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UI to revamp Clinical Nurse Leader program

BY NORA HEATON | APRIL 20, 2010 7:30 AM

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University of Iowa officials are considering changing a program that offers students an accelerated track to a master’s degree and a nursing license.

Officials at the UI College of Nursing are planning to rethink the college’s Clinical Nurse Leader Master’s degree program in order to shift resources to bachelor’s nursing degrees. A final decision on the fate of the program is expected to come in the spring.

The 19-month program is available for students of any major who complete the prerequisite courses, College of Nursing Dean Rita Frantz said. However, a faculty task force has recommended the program only admit students who have completed the bachelor’s licensing program in nursing.

Students in the program without nursing degrees often require more faculty attention, Frantz said.

But making the accelerated master’s plan more exclusive poses a problem for some students.

UI sophomore Dan Gratie planned to graduate in the fall of 2011 with degrees in biology and interdepartmental studies and enter the Clinical Nurse Leader program in the spring of 2012. He said the accelerated program would save him time and, ultimately, tuition money.

Changes to the program mean he will need to rethink his schedule, switch his major, and possibly delay his graduation date.

“It’s not the end of the world by any means, but I was excited about the track that I had, and I was excited about the classes I was going to take,” he said. “It’s frustrating. I took a lot of time planning my schedule.”

Still, nursing administrators said they have students’ interests in mind.

Excluding students without a bachelor’s degree in nursing is the practice at most similar programs around the country, Frantz said.

When the program was created, administrators hoped the nonexclusive nature of the program would entice more students to pursue a career in nursing.

Instead, enrollment is falling.

The program had 56 second-degree-seeking students enrolled at its inception three years ago. Every subsequent year, Frantz said, the number has dropped significantly.

“There’s absolutely no break in this program,” she said. “We’re finding that students are saying, ‘If I had known it was going to be like this, I would never have taken this program. It’s just too much.’ ”

Students who haven’t completed a bachelor’s in nursing have to take both master’s courses and earn their RN license to finish the graduate program.

The change to the program would not only make coursework more feasible for its students, it would also allow some of the faculty to work with the undergraduate program, which sees a much higher admission demand.

“It’s a strategic decision,” said Jill Scott-Cawiezell, the nursing school associate dean for academic affairs. “We hope it’s a win-win. We’ve seen with other sister schools that this is a good way to go.”

After its recommendation, the change must be approved by faculty and then voted into effect by the state Board of Nursing.


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