Bilingual Nursing Fellows Program

Academic Level
Issue Area
Academic Program
Key Personnel
Program Focus
Bilingual /ESL,


South Mountain Community College (SMCC), in partnership with Gateway Community College (GWCC) and Banner Health, Arizona’s largest health services provider, created its Bilingual Nursing Fellows Program (BNFP) in 2002 in response to the medical community’s critical need for bilingual Registered Nurses. BNFP combines an innovative nursing curriculum with a system of support services to allow students to stay in their cohort by taking prerequisite nursing courses and requisite Registered Nurse (RN) courses simultaneously. The sequence of courses allows for the individual student to earn a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) certificate; become eligible as a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN); and then earn licensure as an RN within a two to three-year period. These stages of licensure permit students who cannot immediately move to the next sequence or level to qualify for employment as a CNA or as an LPN in a local hospital. At the completion of all nursing requisites and course sequences, BNFP students graduate with an RN degree in 24 to 32 months.

Program Description

The mission of the Bilingual Nursing Fellows Program (BNFP) is to graduate bilingual nurses to serve Arizona patients who speak only Spanish.


The Maricopa Student Information System (MSIS) registered a 95% persistence rate from the start to the end of the semester for BNFP participants and an 89% rate from the end of the semester to the next semester. When compared to the general student population taking the same classes, the BNFP course completion rate of 95% was considerably higher than the 61% rate for non-BNFP students in English, Math, Biology and Chemistry classes. The first cohort, or “pilot,” of 27 students started classes in spring 2003 and finished in fall 2006. From this cohort, the program graduated 19 RNs, four LPNs and three CNAs. To date, 66 students have earned RN degrees; 133 completed LPN requirements; and 155 finished their CNA programs. By December 2008, 49 RNs and 23 LPNs were expected to graduate. By 2010, BNFP projects a total of 185 Spanish-speaking Registered Nurses and 263 Licensed Practical Nurses. Ninety percent of BNPF graduates, including the 35% of nurses who work for Banner Health in inner city hospitals, work for hospitals serving a large number of Latino patients.