CU to offer master’s degree in nursing

Castleton University will be adding a timely new program to its catalogue in the spring semester.

A new Master of Science in nursing will be offered in 2021 as the United States experienced a shortage of nurses this past spring when the COVID-19 pandemic peaked. The shortage is expected to continue over the next decade.

“Considering that Vermont state has predicted that we’re going to need at least 4,000 nurses by the year 2024, we thought one way we would be able to overcome that barrier was to open our own nurse educator program,” said Angela Smith, assistant dean of the School of Nursing at Castleton University, in a promotional video for the program.

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the demand for nurses will continue to increase due to the aging of baby boomers. Higher numbers of nurses will be retiring, and baby boomers will need health care. The workforce for registered nurses is expected to increase by 7% between 2019-2029.

The program is tailored towards practicing nurses and most of the course work is completed online. It includes two different concentrations. Each concentration prepares the student for a different skillset in the field, both of which are needed within the shortage.

The Clinical Nurse Leader concentration is geared towards students who are striving for leadership positions in a clinical setting, while the Nurse Educator concentration prepares students to train other nurses in an educational or clinical setting. It takes two-years to finish the requirements in the program.

Jill Markowski, chair of the nursing department, is excited by the immediate interest in the new program.

“The applicants we see applying for the MSN program have been practicing nurses and are looking to either gain clinical leadership or clinical educator skills. Nursing is a profession in which the formal education needs to be counterbalanced with actual practice,” she said.

According to Markowski, about 75% of the program has already been filled. She said current Castleton students in the undergraduate program have expressed interest as well, but this particular master’s program would be a later step in their career after gaining some experience.

Max Boulerice, who is currently enrolled in the undergraduate nursing program at Castleton, thinks the new program is a smart move for the college and Vermont.

“This program will be benefit Castleton and Vermont because it’s giving Vermont an opportunity for more nurses to be in the hospitals and other health care centers. It’s also great to expand Castleton to other people who might not know about the school given the online platform,” he said.

The program is specifically designed to be convenient for currently employed nurses, according to Smith and Markowski. The online aspect of the program makes it easier for full-time nurses to balance work and school.

Clinicals can also be completed where the nurse is working, and employers tend to help with funds.

“They recognize that they need that additional skill set to manage the business side or the education need,” Markowski said in the video.

In addition to convenience, the program will also expand opportunities for nurses with an undergraduate education. James Lambert, dean of advancement, mentioned the benefits that come with being a masters-prepared nurse.

“Nurses who earn an MSN have higher earning potential and will find a job market that is growing for their services. An MSN also improves a working nurse’s chances of obtaining a leadership, managerial, or administrative role,” he said.

The nursing programs at Castleton University are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. The new master’s program must have one full academic year with students enrolled before it can receive accreditation, which is expected to occur in January of 2022.

Castleton University President Jonathan Spiro is excited to continue to see the college grow. After expanding the nursing program to a new campus in Bennington last year, the addition of this program will enhance the department even further.

“I am very, very excited about our new MSN program,” he said. “It will provide a great opportunity for working nurses to advance their careers. This is an important step forward for Castleton University and for the State of Vermont.”

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