For Farah Khan, of Visalia, the opportunity to advance her nursing career is more than just a goal. It’s a necessary step to turn her passion for the profession into teaching.

Khan is one of 21 students to enroll in the inaugural South Valley cohort of Fresno State’s RN to BSN program, held at the Fresno State Visalia Campus.

After graduating from the College of the Sequoias nursing program with an associate’s degree in May 2019, Khan passed the National Council Licensure Exam and immediately began working as a registered nurse on the renal/med-surgical floor at Kaweah Delta Hospital in Visalia. After a year working in the field, Khan decided to return to school to complete her bachelor’s degree in nursing.

“Pursuing the bachelor’s of science degree in nursing is a great opportunity to be part of this new South Valley Cohort, but it also gives me the opportunity to attend Fresno State,” Khan said. “At work, I currently mentor nursing students from San Joaquin Valley College and the College of the Sequoias, and I hope to continue helping these new nursing students achieve their goals once I am done with my own education.”

The fall 2020 South Valley cohort  is the first of its kind in the region, which spans the San Joaquin Valley from Tulare to Kings counties. This allows students from nearby community colleges — College of the Sequoias, Porterville College and West Hills-Lemoore — the opportunity to advance their nursing education while remaining local.

The South Valley cohort addresses an issue that has long faced the San Joaquin Valley — a shortage of qualified registered nurses who have a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

“Through this South Valley cohort, we are providing an opportunity for students in the region to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing,” said Dr. Janine Spencer, coordinator of the RN to BSN Program at Fresno State’s School of Nursing. “This enhanced education greatly benefits hospitals and health care agencies in this area, as these students are likely to stay and serve in the South Valley after completing their bachelor’s degree in nursing. This also supports hospitals by enhancing the skills of the current workforce.”

The three-semester program is designed for those who have completed their associate’s degree in nursing and are currently registered nurses. It provides students the opportunity to complete upper division nursing courses that fulfill the bachelor’s of science degree in nursing requirements without having to repeat lower-division nursing coursework.

Courses are online with the exception of one community health clinical. Spencer said the flexibility of the online medium allows students in the cohort the opportunity to balance their career and family responsibilities with their educational goals.

This is just the latest addition to Fresno State’s Visalia Campus — implemented in 2016 to enhance educational opportunities for students residing in Visalia and surrounding South Valley communities.

“The Fresno State Visalia campus is invested in the success of the South Valley cohort and provides support and guidance to students throughout the program,” said Dr. Luz Gonzalez, dean of the Fresno State Visalia campus. “Our goal is to make sure that South Valley graduates of Fresno State’s RN to BSN program further their education by pursuing graduate work in nursing, and stay in our region to make a difference in our communities.”

The inaugural South Valley cohort is made possible by donations from Kaweah Delta Hospital, Valley Children’s Healthcare and College of the Sequoias.

For Khan, this ability to further her education while staying closer to home, is a great benefit.

“I have lived in Visalia for almost 16 years after moving from Karachi, Pakistan with my family,” Khan said. “I’ve enjoyed learning about the nursing profession and teaching it. In the future I may pursue teaching full time, although, for right now, I very much enjoy a career in bedside nursing.”

Applications for the fall 2021 cohort are open now through Nov. 30. Learn more about the RN to BSN program by visiting fresnostate/edu/nursing.