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SDSU RN-BS nursing program advances education for working people

BROOKINGS, S.D. (KELO AM) – Afton Sue Zediker is another example of the importance the registered nurse upward mobility program plays in nursing education and has a prized scholarship to help her pursue a degree.

It’s been 36 years since the College of Nursing at South Dakota State University established the program, which was the first baccalaureate degree completion program in South Dakota.

The highly successful program gives nurses with associate degrees the opportunity to earn their bachelor’s degree while managing family and work responsibilities.

Zediker, a clinical supervisor at Sanford Orthopedic and Sports Medicine, will graduate in May with her bachelor’s degree. She is also pursuing a master’s degree by taking two graduate courses in the upward mobility master’s degree track.

Until 2000, students would either travel to SDSU for classes or nursing faculty would hold a class where a group of students were located. The program then became available online, making it even more convenient for geographically bound nurses to advance their nursing education.

In addition to the bachelor’s degree, the upward mobility program is the only one in the state that also offers master’s degree and doctorate of nursing practice options for the two-year registered nurse. 

“The days of traditional college classes is dwindling,” said Zediker, who earned her associate degree from Dakota Wesleyan in 2005. “The upward mobility program is so practical. The online classes make it possible for me and so many others to continue their education.”

Diana Berkland, chief nursing officer at Sanford Health, said it’s a win-win situation for both students and hospitals.

“The program is essential for registered nurses when they are making the decision to advance themselves professionally and personally,” said Berkland, who earned her bachelor’s degree (1972) and master’s degree (1994) at SDSU. “It’s very convenient, too, because they can go online and do their course work after putting their young children to bed.

“Research data has been done during the last 10 years and it shows that when nurses have more advanced education in the workforce the better it is for patient outcomes. Here at Sanford Health, we always encourage our registered nurses to advance themselves professionally. It’s rewarding for us and for them.”

Zediker and her husband, Jeremiah, have two young daughters. It was Jeremiah, a 2005 SDSU political science graduate, who encouraged his wife to pursue a bachelor’s degree.“He helped me see that there was no time like the present because the kids aren’t in many activities yet,” she said. “So I took the plunge and here I am. I’m making it and honestly my 3-year-old’s favorite saying is, ‘Mommy is a Jackrabbit just like daddy.’ Now I get to be part of the Jackrabbit nation.”

In addition to family support, Zediker was notified in September that she was the Rita H. Walsh $1,000 Scholarship recipient from the South Dakota Nurses Foundation Board of Directors.

“I really surprised that I was chosen to receive the scholarship,” she said. “It’s really a great honor because I’m sure they had many people that deserved it. I plan on putting it toward my courses and books so I don’t have to borrow so much.”

The late Walsh obtained her associate degree in nursing from Presentation College in 1972. While raising her son and working as a staff nurse, she went through the upward mobility program, earning a bachelor’s degree in 1986.

“Rita was a dedicated advocate for patients and nurses,” said Susan Rosen, coordinator of upward mobility. “She promoted clinical excellence and unwavering compassion throughout her career.

“There are many applicants across the state who compete for this scholarship, so we are thrilled that an SDSU student received it because it was started in honor of an SDSU student.”