FMU will soon add new nursing master’s degree

Melissa Rollins, Staff Writer

In a continuing effort to create new opportunities for students at Francis Marion University, the university’s Board of Trustees recently approved the addition of a new master’s program in nursing to the degree programs already offered at the school.

The new degree programs will tentatively begin accepting students for the spring semester of 2013.

Dr. Ruth Wittmann-Price, Chair of the Nursing Department, said that the increase in the number of programs being offered will not only be beneficial to people in the nursing field, but to the local community, as well.

“There was a needs assessment done in this community, in the Pee Dee region,” Wittmann-Price said. “It indicated that there was a lack of primary care providers. From that, there was a lot of interest from baccalaureate prepared nurses for a family nurse practitioner program.”

The Master of Science in Nursing program being added will have two tracks: the Family Nurse Practitioner Program and the Nurse Educator Degree.

Students on the nurse practitioner track will be eligible for certification and will be able to see patients in a primary care setting. Those on the nurse educator track would, upon graduation, be able to teach in all types of nursing programs and teach staff in a clinical area.

Wittmann-Price said that she anticipates the first group of students admitted into the program will be about 35. She also said that she is anticipating a waiting list for the program. Although there has been interest in both tracks of the program, Wittmann-Price said that the Family Nurse Practitioner program has gotten more interest because it has been better advertised.

FMU President Fred Carter said that it took about two years to get all of the plans in place for the new program, which is the usual timeframe at FMU when constructing a program from the ground up. Carter said that not only does the school have to find the funds to add more professors, but the school also has to develop the curriculum. He believes that the new programs will be very beneficial to the FMU community.

“Our nursing program has done extraordinarily well here since we created it back in the early 2000s,” Carter said. “The next logical step was to develop a master’s level program, especially given the health needs of the region in which we live.”

Carter echoed Wittmann-Price in saying that the Pee Dee region is lacking in the number of health care professionals needed to tend to all the people in the area. He said that the nurse practitioners who graduate from the new programs will help fill that void.

Aside from the nursing programs, Carter said that the school is also looking at the possibility of adding other new programs to the school.

“At the next board meeting we will begin looking at the possibility of developing a baccalaureate degree in industrial engineering,” Carter said. “We will also begin considering a master’s program geared toward producing physician’s assistants.”

Carter said that the school wants to provide students with more options when it comes to majors but also wants to give students degree options in fields that they can find jobs in shortly after graduation.

The plans for the engineering and physician’s assistant programs are in the early stages still and it will be at least another couple of years until they are implemented.