A New Nursing Program at Saint Mary's College

Saint Mary’s College Responds to Nursing Crisis

Earlier this year, the Indiana State Board of Nursing approved the College’s application to offer a direct entry Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), a relatively new pathway with only 62 programs currently being offered in the United States. Saint Mary’s is the first in Indiana to offer such a direct-entry graduate program for nurses, allowing current undergraduates to continue their studies and graduate with an RN-MSN. The program also is a pathway for adults with a baccalaureate degree who wish to enter the nursing profession. The new program will begin in fall 2022 and is designed to be completed in two full years. 

Kelly Burns, director of Graduate Studies at Saint Mary's, said the decision to develop this program was imperative, as there is growing evidence that advanced degrees are where the industry is heading. “The nursing profession is in crisis post pandemic,” Burns said. “Technology and evidence-based practice continue to evolve at increasing speeds. Hospitals not only need nurses, they need advanced nurses who can lead.”

According to Burns, the direct-entry MSN program not only works for current undergraduate nursing students, it also allows others to transition into a career in nursing at an accelerated pace. By accepting students with a prior baccalaureate degree in a discipline other than nursing, they can progress through coursework in six semesters.

“It is significant that we are now able to offer a program leading to initial RN licensure, without having to return to undergraduate coursework,” Burns said, adding the nursing profession is at a critical point in history.

“Technology and evidence-based practice continue to evolve at increasing speeds—and hospitals not only need nurses, they need leaders. Enrolling in Saint Mary’s MSN-RN program means you will start your nursing career with a masters-level education, putting yourself on the path to working in patient-centered care at an advanced level.”

In June 2022, Nursing Schools Almanac named the Saint Mary’s nursing program among the top 5% of nursing programs in the nation and one of the top four nursing schools in Indiana (it’s the top private school program). This recognition of excellence, along with the new multi-million dollar Center for Integrated Healthcare Education (CIHE) facility, has solidified Saint Mary’s as a top-tier nursing program. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), there are only 62 colleges and universities in the country which offer an MSN program in nursing. 

Sue Anderson, PhD, RN, FNP-BC is an associate professor, the Marjorie A. Neuhoff Endowed Chair in Nursing, and the director of the Department of Nursing Science & DNP Program. She stressed the importance of this destination when applying for a job, upon graduation. “When they finish the program, Saint Mary’s graduate students will gain the knowledge and skills to take the NCLEX-RN licensure exam and earn those five letters after their name: MSN, RN.”

Anderson said the U.S. Department of Labor average annual salary for registered nurses, not including bonus pay such as overtime, increased about 4 percent this year to $81,376. That is up from the 3.3 percent increase in average annual nurse wages in all of 2020 and 2.6 percent growth the year before the pandemic. Nurses are the driving force of healthcare in the community and global settings.

At Saint Mary’s, student nurses complete clinical hours in two local hospitals—Memorial Hospital and Saint Joseph Hospital—as well as many sites in the South Bend community including the Center for the Homeless, Hope Ministries, local schools, and more.

“As a science and a profession, nursing needs to continue to grow the number of graduate-prepared individuals to serve as practitioners, teachers, mentors, role models, and researchers to continue to keep up with the ever-changing healthcare environment,” Anderson said.

For decades the Nursing Sciences program at Saint Mary’s was housed in Havican Hall. Generations of graduates can share stories about the facility, lovingly recalling the quaintness of the building, and how they used every square inch of the building to complete their studies. Now inside the CIHE, students are prepared with a much broader set of skills. The first floor and lower level of Regina Hall now contain an impressive 80-seat lecture hall, five simulation labs with three acute care rooms, a birthing room, and pediatric room, new high-fidelity medical mannequins, and an 11-bed nursing skills lab with mid-fidelity mannequins,and more. Thanks to the move to the newly renovated facility, Saint Mary’s can expand its nursing enrollment by more than 30%.

In time, phases two and three of the CIHE development will see the relocation of the remaining health and behavioral sciences programs at Saint Mary’s—Speech Language Pathology, Social Work and Gerontology, and Autism Studies—into the same facility. This interdisciplinary and interprofessional approach will better prepare graduates for careers in healthcare and related human service sectors.

June 15, 2022

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