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Published: Friday, 5/16/2003

MCO gains state approval for new nursing program


Wanted: bright, college graduates interested in becoming nurses. No nursing background needed.

That's the pitch Medical College of Ohio is making with the start of a master's of science degree in nursing geared toward those seeking a career change. Ohio's board of nursing approved the program yesterday.

Jeri Milstead, dean of the nursing school, said the timing of the new master's degree makes perfect sense.

A nationwide nursing shortage means hospitals are desperate for nurses. Even the poor economy hasn't slowed that demand, as a glance at the Sunday want ads in The Blade illustrates. With local starting salaries for nurses averaging about $35,000, combined with flexible work hours, a nursing career can be an attractive option.

But in addition to those factors, Ms. Milstead said she and her colleagues are hearing from more and more people without a medical background who are tired of their jobs.

“People call us and say, `I've got a bachelor's degree, but it's not in nursing and I think I want to be a nurse,'” Ms. Milstead said.

MCO expects to enroll 10 students this fall and 24 annually after than. Tuition will be $15,000 annually for in-state students and $25,000 annually for out-of-state students.

Currently, MCO provides nursing education as part of a four-year bachelor's degree program that is run in collaboration with the University of Toledo and Bowling Green State University. MCO will remain a part of that collaboration. Ms. Milstead said MCO wants to provide an option for college graduates who don't want to return to college for another bachelor's degree and spend more time than necessary in school.

Many schools offer master's degrees in nursing, but most focus on nurses who have gone on to specialize in a particular area. MCO's program would be a generic program. Graduates, after taking two years of course and clinical work, would take their nursing exams and go on to become nurses in hospitals, doctors' offices, or wherever they want to go.

Robert Rosseter, director of public affairs for the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, said more colleges are trying generic nursing master's programs like MCO. He said in 1990 there were 12 such programs, and now there are 34 such programs, with 18 more in development.

Vanderbilt University school of nursing in Tennessee has offered a master's degree in nursing open to those without nursing backgrounds since 1987, and the program has proven to be popular.

“We've got students from music to accounting to biology to philosophy,” said Linda Norman, senior associate dean for academics at Vanderbilt's nursing school. “These are people who are very interested in working in the health-care field. [They change careers] because they want to do something that will make a meaningful contribution to society.”

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