The University of New Hampshire’s department of nursing has received a #63 ranking for its master's programs from U.S. News and World Report (USNWR). This achievement, from a leading and trusted publication, makes UNH the highest ranked among all master’s nursing programs in northern New England.
“Nurses are perhaps our nation’s most important front line health care workers, and this ranking is a testament to the quality of education our students receive, which sends them into the health care workforce as prepared and highly competent professionals,” says Mike Ferrara, dean of the College of Health and Human Services. “This is a very proud moment, and an achievement well deserved, for our nursing department and our college.”
Health care workforce demand is not a new phenomenon, especially in rural and underserved areas of New Hampshire. And the COVID-19 pandemic has brought increased attention to front line health careers, in particular nursing. Enrollment in graduate nursing at UNH has grown steadily over the past several years, with programs added to address critical needs, such as nurse practitioner programs that focus on adult/gerontology acute care and psychiatric mental health. In addition, UNH’s direct entry masters in nursing (DEMN) program is the first in New Hampshire to offer an accelerated clinical nurse leader track for those without a prior nursing degree.
"The increased interest among students to pursue nursing careers in all these areas comes at a critical time, when they are needed more than ever."
In an effort to continue to address health care workforce demand, UNH and the State of New Hampshire have partnered to undertake a major health sciences initiative, most notably the construction of a high-tech health sciences simulation center featuring state-of-the-art labs that mimic real clinical settings. The center will open this fall and provide advanced clinical education opportunities to students pursuing health care careers, including but not limited to nursing, occupational therapy, communication sciences and disorders, and health sciences.
“Our commitment to interprofessional education was established decades ago, and this new center will deepen UNH’s commitment to shared learning across health and human services disciplines,” says Gene Harkless, associate professor and chair of the department of nursing. “Our aim is to prepare all our students to enter practice as knowledgeable, skilled professionals capable of working effectively in teams and eager to transform health care and human services for the next generation and beyond.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a spotlight on the critical role baccalaureate and higher degree-educated nurses play in all areas of health care, including acute, critical and rehabilitative care, chronic disease management, hospice and palliative care, and population health. “The increased interest among students to pursue nursing careers in all these areas comes at a critical time, when they are needed more than ever,” says Harkless.
UNH’s commitment to providing relevant, advanced nursing education involves a continuous broadening and improving of the curriculum to keep up with developments in the field, including the increased emphasis on interprofessional education and immersive internship experiences at leading hospitals and health systems. The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged many of these developments, but the flexibility demonstrated by UNH as well as the clinical sites that supervise student interns has made it possible for the program to pivot and continue to meet students’ needs.
“UNH faculty and staff have been so open and flexible to help accommodate the many restrictions that COVID-19 has had on the world around us,” says DEMN student Rob Clemente ’21. “The impact to the learning experience was staggering over the past year and there were many times that our expectations were challenged because many things were out of our control. The UNH community has been tremendous in how they have handled the pandemic, including COVID testing, allowing students to continue in-person learning safely.”
U.S. News and World Report has provided education rankings since 1983. It is a leading rankings publication for both undergraduate and graduate programs, providing an independent, comprehensive assessment based on a number of data sets, including retention and graduation rates, social mobility and others.