MGA's Innovative Nursing Grad Degree Meets Critical Need

Author: Sheron Smith
Posted: Tuesday, May 24, 2016 5:17 PM
Categories: Pressroom | School of Health Sciences

Macon, GA

Russell Dunn knew he’d go for a graduate degree someday.

But he hadn’t put much thought into it since 2011, when he graduated as a charter class member of what is now Middle Georgia State University’s pre-licensure bachelor’s program in Nursing. Between his job at Navicent Health in Macon and helping his wife care for two tots, there wasn’t much time.

“Secretly, I had been waiting on Middle Georgia State,” said Dunn, 27. “That’s what I told myself. ‘When Middle Georgia State gets a graduate program, that’s when I’ll go back.’”

This spring, the University launched the Master of Science in Nursing: Adult/Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner. The program gives RNs with bachelor’s degrees the opportunity to become Nurse Practitioners.

Repeating history, Dunn is a member of the charter class.

“It’s great,” he said. “This program is very important to the faculty and staff in the Nursing department. They are more than willing to put their time and effort into helping you be successful.”

A Nurse Practitioner (NP) is an advanced practice RN. Middle Georgia State’s new graduate program is designed to produce NPs with specialization in the care of specific high-risk populations, such as the elderly. Adult/gerontology acute care Nurse Practitioners work in acute care settings such as hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, nursing homes, physician specialty practices, trauma units, burn units and community healthcare settings.

Graduates will be eligible for national certification in Adult-Gerontology Acute Care advanced practice nursing.

“There’s no question there is a critical need for NPs with this specialization,” said Dr. Rebecca Corvey, dean of the University’s School of Health Sciences. “Middle Georgia State Nursing graduates with baccalaureate degrees have overwhelmingly expressed interest in the availability of an advanced practice degree.”

Among the components that make Middle Georgia State’s degree unique in the University System of Georgia is the emphasis on incorporating systems thinking, quality improvement, cost efficiency, project management, safety and healthcare policy.

“The degree is specifically geared to providing a skillset of leadership that will allow an advanced practice nurse to be able to do more with less,” said Dr. Darrell Thompson, associate dean of the School of Health Sciences. “There are no other programs like this in Middle Georgia State’s service area.”

All coursework in the program is online, but to be eligible for certification each student must accumulate 500 clinical practice hours while mentored by NPs or physicians.

Corvey said Navicent Health (formerly The Medical Center of Central Georgia), Houston Medical Center, Coliseum Medical Center and the Carl Vinson VA Medical Center have committed to extending partnerships for clinical experiences and employment opportunities for Middle Georgia State graduates.

To apply to the degree program, RNs must have bachelor’s degrees and been practicing in the field for at least a year. The program, which takes about two years to complete, can admit at least 15 students each fall. The School of Health Sciences anticipates no difficulties filling slots.

“This degree really will create a more flexible practitioner who can respond to a changing healthcare environment,” Corvey said.

Dunn is still thinking about what direction he’d like to take his career after he finishes the graduate program.

“I have thought about returning to Middle Georgia State as an instructor,” he said. “The end goal would be getting a doctorate. So I might just wait for Middle Georgia State to start a doctoral program.”

Photo: Russell Dunn, a member of the charter class of Middle Georgia State’s pre-licensure bachelor’s degree in Nursing, is now one of the first students in the University's new graduate program. Photo by Jessica Whitley.

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2016 issue of Middle Georgia State Today magazine.