RUSH Launches Career Pathway Program for Nurses With Associate Degrees

Partnership with Lewis University will enable nurses to work toward BSN degrees
Associate degree

RUSH has launched a new nursing career pathway program providing job opportunities for nurses with associate degrees in nursing and Illinois RN licensure, along with full tuition reimbursement while they earn their Bachelor of Science in nursing degrees.

“RUSH has a legacy of nursing excellence, which has been underscored by a commitment to the BSN as the standard of entry to practice while also advancing professional opportunity for nurses and the community we serve," says RUSH Chief Nursing Officer Angelique Richard, PhD, RN, CENP.

"This program unites both of those imperatives while also addressing the need to innovate workforce solutions for the post-pandemic world."

RUSH has partnered with Lewis University to provide a hybrid education program — on-site and virtual — for nurses hired into the ADN to BSN RN Pathway Program. Lewis is among the country's top five ADN to BSN programs.

RUSH is starting the program by recruiting a cohort of 110 nurses for positions in inpatient and outpatient areas. The program is accepting both internal and external candidates. “These nurses will be joining what I believe is the best nursing staff in the world — a nursing community that has received five Magnet designations, the highest recognition for excellence in nursing," Richard says.

For the past decade, the medical center hasn't hired nurses without a BSN due to the need to maintain the staff ratio of BSN nurses required for Magnet designation. The new program will enable the medical center to keep meeting that requirement while also increasing its ability to hire the nurses it needs to provide outstanding patient care. At the same time, the ADN to BSN RN Pathway Program will help the nurses hired through the program unlock their greater potential.

'Get the knowledge that you need'

A RUSH nursing leader illustrates that potential. Lisa Phalen, RN-BC, is the current president of the Professional Nursing Staff, which gives nurses a say in how nursing care is provided at the medical center.

Phalen earned a bachelor's degree in biology, intending to be a doctor, but decided to become a nurse instead because “I wanted to be with the patients at the bedside more." Instead of going to medical school, she earned her ADN, which made her eligible for certification as a registered nurse.

After passing the exam for her RN, Phalen began working at RUSH University Medical Center in 2004. “Back then, there weren't a lot of bachelor's degree-prepared nurses," she recalls. “You were getting educated by the people on the unit. Now I tell everyone to get the BSN, get the knowledge that you need."

In 2017, she was one of a group of 16 ADN nurses at the medical center who enrolled in Lewis University's BSN program. “I was afraid of going back to school, but I got to go with a bunch of nurses were all in the same boat, and I actually did better in school as an adult than when I was a kid," she says. “Lewis really wants you to succeed as professionals who have been in the field for so long, and they understand you have a life outside of school."

Phalen, who received her BSN in 2020, found the Lewis program's education in public health particularly valuable. “Public health is a huge piece of nursing. You don't understand how much the community really affects what happens in the hospital," she says. "It really does broaden your knowledge of what nursing is.

“You look at things more globally. You don't get complacent and just do the same thing, just pass medications. You start to think differently. You start to piece together things that you don't think about from the ADN perspective when you just get out as a nurse. You think about where the patient comes from, the community, its effect.

“It's like building blocks. You continue to build those blocks to make you a better professional."

More information

For more information about the program, contact Lauren Zobel at Or visit our careers section to apply for the following positions:

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