School of Health Sciences to offer new programs

The Francis Marion University (FMU) School of Health Sciences will offer new courses for two Nurse Practitioner programs in response to developing health trends locally and around the nation within the next two years. The Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (AGACNP) program will start accepting students in the fall of 2019, and the Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) program is scheduled to open for students in the spring of 2020.

With both programs being offered at the graduate level, participants must have a Registered Nurse (RN) license and a bachelor’s degree in nursing in order to take a set of direct care courses and specialty courses for either of these new tracks. According to the program description provided by the School of Health Sciences, graduates will be eligible for certification as a PMHNP or AGACNP by the American Nurse Credentialing Center (ANCC) or the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) after completing 55 graduate credit hours that includes over 500 practicum hours.

Dean of School of Health Sciences Ruth Wittmann-Price said both programs were developed in response to growing health care needs in the region and state, especially in the rural areas.

“These two programs were picked specifically because of the needs in our Pee Dee community and our practice partners, people who work in hospitals and outpatient clinics,” Wittmann-Price said.

Wittmann-Price said the AGACNP program was developed because of the needs of an aging population.

“These nurse practitioners are used in the hospitals similar to hospitalists so that they are there in the hospitals to care for patients, and most of the patients in the hospitals at this point and time are older because our population is aging,” Wittmann-Price said.

Specifically, the AGACNP program provides advanced nursing care across a variety of healthcare services to meet the specialized needs of adult-gerontology patients – young adults, older adults, and the frail elderly – with complex acute and/or chronic health conditions, according to the program description provided by the School of Health Sciences.

Wittmann-Price said the PMHNP program was developed in response to rising levels of mental health issues.

“The Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner is desperately needed because of the increased incidents of mental health crisis in our community,” Wittmann-Price said.

According to Wittmann-Price, the creation of these programs relates to her process of reviewing regional and national health trends in nursing and the reports produced every two years by the South Carolina Office for Healthcare Workforce. She said in every program the department makes they take great care to ensure it meets all accreditation and national organizational standards. Additionally, she said directors for each of these new programs will be determined after reviewing candidates with the necessary knowledge and experience in these fields, likely in the coming year.

“I do keep a close eye on what’s needed by the community and our students,” Wittmann-Price said. “That’s basically how I decide on things with faculty and administrative input.”

Wittmann-Price said the responses she has received from students, faculty and the broader community have been favorable.

“So far, everybody we have interacted with, and we have said that we’re going to start these programs, have been very positive,” Wittmann-Price said. “Here, in the Francis Marion community, they’ve been positive, and out in the larger community they’ve been positive because everybody realizes that these programs are needed.”