MSU-Meridian proposal for accelerated master’s degree nursing program gains IHL approval

Contact: Allison Matthews

STARKVILLE, Miss.—Mississippi State University gained initial approval for starting its proposed Master of Science in Nursing degree program, the first graduate entry-level licensure program in the state, during today’s [Feb. 16] meeting of the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning.

Board members approved the university’s Phase I proposal to plan the professional Accelerated Master’s Graduate Entry Nursing Program at MSU-Meridian’s Riley Campus. The 12-month, fast-track pathway will be unlike other nursing programs across the state as it prepares college graduates holding non-nursing degrees for initial registered nurse licensure and offers a quality, direct entry route into a new career of nursing practice in hospitals and community settings. A distinct advantage is that this option allows individuals who seek a career change or chose this track later in their educational career to enter a nursing program with federal funding for graduate education.

The state currently faces an intensifying shortage of nurses, which also reflects national trends, and Mississippi State leaders have strongly committed to the implementation of a health science campus to help meet a variety of healthcare professional needs. University leaders praised The Riley Foundation, which is contributing over $6 million to the nursing program and has demonstrated “tremendous commitment” in addressing educational and healthcare needs in the region. This philanthropic support, along with support from major hospitals and health systems in Meridian and surrounding communities, cemented the feasibility of MSU’s proposed accelerated program.

“This program is a game-changing opportunity for our university and the people and communities we serve. MSU is committed to fulfilling unmet needs and helping medically underserved citizens throughout our state,” said MSU President Mark E. Keenum. “This master’s level nursing program is expanding access and options for those interested in pursuing this noble profession, and it is addressing a dire shortage in our state and region. MSU is taking care of what matters by creating a program that will help generations of future nursing students fulfill their calling to care for others and ultimately improve quality of life in communities across Mississippi.”

While having an overall positive impact in addressing the state’s nursing shortage, the program is expected to especially help the East Central Region, where one in four nursing positions in Meridian is vacant. While MSU-Meridian’s accelerated program will be the first in Mississippi, about 75 such programs have been developed nationwide since 1970 to offer a fast-track, quality route to registered nurse licensure for college graduates seeking a new career. A majority of registered nurses enter the field through associate or bachelor’s degree pathways.

MSU-Meridian Head of Campus and Associate Vice President Terry Dale Cruse said the proposed program will graduate up to 60 new registered nurses annually. These graduates will be prepared as generalists in nursing practice with an emphasis on interprofessional and team leadership.

“This program can significantly impact healthcare needs by growing the number of highly educated nurses who can become leaders in this field, teach others as faculty members, and generally increase access to high-quality healthcare,” Cruse said.

He pointed to a 30% decrease in the number of nursing students and graduates over the past three years, which he said emphasizes the need for “novel efforts to grow and develop innovative prelicensure programs that address the extremely low ratio of baccalaureate and higher degree nurses to associate degree nurses in the state.” He noted that only 25% of the area’s nursing workforce has a bachelor’s degree or higher, but this level of education is associated with increased patient satisfaction and outcomes.

Cruse said today’s IHL board vote gives the university approval to move forward with consulting and preparation for curriculum development, faculty hiring and development, and finishing the interprofessional simulated space in the Riley Campus’s Rosenbaum Health Sciences Building, where the university’s Physician Assistant program already is housed and will share certain facilities with the new nursing students.

Specifically, Cruse explained MSU-Meridian’s Stage I Application-Declaration of Intent/Need to establish a new professional nursing program, an entry-level MSN program, in the state has been approved by the IHL Board of Trustees. The approval of Stage I allows MSU-Meridian to plan and develop the program. Once the program has been developed, MSU-Meridian will submit a Stage II Application to IHL, and an onsite visit will take place. Once all requirements for Stage II are met, MSU-Meridian will seek Board approval of the Stage II Application, which is Initial Accreditation, allowing for the admission of students.

Cruse said that if the timeline goes according to plan, the inaugural class of graduate students would be admitted in early 2024 with the first cohort of 36 students beginning their studies in August of that year.

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