Registered nurses in the Hamilton County area can take the fast lane toward getting their Master of Science in Nursing thanks to the new accelerated RN to MSN program at Southern Adventist University’s School of Nursing, officials said.
The new program allows nurses with an associate’s degree to take bachelor’s level courses along with courses on the graduate level. Nurses who want to be adult or family nurse practioners can get their MSN, as can nurses who want to teach at the college level. A combined MSN/MBA degree with Southern’s School of Business is also offered for those interested in nursing management positions.
Southern decided to add the program in the summer of 2002, said Dr. Holly Gadd, coordinator of the graduate Southern’s School of Nursing. The accelerated program will provide new opportunities to nurses seeking new jobs in Hamilton County. “There are nurse practioners jobs available locally,” she said. “There are nurse educator jobs definitely available.”
Both new students without work experience and nurses who return to class after spending time working may be admitted into the accelerated program, Dr. Gadd said. Depending on whether they want to be practioners, educators or in management, those in the accelerated program can have 15 to 20 hours waived that would have been required to take if they got their bachelors degree. However, this does not make the program any less difficult, Dr. Gadd said.
“It’s a very rigorous program,” she said. “We add all the advanced requirements. It requires a very motivated student. It’s not a breeze environment, but it’s not making the student jump through hoops.”
There has been a lot of debate about whether students with little or no work experience should be allowed to achieve nurse practioner status, said Dr. Phil Hunt, Dean of the School of Nursing. Ultimately, Southern’s nursing faculty gave the new nurses that option.
“An inexperienced person can do as well upon graduation as an experienced person,” he said. “Part of the education they get is knowing their own limits.”
Though there accelerated nursing programs throughout the country, Southern’s is the only one in Eest Tennessee, Dr. Hunt said. “The closest one is in Vanderbilt.”
While the jobs as nurse practioners, RNs with advanced education who provide primary medical care to patients are available locally, there is not a shortage, Dr. Gadd said. Hamilton County is not an underserved area,” she said. “Rhea County is an underserved area. You don’t have to go far from here to find one.”
The combined MSN/MBA degree can help nurses move into management positions, but it can also help those already in leadership to gain additional skills. “There are a lot of nurses who come into the MSN/MBA who are in leadership programs,” Dr. Hunt said. “They have the nursing skills, but lack the experience with budgeting, finance and human resources, and they really desire that education.”
The need for nurse educators is almost universal, as only 17 percent of nurses in America have a masters degree, and less than 10 percent have doctorates, Dr. Hunt said. “Even we are short for clinical nursing teachers,” he said. “Our students can go just about anywhere for a teaching job.”
While nurses in management or nurse practitioners can get pay raises through their MSN, a nurse entering education may actually take a pay decrease. “Nursing education has never paid a lot,” Dr. Gadd said. “That’s why there’s a shortage.”
“We don’t work here for the money,” Dr. Hunt said. “We work here because this is where we want to work.”
Eleven new students have entered Southern’s graduate program since the school began the accelerated program this year, said Linda Marlowe, admissions coordinator for the School of Nursing. Usually, the school only takes in one or two new students into its masters program each year. “I think it’s giving new energy to the school,” she said.
And though Southern’s student body is predominantly Seventh-day Adventist, the nursing graduate program at the school is approximately half non-Adventist. This is due to the program the school offers, and also because of its location in Collegedale, Dr. Hunt said. “We’ve seen a lot of people who have ties in the community,” he said. “We see it as a great way to extend the mission of the university.”