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Release: Jan. 24, 2003

First-Of-Its-Kind Professional Degree Offered By UI College Of Nursing

Starting this week, the University of Iowa College of Nursing is offering a new degree program that provides an option for people looking to start a new career. Like students in medicine, dentistry, law and other professions, students in this program already have completed an undergraduate degree. The professional Master's in Nursing and Healthcare Practice (MNHP) not only addresses the growing nursing shortage, but also responds to one of the most rapidly growing segments of applications to nursing programs: career changers.

"This program benefits people who have experienced real life for a while. They don't want to come back to school and re-take the basics. We build on their education in a different field. It's a quick way to become a quality nurse," said Melanie Dreher, Ph.D., the Kelting Dean and professor of the UI College of Nursing. "More important, this program will produce nurses who enter the profession with varied experiences, which we expect will contribute to the richness of their practice. We're confident that as the program grows and more of these graduates join the nursing workforce, they will help to change the culture of nursing, making it an even more valued and sought-after profession."

The college received nearly 100 inquiries for the 16 spaces available in the program.

"We have had an overwhelming response, which encourages us that this program is right on target," Dreher said. "Not only did we receive many more applications than expected, but the diversity of the applicants' backgrounds was impressive. People with degrees from political science, accounting, psychology and history were accepted into the program, as were people with master's and doctoral degrees."

The college plans to expand the program each year, with a total enrollment of 64 by 2006.

The first class of students started the program with a 40-hour orientation last week. Students will study theoretical and clinical nursing, and attend classes full-time for four semesters, the last of which is a paid internship at the UI Hospitals and Clinics. They will graduate fully prepared to take the national licensure exam to become registered nurses.

After the intense, weeklong orientation, which included overviews of such topics as nursing theories, informatics, genetics and ethics, the MNHP students were saturated with information but inspired to tackle the next four semesters.

"The MNHP program is certainly unique, and the other students and faculty bring a wealth of experiences and knowledge which will create an incredible learning environment," said MNHP student Megan Davis, who comes to the program with a bachelor's in biology.

Another student, Michael Drwiega, who has a Ph.D. in political science, looks forward to entering a new career. "The program helps me to see how I can apply to nursing the knowledge I have already acquired in other areas," Drwiega said.

The college continues to receive inquiries about the program from people who have heard about it in the local media, or by word of mouth. Many have undergraduate degrees that they have not been able to use effectively and are seeking a way to apply their knowledge to a career that is meaningful and addresses a compelling social need.

"We get inquiries from people who are surfing the Web, looking for a way to switch careers without abandoning all that they've worked for already," said M. Patricia Donahue, Ph.D., professor and executive associate dean who oversees the college's academic affairs. "They tell us they have a degree and they want to be a nurse, but they don't want to start from square one. There is a need for this program and we're leading the way in providing a new kind of nursing education that's aggressive and challenging for these sophisticated learners who want to use their skills and knowledge to make a difference."