FMU offers new nursing programs

Robyn McNeil, Copy Editor

Beginning in January, FMU graduates will train to become family nurse practitioners and nurse educators as part of the university’s newly developed nursing master’s program.

Dr. Deborah Hopla, an assistant professor of nursing and co-developer of the program, explained that the program was created to provide local graduates with the opportunity to improve and to increase their health care abilities.

“The program was developed to offer nurses in the Pee Dee and surrounding area the opportunity to realize their aspirations and further their education,” Hopla said.

Graduates that pursue the nurse practitioner track will intern at local hospitals, such as McLeod Regional Medical System and Carolinas Hospital System, and learn how to diagnose disease and apply medical techniques to treat patients of different age groups.

However, those who obtain a degree in nurse education will be required to complete internships as well as receive training to instruct other nursing majors.

The time required to earn a master’s degree in each track is two years.   Student tuition and university finances have supplied the funding for the program.  The Department of Nursing, in partnership with FMU administration, is working to establish scholarships for participating graduates.

According to Dr. Ruth Wittmann-Price, chairman of the nursing department, the overall goal of the program is to improve health in the Pee Dee region.  South Carolina is ranked 42nd in the U.S. Life Expectancy Census.  Wittmann-Price said that the state’s low life expectancy can be contributed to dietary illnesses, such as stroke, heart disease and diabetes.

“Pee Dee health needs improvement, and our nurses will be trained to be leaders in health care,” Wittmann-Price said.

Hopla explained that the program will benefit the Pee Dee by providing the region with experienced and skilled nurses.

“The skills graduates obtain from FMU will enable them to be providers of primary healthcare and nurse educators for the future of the Pee Dee,” Hopla said.

For more information about emission criteria and degree requirements e-mail Hopla at or visit the Department of Nursing’s website at