University of Providence BSN Students Experience Excellence in Rural Clinical Nursing Education

May 02, 2019

This May, the University of Providence is celebrating 10 years of the RN to BSN education program, with over 800 PSJH caregivers having completed a BSN degree in this nationally-accredited program. To increase this number, the University recently developed a new accelerated BSN pilot program that places students in Lewistown, Montana.

The first cohort of 20 pre-licensure BSN students started the Lewistown program in January during a challenging winter weather season. Located about 100 miles from the main University of Providence campus in Great Falls, Montana, the rural community of Lewistown has a population of approximately 6,000.  About half of the students in this new BSN program are from the Lewistown area and four students are PSJH caregivers. These students are on a journey to complete 54 nursing credits in eighteen, 8-week courses spread over 3 semesters, or 12 months. This program is truly an innovative, hybrid approach to learning, as didactic portions of the courses are completed online and hands-on experiences are completed in Lewistown.

The community of Lewistown is home to an award-winning critical access hospital, Central Montana Medical Center, where students provide patient care under the guidance of University faculty. Although not placed at a traditional, large medical center, these students have a unique opportunity to be deeply immersed in clinical learning at this small teaching hospital. For example, the hospital staff does not hesitate to include students in providing care to patients by including them in surgical procedures, ensuring time in the lab to view a damaged cell, or accompanying a pre-term labor mom and neonate as they prepare to transfer to a larger medical center. These students receive a broad range of experience since this critical access hospital serves over a 100-mile radius and the nurse generalists must be equipped to handle any and all situations that might arise. Students also have time to practice skills in the Simulation Lab, prepared with the help of PSJH Clinical Nursing Academy Simulation Specialist Rachelle Reid, where there is a full family of manikins available for running real-life scenarios.

To date, the Lewistown students and professors report that this has been an excellent learning experience in which beginner-level students are learning the role of the nurse generalist. In addition, these students have been welcomed as members of the Lewistown community and frequently share stories of community members greeting and recognizing them when seen around town.

For more information about the University of Providence Nursing programs, please contact or 406-791-5258 or visit the UP School of Health Professions, website at:

Submitted by Cynthia Gustafson, PhD, RN, Division Chair for Nursing, University of Providence. Contact info: or 406-465-1352.