UNH Launches Graduate Program to Address Nursing Shortage
Master's Program Open to Those With Non-Nursing Bachelor's Degrees
Contact: Sharon Keeler
UNH Media Relations
May 5, 2004
Editors/News Directors: May 6-12 is National Nurses Week. We hope
you will find this UNH story timely and useful. The university
is having a public information
session on this new program May 17, and news coverage will help
encourage interested people to attend. Digital photos are available
to accompany this story. Please call (603) 862-1566 if interested.
DURHAM, N.H. -- Jennifer Thompson, 38,
left behind a lucrative career in pharmaceutical sales to become
a nurse. She is one of
21 students enrolled in the University of New Hampshire's new direct
entry master's in nursing program that is answering the call to
fill the state and national need for more nurses prepared at higher
levels of education.
"When I was working in sales and I would ask myself 'What
did I do today?' I couldn't answer that question in a meaningful
way," said Thompson, of Bedford. "Before I went into
sales I worked as an exercise physiologist with cardiac patients,
and I enjoyed the relationship I had with people. I wanted to get
back to that, and I wanted to play a more direct role in patient
Like her classmates, Thompson's undergraduate degree is not in
nursing. Many come from the corporate world, some from related
fields like biotechnology, and one is even a geologist. These are
exactly the students UNH is seeking for its program - those who
have bachelor's degrees in other disciplines, but who want to enter
the nursing profession and earn an advanced degree without having
to complete an additional bachelor's degree.
UNH's direct entry master's in nursing program is unique in New
Hampshire, and joins a growing trend of similar programs across
the nation. Accelerated programs in nursing have shown a significant
increase in the last 10 years in response to both the need for
nurses and the interest in nursing as a result of the downturn
in the economy.
The two-and a-half year, full-time program prepares students
to take the Nursing Licensure Exam (NCLEX) after the first year
of courses, become a Registered Nurse, and graduate with a master's
degree in the clinical nursing leadership program. The master's
of science in clinical nursing leadership program focuses on the
development of nurses at the advanced clinician level.
"This innovative course of study develops expert nursing
practice, promotes interdisciplinary collaboration, and fosters
life-long learning skills," says Dorothy Rentschler, UNH associate
professor of nursing and program director. "All students develop
strong clinical decision-making and practice skills. The graduates
of this program will be equipped to assume leadership positions
in nursing service units, contribute to clinical nursing education,
and function as expert clinicians in direct care roles."
The UNH program will increase the number of master's prepared
nurses at patients' bedsides which, according to a recent study
by Dr. Linda Aiken and colleagues, published in the Journal of
American Medical Association (JAMA), leads to better patient outcomes
and more cost effective care. In addition, the American Association
of Colleges of Nursing states, "Graduates of accelerated programs
are prized by nurse employers who value the many layers of skill
and education these graduates bring to the workplace."
The association also reports that agencies are partnering with
schools of nursing and offering scholarships to students as a means
for recruiting highly qualified nurses. Thompson and several of
her classmates have received $5,000 scholarships from the Foundation
for Healthy Communities in Concord in exchange for a commitment
to teach nursing courses within Registered Nurse programs in New
Hampshire following their graduation.
The Foundation for Healthy Communities is a nonprofit corporation
that exists to improve health and health care, and includes New
Hampshire hospitals, health plans, clinicians, home care agencies
and public policy leaders.
The need for nurses with master's and doctoral degrees to fill
faculty positions is also critical, as more students are applying
to nursing programs, but not enough teachers are available to meet
Students in the UNH program spend Tuesdays and Wednesdays in
the classroom under the guidance of university faculty, and Thursdays
and Fridays in clinical settings throughout the state. The hospitals
currently being used include Elliot Hospital in Manchester, Catholic
Medical Center in Manchester, Portsmouth Regional Hospital, and
Southern New Hampshire Medical Center in Nashua. The students will
participate in a variety of clinical experiences at various clinical
Student Steve Abbott, 44, of Dover says coming back to school
full-time presents its personal challenges, as he and many of his
classmates are juggling families with studies. Even so, he says, "I'm
amazed how quickly I could get back into the swing of school. The
insecurity of finances kept me from doing it sooner, but it's manageable.
I'm very pleased with my decision. It feels like the right thing."
Thompson agrees, and says even her nursing training has provided
her with the personal fulfillment she didn't feel in her previous
profession. She says she will never forget her first patient -
an elderly man she cared for through surgery and then again during
a home visit after discharge.
"I know I made a difference in his life," Thompson
says. "I know I made the right decision to become a nurse."
UNH's Department of Nursing is one of the oldest and largest
departments within the School of Health and Human Services. As
the only four-year public nursing program in New Hampshire, the
department is committed to providing leadership in nursing education
and practice in the state and region.
The department is fully accredited by the Commission on Collegiate
Nursing Education. In addition to the baccalaureate programs the
university offers a nursing master's degree with programs leading
to family and adult nurse practitioners as well as clinical nursing
UNH will hold an information session for those interested in
learning more about the direct entry master's in nursing program.
It will take place May 17 from 5 to 7 p.m. in Hewitt Hall on the
Durham campus. For room location or additional information, contact
Patty Jarema at (603) 862-2395 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
or visit www.unh.edu/nursing.