08:45 AM

‘A great day in the STC neighborhood’

STC’s Nursing and Allied Health Division announces the start of its RN-To-BSN program beginning spring 2020.


South Texas College announced the start of its Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree at a special event Nov. 25. Continuing with the selection and enrollment process for BSN students, which began in the fall, administrators with STC’s NAH Campus have announced that its new BSN degree will start with a 30-student cohort this spring.

Filemon Cuellar said he took the scenic route into a medical career by first earning his stripes as a combat medic in the Army.

A high school dropout at the age of 17, Cuellar said he turned to the military after receiving his GED, and then served as an infantryman and combat medic for 11 years.

As an infantryman, Cuellar said he became fascinated with the role of the medics who became responsible for the health and welfare of the soldiers, which would inspire his own career choice to become a licensed vocational nurse after his service.

“Even after 24 mile roll marches he (medic) still cared about our welfare,” Cuellar said. “That’s where my biggest inspiration came from, and I admired him for his selfless service. After three years I reenlisted to be a combat medic as a way to pay him back.”

Years later, Cuellar is now a part of STC’s first cohort of BSN students. On his journey, Cuellar says STC has assisted with his transition to civilian life, and has played a vital role in his medical career.

“I have decided that I wanted to help other people,” he said. “I want to thank STC and all the staff who have helped me get here because I have been STC loyal.”

Cuellar was in attendance as South Texas College announced the start of its Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree at a special event Nov. 25.

VIPs in attendance at the announcement included Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) Vice-chair Dr. Fred Farias III, State Rep. Sergio Munoz Jr., D-Palmview, Hidalgo County Precinct 4 Commissioner Ellie Torres, McAllen ISD trustee and Hidalgo County Precinct 4 External Operations Director Tony Forina, STC Board of Trustees Chairman Paul R. Rodriguez, and board members Dr. Alejo Salinas, and Gary Gurwitz.

STC President Dr. Shirley A. Reed
“South Texas deserves this level of healthcare for our families.” 
STC President Dr. Shirley A. Reed

STC Dean of Nursing and Allied Health (NAH) Dr. Jayson Valerio gave the welcoming address followed by remarks from Chairman Rodriguez and STC President Dr. Shirley A. Reed.

Dr. Christie Candelaria, Program Chair of the Associate Degree Nursing Program and the new BSN program introduced the inaugural cohort of student nurses clad in green scrubs at the announcement.

“I would treat this just like having a family,” Dr. Candelaria said about the start of the BSN program. “We delivered the baby, now we have to take care of it. You have to provide it with all the necessities along with all the love and care so that it can grow and be successful.”

The new cohort of BSN students is comprised of a variety of working professionals, many of whom are former STC graduates.

Among Cuellar’s classmates, include registered nurses and charge nurses from across the region including Knapp Medical Center, Doctor’s Hospital at Renaissance, Universal Health Services Inc., Rio Grande Regional Hospital, and the Hidalgo County Health Department.

Continuing with the selection and enrollment process for BSN students, which began in the fall, administrators with STC’s NAH Campus, have announced that its new BSN degree will start with a 30-student cohort this spring.

Dr. Valerio said the start of the BSN answers a call from the National Academy of Medicine (NAM), formerly known as the Institute of Medicine, which is calling for a significant increase in Bachelor-trained nurses by the next decade.

NAM is recommending at least an 80 percent increase in the number of baccalaureate-prepared nurses in the workforce by 2020.

“This BSN will pave the way for a highly educated nursing workforce which is needed in our community and in our region,” said Dr. Valerio. “It feels so surreal, and I thank Dr. Reed and members of the Board of Trustees for the trust they have placed in us, the Division of Nursing and Allied Health, to initiate this program because this is a huge accomplishment.”

The plan is to start an ADN-RN to BSN transition program. Students who completed the Associate Degree in Nursing and who are licensed Registered Nurses, will now have the opportunity to return to South Texas College to complete the Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

While an ADN program is tasked with instructing students on nursing and technical aspects, the BSN curriculum will be focused more on leadership, critical thinking, management and supervision as well as research and evidence-based courses.

The BSN program will be comprised of classes that will be a hybrid of online and traditional learning. If a student opts to take the full-time track, courses will operate like mini-mesters for each course, spanning about eight weeks or so. Due to the accelerated pace, full-time students will likely complete their BSN within one year of beginning the program while the part-time track will take 18 months to complete.

The faculty of the BSN program will consist of 10 doctorally prepared faculty, with five more slated to receive their degrees by May, for a total of 15 instructors. Their specialties range from Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), and Doctor of Education (EdD).

“The delivery of this program will be a combination of face to face and online learning,” Dr. Candelaria said. “Some of our incoming cohort have fear about the unknown, specifically the fear of navigating the online world so when they learned that this would be a hybrid program; they jumped on it right away.”

STC initially held a media event in 2017 with Valley lawmakers announcing the passage of Texas Senate Bill 2118 during the 85th Legislative Session, which authorized public junior colleges to offer baccalaureate degree programs in the fields of applied science, applied technology, and nursing.

Nearly three years later, the program has been approved by its accrediting agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) for authorization as well as by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and the Texas Board of Nursing to begin the BSN by spring 2020.

With the addition of the BSN degree, STC now offers five baccalaureate degree programs including Technology Management (TMGT) established in 2005, Computer and Information Technologies (CIT) established in 2008, Medical and Health Services Management (MHSSM) established in 2011, and Organizational Leadership-Competency Based (OL) established in 2014.

“We have fought, and we have battled,” Dr. Reed said. “We haven’t drawn blood, but it has been a tough fight with the (Texas) Legislature, and other higher education institutions questioning ‘Should South Texas College offer such a critical degree?’.

A member of the audience robustly answered “yes” to the question by Dr. Reed.

“As part of a very select number of community colleges with the opportunity to offer this baccalaureate degree, we (STC) were front and center, and we have been ready,” Dr. Reed said. “South Texas deserves this level of healthcare for our families.”

For more information about STC’s new Bachelor of Science in Nursing, please visit https://nah.southtexascollege.edu/bsn/index.html or contact Griselda Cuellar at 956-872-3097 for more information.