that interests me. You've written a book called Created and Called: A Journey to and Through Nursing. So talk to me a little bit about what led you to write that book and what the focus of that book is.

Chelsia Harris  17:31  
Absolutely. So again, I'll just say that I can take no credit whatsoever for any of the success or accolades in my career, that's To God be the glory always. And the book was a publisher actually asked me to write it. And so I'm not sure if people have told me that just doesn't happen. And so, again, a God thing, but they asked me to just kind of seek out what kind of book I might write based on nursing and my beliefs and how to inspire nurses and maybe those who are seeking the profession as a career. And so it's 23 chapters of my heart, in a book through story and talks about the different qualities that someone who might be seeking nursing would need to possess different things that you might want to focus on in your studies, and how to approach that the opportunities in nursing, some different areas of leadership, things like if you have a patient that you're you're struggling with the care of, because maybe they're they're pushing a few of your buttons or something like that, but oh, no, absolutely not. Those are the those are the things that I think are great challenges, though, that allow God to show up and show out is what I call it. And so just different things like that, and the things that you might go through and nursing that would take a toll on you end of life care and how to separate yourself from I mean, I lost my dad during the writing of the book and finishing my doctorate right before my dissertation defense, all while being pregnant by the way, try those emotions on for size. But trying to help people to realize and recognize that that this profession, it takes it takes a special part of your your soul. And sometimes you give and you give and you give and you give until eventually, if you're not careful, you can give out. And so conceptually, that's what's defined this compassion fatigue, you've you've hypothetically or virtually given until you have nothing left to give. And so, throughout my doctorate and the writing of this book, I was really trying to seek what it would be and what I've done in my career to avoid compassion fatigue. I want to say one statistic before I get into that, that there's been an actual written statistic out there that by 2040 that we're going to have about a 35% gap between supply and demand on nurses and much of that can be attributed to burnout and compassion fatigue. So we have to be very conscientious of that. And that's why we've built a piece of that into our program here at Lipscomb as well. And so going back to, to the compassion fatigue piece in the book, and I've written and published in different professional journals as well, and I've spoken on it many times. And actually, I'm speaking at an international nursing conference that I haven't announced yet, in April of next year on this very topic. But when I was presenting this to my dissertation committee and prepping for this book and things like that, I said, I have a theory. And my theory is that, that we as human beings do not have the capacity to have true agape, unconditional love for another human being, unless it comes from our Heavenly Father. And without that, we will hypothetically give until we have nothing left to give. And so if we're not daily plugged in to the Lord, if we're not daily seeking His love and receiving his love, then how on earth would we be able to give it to others? Now, of course, my dissertation chair goes, Well, that's a great theory, but we got some work to do. So, yes, we have gone. I mean, I've gone through all different kinds of things. Theoretical and research based evidence I've gone and done research in nursing homes with CNA is at the bedside, looking at the level of compassion fatigue, and does daily spiritual experience have any kind of an effect or correlation with that, and really some amazing findings, and I'm continuing to just move forward in that work. As far as the book goes, there's just the one chapter that's specifically geared towards compassion and compassion fatigue, but I'm continuing to daily seek out ways that God wants me to walk that out in this profession, so I also have another book coming out too. My other book, another part of me is a yes. I'm a Nurse, and yes, I love what I do, but I'm also a mommy. And I also want to inspire and invigorate our children to know their worth and their value for the older adult population because that's where my heart is. And so I've written a book called Hannah Visits Nana in the Nursing Home. And it is along the lines of compassion as well. And a sweet nurse walks this little girl through the nursing home, she's on her way to visit her Nana, and she helps her overcome the sights, the sounds, the smells, the things that some kids might be intimidated or maybe even scared of, and ultimately finds out that the nursing homes not such a scary place. And so that will be hopefully coming out and about four or five more weeks. It's gone to print. Life is good. I'm so excited about it. But I'm just I'm just always wanting to help our students and to help other people and nurses and faculty and professionals to keep seeking what it is that God's called you to if he's called you to be a nursing faculty do it with all your heart if if he also wants you to write and he's given you some kind of a passion for something don't stop. Keep seeking His will keep pushing yourself little children to already at a very young age try to see the world in a way that that maybe people haven't shone that light on before and so I already am in the progress of writing my my second sequel to that book and so anyway, I'm just really excited about about nursing about the Lord and what he's doing about our program about Lipscomb just about so many things. One thing that I did not say that I would really love to say and that is this is super important for programming in the nursing world and nurses out there that our program is not only Tennessee Board of Nursing approved, but we are also ACEN nationally accredited so that's huge and I want all the nurses out there to hear that and people to be able to share that but yes, we are nationally accredited and Tennessee Board of Nursing approved. So that sets the the nurse up who enters our program to be able to continue their masters or their doctorate at basically anywhere that they choose to go.

Kim Chaudoin  24:16  
Bison talk is an award winning podcast that takes a deep dive into today's current events and news with some of Lipscomb University's most interesting people, Bison Talk is produced by the Lipscomb University Office of Public Relations and Communications with production assistance from Josh Shaw and the Office of University Marketing. Learn more about Lipscomb university at and learn more about all the news and events at Lipscomb University at