Since producing its first graduates 10 years ago, Eastern Kentucky Universityís Graduate Nursing Program has steadily enhanced the quality of health care in a region beset by shortages of health care professionals and educators.
Most of the programís 237 graduates are working in a variety of health care settings in central and southeastern Kentucky, many counties of which continue to be medically underserved, although the picture is improving. Students entering EKUís Masterís of Science in Nursing (MSN) Program have three options of study, all of which are specifically targeted at improving health care throughout the region. The options are: Rural Health Family Nurse Practitioner, Rural Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner and Advanced Practice Rural Public Health Nursing, which can include a concentration in either Administration or Nursing Education.
ďAbout 75 to 80 percent of our MSN graduates are employed in medically underserved areas,Ē Dr. Judy Short, chair of EKUís Department of Baccalaureate and Graduate Nursing, noted.
EKUís resolve to improving regional health care is matched by its commitment to making the MSN program easily accessible to working health care professionals. Courses are conveniently offered on weekday evenings via interactive television at the main campus in Richmond and the Universityís extended campuses in Corbin, Danville and Manchester and in Hazard. Some courses are also available online.
ďOur faculty are heavily invested in the program, and spend a lot of time on the road,Ē Short said, adding that professors rotate between the sites to ensure personal contact with all students taking courses via interactive television. Nursing clinicals are also scattered throughout the region for the convenience of the students, and require a small faculty-student ratio.
The newest option in the program is Rural Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, the first class from which graduated earlier this year. Graduates are in high demand, in part, because of soldiers returning home from military service and because of prevalent substance abuse issues.
Because nurse practitioners can diagnose and treat ailments and prescribe medicine, graduates of the Rural Health Family Nurse Practitioner option are also making a huge impact in various primary care settings throughout the region, including clinics, instant care facilities and private practices.
The public health-nursing education concentration is helping to address a nationwide nursing faculty shortage by preparing graduates to teach in community and technical colleges and other two-year nursing programs that dot the region. Those graduates who continue their studies at the doctoral level can teach in baccalaureate and higher degree nursing programs.
Also, public health nursing administrators contribute heavily on the prevention side through health promotion and intervention programs.
This year, the MSN program added a post-masterís certificate option to allow graduates to add a specialty in another area.
In addition, EKUís College of Health Sciences will soon distribute a needs assessment survey to determine interest in a doctoral degree program in nursing practice. Such a program is at least several years away, Short said.
For more information about EKUís MSN program, call 859-622-1838 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.