More choosing a career in nursing

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Enrollment is up — and programs are expanding in the Whitson-Hester School of Nursing at Tennessee Tech University.

The nursing program’s expansion is in response to the increased demand for health-care professionals across the country.

The school admits students to its bachelor’s degree program twice a year and will increase admissions by 25 percent after the second round at the end of the fall semester.

In partnership with other Tennessee Board of Regents universities, Tennessee Tech’s nursing school offers a master’s degree program.
Enrollment in that program increased by 36 percent this fall.

“Employment opportunities, national initiatives in nursing and medicine and the state of healthcare reform are driving enrollment numbers,” said Bedelia Russell, interim dean of Tech’s Whitson-Hester School of Nursing.

“With the Affordable Care Act, we’re going to need primary care professionals,” she added. “The research demonstrates over and over that quality nursing care equates to positive patient outcomes. Nurses are at the front line of patient care.”

In recent years, enrollment numbers in the bachelor’s degree program have continued to grow, from 506 students in 2008 to 691 this year. Completing the BSN program qualifies students to sit for the National Council for Licensure Exam, which allows graduates to practice as registered nurses. Enrollment in the master’s degree program has grown nearly 200 percent, from 43 students in 2008 to 123 this year.

Next summer, Tennessee Tech will offer an accelerated BSN program for students who have a bachelor’s degree in another discipline and have already completed the core science prerequisites.

“There is an emphasis nationally with diversifying the nursing workforce,” Russell said. “Many people are opting for nursing as a second career but may not be competitive in the applicant pools for the traditional BSN program. We believe this will be a popular option for non-traditional students.”

Whitson-Hester School of Nursing faculty are planning to offer the doctorate of nursing practice degree beginning in 2015 in a joint effort with East Tennessee State University College of Nursing.

A practice-based doctorate, the program is an alternative to a research-focused terminal degree and emphasizes translating research into a clinical setting.

Tech nursing students continue to achieve high scores on the licensure exam. Unofficial results from the May graduating class indicate the students had a pass rate of 95 percent.