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Nursing Program Angling for Advanced Degree

THIBODAUX La. – Nicholls State University is one step closer to offering a master’s degree program for nurses.

The University of Louisiana system gave the school permission to join the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and McNeese and Southeastern Universities in the Intercollegiate Masters of Science and Nursing, a consortium of schools that collaborate to provide nurses with specialized advanced degrees.

“This is just one step in a very lengthy and complicated process,” Nursing School Dean Sue Westbrook said. “But right now we don’t foresee any problems, and we’re really excited about getting started.”

Nurses who pursue a master’s through the program take a series of online courses while taking practical tests in real life. Students pick home schools through which most of their work is administered, but the schools collaborate so that students can take advantage of professors and resources on another campus.

“Different schools have faculty who are more specialized in different things, and this lets students take advantage of that expertise in training,” says a description of the program on the ULL website.

Students can choose to specialize as family nurse practitioners, psychiatric mental health practitioners or nurse executives.

A fourth option, nurse educator, is in development.

“It takes the nurse’s education to an entirely new level,” Westbrook said. “And that puts them in a great place career-wise.”

Nurses who have the master’s degree, for example, have the power to write prescriptions. And they are able to apply for higher-level, better-paid jobs that require advanced degrees and specialization.

Westbrook said she expects the program to be up and running for the spring semester of next year. She said the school already has faculty members with the credentials to teach the program, so it simply needs the official framework.

“We’ve been wanting to use this level of service preparation for a while now,” she said. “We’d need two more faculty members to keep up our undergraduate course load, but other than that we’re okay.”

Westbrook said she expects many students will want to take advantage of the family nurse practitioner option. But she also said the psychiatric health practitioner specialty has strong potential.

“That’s something that the state needs very badly,” she said. “People are snapping up people with that kind of training as fast as they can.”

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