Mercy Nurses Advance Their Degrees

February 21, 2014

L to R, Gina Farmer, ER Nurse; Patti Doncouse, ER Director;

Karlie Vail, Med-Surg and ICU nurse;

Tonya Kendrick, ER nurse; Hali Beaver, Surgery nurse;

not pictured, Tammy Shue, interdisciplinary clinical coordinator

Six registered nurses from Mercy Hospital Independence, representing a diverse range of hospital services, recently completed an advanced degree program to expand their knowledge base and enhance their care to Mercy patients. And they did it right on the Mercy campus!

In early February, the nurses celebrated their final class in the first-ever “RN to BSN” (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) program offered through Oklahoma Wesleyan University (OKWU) in Bartlesville, Okla. The 18-month program included both online and classroom instruction, which was provided in the classrooms located at Mercy Hospital and routinely utilized by Neosho County Community College nursing students.

Participants in the BSN program were required to have an associate’s degree in nursing in order to enroll. Mercy nurses completing the program were Patti Doncouse, director of the Emergency Department; Tonya Kendrick and Gina Farmer, both Emergency Department nurses; Hali Beaver, Surgery Department nurse; Karlie Vail, medical-surgical unit and intensive care nurse; and Tammy Shue, interdisciplinary clinical coordinator

Lynda Troutman, MSN, adjunct instructor for OKWU and former Mercy Independence co-worker, explained that Mercy actually reached out to OKWU approximately two and half years ago with a request to bring an RN to BSN program to Independence.

“We had a high degree of interest among nurses at Mercy wanting to continue their education,” Troutman said. “But with full-time careers already and family obligations, it would have been a hardship for them to drive to the Bartlesville campus for classes.”

Troutman explained that OKWU received approval from the Kansas Board of Regents for the local program and offered its first class in Independence 2012. The only other RN to BSN program offered by OKWU in Kansas is located in Topeka, she said, and she noted nurses from other area hospitals and long-term care facilities also participated in this inaugural class in Independence.

“Having a program locally removed the obstacle of travel and allowed these fine nurses to achieve their goals of earning advanced degrees,” Troutman said.

For ER Nurse Kendrick, who not only worked full-time but also delivered her second child during the BSN program, having instruction locally was a Godsend.

“Juggling so many responsibilities certainly was a challenge,” Kendrick said. “But tackling it together with my fellow nurses - having that peer support - and being able to attend classes right here at home made it so much easier.”

Pursuing higher degrees has been part of Kendrick’s long-range career plan all along. She actually joined Mercy as a phlebotomist in 2006, and from there, went on to earn an LPN (licensed practical nurse) degree in 2009 and her RN degree in 2010.  She said she was motivated to pursue the BSN program in order to “increase her knowledge and provide a higher level of care” to patients. And she’s not stopping there!

“I plan to continue my schooling to obtain my Master’s in Nursing degree and become a nurse practitioner,” she said.

Troutman said, after the BSN course’s successful debut, OKWU plans to continue offering the program in Independence, and while no date has yet been set for the second offering, preparations are underway.

More information on the RN to BSN program may be obtained by visiting