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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Record number of students pursue second-degree pathway into nursing at UA

UA+College+of+Nursing+located+on+Mabel+Street+and+Martin+Avenue+on+Saturday%2C+Jan.+24.+The+College+of+Nursing+continues+to+take+steps+to+addres+Arizonas+nursing+shortage.+%0A%0A
Courtney Helman
UA College of Nursing located on Mabel Street and Martin Avenue on Saturday, Jan. 24. The College of Nursing continues to take steps to addres Arizona’s nursing shortage.

The UA College of Nursing has taken steps to address Arizona’s nursing shortage with record enrollment in its accelerated master’s program for people with university degrees in other fields.

The Master of Science for Entry to the Profession of Nursing program enrolled 113 students last May, increasing from 98 students from the previous year.

RELATED: UA College of Nursing ranks #1 in Arizona

The program which is offered in both Tucson and Phoenix, is 15 months long and the only one of its kind in Arizona.

Wanda J. Larson, clinical assistant professor and MEPN program coordinator, said the nursing shortage is predicted to worsen as nurses are aging out and demands on healthcare are increasing.

“We’re expanding the program as best we can to fill both the work force need as well as the needs of students looking for a great profession,” Larson said.

The number of students applying to the MEPN program also increased this year, from 220 to 260, according to Stephanie Thiltges, senior academic advisor for the College of Nursing.

Thiltges said the MEPN program might be appealing to some students because it is less selective than the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program.

“We have a pretty competitive bachelor’s program here at the UA and a lot of students want to get in,” Thiltges said. “The master’s is an awesome alternative for those who maybe don’t get into that program or who are planning to be a nurse but close to completing a degree in another area.”

Thiltges said the degree focus of the applicant has no bearing on whether they will be selected.

Larson said the program has enrolled students with degrees ranging from neuroscience to fashion design, and many of their students have had long professional careers prior to their entry into the master’s program.

“They just bring so much to the table,” Larson said. “Their maturity, their depth of experience in the workforce as well as their prior profession and how well they can translate a lot of their profession into nursing.”

Larson says students report a variety of reasons for choosing the program, with many of them attracted to the stability of nursing or seeking a more fulfilling career.

Current MEPN student Mayra Alvarez says it was her time volunteering at a nursing home that inspired her to leave her career as a data analyst to pursue nursing.

“It’s more fulfilling,” Alvarez said. “It makes me happier.”

Alvarez, who commutes to the UA from her home in Sierra Vista, Arizona says most MEPN students do not have time for a job due to a tight schedule of classes, labs and outside coursework.

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Larson said the program fits 4 and-a-half-years of nursing training into 15 months and requires students to spend 1,000 hours in different clinical settings.

“Nothing’s cut out of the curriculum, they go double time,” Larson said.

Regent’s Professor at the James E. Rogers College of Law and Special Advisor to the Provost for Diversity and Inclusion Rebecca Tsosie said some students benefit from the compacted nature of the program because it opens up opportunities to a more diverse population of students, such as first-generation students who work to support their families.

Tsosie said it provides them more flexibility because it allows them to pursue a nursing career in an expedited way.

She said she is proud that the UA is training students to serve in diverse communities because their medical needs are profound.

“We just don’t have enough nurses to serve all of those diverse communities in Arizona,” Tsosie said. “It’s very important to have this program.”


Follow Meredith Morrissey on Twitter.


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