Kentucky Nursing Career Pathway
SREB worked with educators and employers to create a seamless pipeline from high school to high-demand health careers

Beginning the Bachelor of Science in Nursing in High School - Report Cover

Beginning the Bachelor of Science in Nursing in High School: How Kentucky Created a 120-Credit Hour Nursing Career Pathway describes how SREB spent a year working with a coalition of Kentucky educators and health-care employers to develop a seamless sequence of courses and credentials that help students transition from high school to community and technical college programs, the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and employment as nursing assistants, licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and registered nurses (RNs).

Selected Kentucky high schools will pilot the pathway beginning in August 2017. Participating students can earn between 26 and 51 credit hours in high school from Jefferson Community and Technical College, which will offer the program’s first 90 hours. Students will earn the last 30 hours from Spalding University’s online RN to BSN program.

The new nursing pathway promises to shorten students’ time to a BSN degree. As the report notes, a Kentucky high school student who follows the state’s older pre-nursing curriculum might earn up to 168 credits in pursuit of the BSN: 48 credits in excess of a typical 120-credit hour BSN program.

Origins of the Pathway

Kentucky’s new nursing pathway grew out of a fall 2015 meeting at which SREB convened state policymakers, business leaders and education leaders around the shared goal of building career pathways leading from high school to rewarding jobs in high-growth industries.

“This pathway is a strong example of how community and technical colleges and high schools can come together to prepare students with the knowledge, skills and credentials the health-care industry values,” said SREB’s Tim Shaughnessy, who worked with Kentucky’s partners to build the pathway. “All of the pathway’s components already existed. Our goal at SREB was to find the time, resources and commitment to bring its partners together.”

Pathway Partners

Pathway partners included SREB, the Kentucky Department of Education, the Health Careers Collaborative of Greater Louisville, JCTC, the Kentucky Community & Technical College System, the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet, and Spalding University.

Partners agreed that a key goal was to make the pathway effective, affordable and sustainable.

“Employers and educators worked together to strengthen an existing pathway and provide enhanced dual credit and work-based learning opportunities,” said Laura Arnold, KDE’s Associate Commissioner of Career and Technical Education. “This nursing pathway is just one of many steps the state is taking to create a stronger career preparation system and a talented workforce.”

Related Events

The High Schools That Work Staff Development Conference July 12-15, 2017, at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville will feature a special session — “Kentucky’s Nursing Career Pathway” led by Shaughnessy, who will share lessons learned and show attendees how to develop similar pathways.

SREB’s Council on College Education for Nursing held a webinar on Kentucky’s nursing pathway in February 2017. Archived at this link — Nursing Pathways from High School to Baccalaureate the webinar featured Shaughnessy; Joan Lord, SREB’s Vice President of Education Policy; and Tara Hulsey, CCEN Executive Director and Dean of the School of Nursing, West Virginia University.

Beginning the Bachelor of Science in Nursing in High School also highlights instructional strategies for career pathways and offers actions states can take to support pathways in nursing, health care and other high-demand fields. In particular, states should consider carefully whether performance-based funding systems, dual credit and credit transfer policies, state scholarships and teacher credentialing policies support  pathway models like Kentucky’s 120-credit hour nursing pathway.

To learn more and work with SREB to create seamless career pathways in nursing, health science and other fields, contact Tim Shaughnessy at