Master of Science in nursing to be ASU’s newest graduate program


The Appalachian Online

Nicole Caporaso

A Master of Science in nursing program has been approved for Appalachian State University by the UNC Board of Governors to begin in August with approximately 30 students.

Classes will mainly be offered online, but there will also be one implemented hybrid class in which students can additionally meet in a simulation lab, said Linda Johanson, Interim Chairperson of the Department of Nursing.

“The people who will be taking this curriculum are nurses and most of them will probably be full-time employed, and so it’s a matter of convenience,” Johanson said. “The department completed a survey when planning for the program that asked whether students would prefer face-to-face, hybrid or online courses.”

The overwhelming preference was for an online format.

Fred Whitt, Dean of the College of Health Sciences, said preparing the program has been a process, with the UNC Board of Governors recently approving the Master of Science program during their last meeting.

“First, we obtained approval on campus from the leadership of other colleges and the Provost and Chancellor,” Whitt said. “We began planning for the MSN degree about 2 years ago and were required to submit several documents to the UNC General Administration outlining our plans and justifying the need for the program. Our proposal was circulated among graduate deans and nursing programs at other UNC universities for comments and suggestions.”

Johanson said the curriculum will include three online courses each semester for two years, with the hybrid course occurring in between the first and second year and and an additional summer class after the completion of the second year.

“An online program allows them to earn a graduate degree with no interruption to their jobs, family commitments, etc.,” Whitt said. “Also, we aim to target [registered nurses] for rural areas of western [North Carolina], and an online program provides a greater reach to target populations of prospective students.”

Both Whitt and Johanson agreed there is a shortage of nurse educators within the region. Johanson said there are limited nurse educator programs in the area, and when there are not enough nurses, it is difficult to advance nurses to be educators.

“It meets a need in the area, so if we have a way to educate nurse educators to produce nurse educators then we can increase number of nurses in the area,” Johanson said. “We did a needs assessment before we began the program and this is something that really surfaced as one of the needs with respect to the discipline.”

Johanson said she views the new program as a stepping stone to future possibilities.

“We’re really excited to have it, the nursing education concentration is the first concentration in the MSN degree, and we’re hoping [that] in the future we’ll add other concentrations to that degree,” Johanson said. “Perhaps, for example, in the future we’ll be able to have a nurse practitioner program or another type of concentration besides nurse educator.”

A focus of the university’s, Whitt said, is to increase graduate school enrollment. In beginning a new graduate program, the College of Health Sciences is helping Appalachian address that goal.

“This will be the fifth graduate degree in the College of Health Sciences and will help our college promote interprofessional education,” Whitt said. “This means that our graduate students in our social work, nutrition, exercise science and speech-language pathology programs, as well as the PA students in the Wake Forest program will be better able to learn together about providing good health care in a way that is similar to the interprofessional teams that work together in practice.”

Story: Nicole Caporaso, Senior News Reporter