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Friday, March 15, 2013

UNCP to offer Master of Science in Nursing degree

The UNC Board of Governors approved on February 8 UNC Pembroke’s proposal to offer a Master of Science in Nursing program. The university’s Department of Nursing expects to enroll its first class of 18-20 students into the new graduate program in the fall 2013.

Barbara Synowiez

Barbara Synowiez

Ken Kitts

Ken Kitts

The program will offer three concentrations: nurse educator, clinical nurse leader and rural case manager.

According to Dr. Barbara Synowiez, chair of UNCP’s Department of Nursing, “There is a national focus on improving patient health outcomes through a continuum of care that requires nursing professionals be educated at the graduate level and can assume roles in teaching, leadership, practice and research.

“There is a national and regional shortage of nurse educators, and this program is a gateway for nursing faculty to assist with meeting the state’s nursing workforce needs,” she said.

Dr. Synowiez explained that the clinical nurse leader and the rural case manager concentrations will focus on quality of care and best nursing practices for rural populations. Those courses of study will also focus on collaboration among health care providers and measurement of health care outcomes across all health care settings. The rural case manager concentration at UNCP will be the only concentration of its type offered by a nursing school in North Carolina.

“It’s difficult to overstate what this means for the citizens of southeastern North Carolina,” said Dr. Ken Kitts, provost and vice chancellor for Academic Affairs.  “The opening of our MSN program will increase the number of educators available to help train nurses at community colleges throughout the region. It will also allow us to graduate nurses who have the specialized training necessary to manage programs and coordinate major outreach efforts that will have a direct impact on our local communities.”

 “Not surprisingly,” Dr. Synowiez said, “we had a remarkable level of support for our application for a MSN program from area hospitals, schools, health departments and others. This is a first for rural, southeastern North Carolina, and our program will focus on rural nursing care and education.”

The Department of Nursing was praised for its work on the graduate program by university administrators, who said the program is an important development for the nursing profession and the region’s health.

“This MSN program is in good hands,” said Dr. Mark Canada, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “Students will have the good fortune to work with strong faculty and state-of-the art equipment in a very organized, sound program.”

UNCP’s new Health Sciences Building will be home to the MSN program. The LEED-certified facility, which features offices, cutting edge classroom environments and interactive labs and clinical sites for UNCP nursing, has room for growth, Dr. Synowiez said.

“We plan to hire five new faculty members over the next four years,” she said. “At the same time, we will grow the enrollment of our four-year licensure (BSN) program to 200 students”—effectively doubling enrollment.

Nurses with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree may apply directly to the university’s MSN program. Registered nurses, with an associate degree in nursing or diploma may also apply, although some prerequisite courses will be required in advance of admission.

A unique feature of UNCP’s program is that RNs in the program may be conferred a BSN degree upon completion of those requirements. No other university in North Carolina offers this option, Dr. Synowiez said.

Applicants should apply to the UNCP School of Graduate Studies. All candidates must take the Graduate Record Examination or Miller Analogies Test and meet the admission requirements of the UNCP School of Graduate Studies and Department of Nursing.

“I have had a surprising number of inquiries, considering we have not advertised the program,” Dr. Synowiez said. “I am confident we will fill up the first class.”

 Nurses with an MSN degree have many career options including teaching in community colleges, staff development, community education and universities, Dr. Synowiez said. They may hold leadership positions in hospitals, health care departments, schools, long-term care facilities and other healthcare companies and non-profits.

“Like the Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree, the MSN opens up many career opportunities,” she said. “Another option is to continue their education at the doctoral level.”

Dr. Synowiez said a committee has been formed to discuss a partnership with East Carolina University’s doctoral programs in nursing and nursing practice.

“Availability to a doctoral program would be beneficial to nursing and nursing education in our rural region,” she said. “We are committed to assuring that a pool of highly qualified nursing professionals will be available to serve the healthcare needs of the citizens of our region.”

For more information about nursing at UNCP, please contact the Department of Nursing at 910.521.6522 or email nursing@uncp.edu.

For information on applying for admission to the Master of Science in Nursing program, contact the Office of Graduate Studies at 910.521.6271 or email grad@uncp.edu.

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