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Sunday, 24 May 2015 22:00

Baker offers new online graduate degrees for nurses looking to further education

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Baker College plans to launch an online graduate degree this fall for nurses who want to continue their education and move into administrative or teaching positions.

The Master of Science in Nursing program from Baker’s School of Nursing begins Sept. 24 and is geared toward nurses who have earned an undergraduate degree and want to further their career beyond the clinical setting.

Baker College formed the graduate program at the urging of care providers it partners with across the state, said School of Nursing Dean Lesley Morgan. Nurses now teaching or working in administrative positions tend to be older and are retiring in larger numbers, requiring colleges to step up programs to train new leadership, Morgan said.

“We all need to be replaced,” she said. “We need to continue to grow qualified nursing educators to step in. That same goes for the administrative component. We need to be able to grow and mentor the next generation of nursing administrators.”

Morgan expects the online graduate program for nursing to start small and grow. She sees the program initially drawing 30 or so students in the first year, and then doubling or tripling in subsequent years.

The graduate program does not include a change in state nursing licensure and involves doing rotations in administrative and academic settings, Morgan said. She anticipates it will take part-time students two to three years to complete.

Students can start the program two times a year, in the fall or the spring.

Creation of the online graduate program is also driven by a health care industry that’s increasingly more complex and requires greater training for nurses to advance their careers, Morgan said.

“Health is continuing to expand and to be more complicated and the needs for nursing and of nursing continue to grow, and we need to keep up,” she said. “As things change, now in order to move forward, you almost have to have a graduate degree. That is just the standard.”

Baker College’s School of Nursing has an enrollment of more than 300 students across all of its programs.

Up to 20 percent of the nursing school’s undergraduates eventually go on to earn a graduate degree, either soon after earning their undergraduate degree and getting their first job, or several years later after they are well into their careers, Morgan said. She’d like to see that raised to 30 percent over time.

Online courses have unlimited capacity and are conducive to the work schedules of nurses, especially those working overnight shifts.

“Nurses work 24/7,” Morgan said. “For our students who are working in the online environment, it is ideal for them.”

Nationally, the demand for administrative positions in health care outpaces expected job growth for registered nurses.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment for RNs to grow 19 percent from 2012 to 2022. Employment of health care administrators is expected to grow 23 percent.

The pay is also significantly higher. RNs in 2014 earned an average salary of $69,790. Health care administrators earned an average of $103,680, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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