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Wednesday, October 13, 2004

UNCP wins approval to start a 4-year nursing program

The nursing profession and health care delivery in the Southeastern North Carolina just got a shot in the arm.

Chancellor Allen C. Meadors

Chancellor Allen C. Meadors

Peggy Opitz

Peggy Opitz

UNC Pembroke’s planned four-year, pre-licensure Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program was granted initial approval from the North Carolina Board of Nursing in late September. Earlier in September, the UNC Board of Governors gave its approval to launch the program.

Approximately 50 students will be admitted for the 2005 spring semester and a total of 200 students will be admitted by 2007. It is good news for UNCP and health care in the region, said Chancellor Allen C. Meadors.

“UNCP’s Nursing Program will assist our region by graduating top quality nurses,” Chancellor Meadors said. “The nursing field is a noble, caring profession, and it is critical to help resolve the increasing nursing shortage in our region.”

The new program will be located in Lumberton, N.C., at Southeastern Regional Medical Center’s (SRMC) Corporate Services Building. About 7,000 square feet of the building, located next to the hospital, will be renovated as clinical settings, classrooms, computer labs and offices.

SRMC will serve as the classroom and clinical site for students. Chief Executive Officer and President Luckey Welsh said UNCP’s new nursing program is good news.

“We at SRMC are excited about the approval of the UNCP four-year nursing program,” Welsh said. “We appreciate the vision of Chancellor Meadors and the work by Dr. Peggy Opitz (UNCP’s Nursing Program chair), whose planning gained approval for the program.”

“Our citizens will benefit for years to come because of these collaborative efforts,” he said.

Dr. Opitz praised SRMC for their collaboration on the program.

“What makes this so impressive is that local people got together to solve local problems,” Dr. Opitz said. “We’ll be producing badly needed nurses for the workforce. It’s absolutely wonderful.”

Typically, students will be admitted to the BSN program after two years at the University and Registered Nursing (RN) licensure examinations will be taken upon graduation.

The first class enrolled in January will have successfully completed core courses, mainly in the sciences, and some may already have bachelor’s degrees, Dr. Opitz said.

“At first, we thought we would admit 40 candidates, but we have so many quality applicants that we will probably go with 50 students,” Dr. Opitz said. “There has been significant interest in this program.”

Four new faculty members will be added to the nursing staff by the spring semester. UNCP has already created a pre-nursing advising program for undergraduates who wish to enter the program.

The four-year BSN is not UNCP’s first endeavor in nursing education. It has operated an RN-to-BSN program as a consortium program with Fayetteville State University since 1992, and Dr. Opitz directed that program for eight years.

“Our nursing program has delivered great returns for this University and for nursing in the region,” Dr. Opitz said. “We have graduated over 160 BSNs and 30 have gone on to get their master’s degrees.”

“In fact, we hired two of our graduates – Surrie McNeill and Cindy Herndon – as new faculty,” she said. “The University has been very supportive of this program in every way.”

“We have an outstanding faculty and strong administrative support,” she said. “This is a proven program with a track record of turning out high quality nurses.”

When UNCP asked the Board of Nursing for 100 slots in the new program, 200 were granted, Dr. Opitz said. Gail Davis, SRMC Vice President of Patient Care Services, said the nurses are needed in the region.

“The UNCP nursing program will put 200 additional nurses in the pipeline, which will be a great resource for the hospital, WoodHaven, Gibson Cancer Center and the health department,” Davis said. “The timing of this program is perfect since we will be opening our heart center in early 2006.

“Here at SRMC, we can expect a decrease in the vacancy and turnover rates,” she said. “We can also expect that these new nursing grads will improve the quality of patient care in our county.”

Educating nurses for leadership and management roles is the mission of the BSN program. Helping to solve the nursing shortage is another key goal.

An American Hospital Association study found a nationwide shortage of 126,000 nurses in 2001, and projects a shortfall of 808,000 by 2020. Nursing shortages in rural communities are highest.

Final review of the program by the Board of Nursing occurs when the first class graduates in 2007.

UNCP’s RN-to-BSN program operates sites at Sandhills Community College in Southern Pines, N.C. and Southeastern Community College in Whiteville, N.C. The program offers evening and online classes for RNs who are seeking to enhance their professional training and careers.

For information about nursing programs at UNCP, please call 910.521.6522.

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