Master’s in Nursing Degree Recharged

Submitted by Nina M. Riccio on January 8, 2013

The recent Institute of Medicine report on the Future of Nursing states “Nurses must achieve higher levels of education and training to respond to …increasing [healthcare] demands.” (IOM, 2010, p. 2). Given the great needs in healthcare, it is essential to re-examine master’s nursing education in order to ensure that educational institutions are meeting both the needs of nurses interested in obtaining advanced degrees and the needs of healthcare systems. There is also a strong call for developing models of inter-professional collaboration in education and practice. Research supports the ideas that these models will lead to improvements in healthcare delivery and health outcomes.

Fairfield’s School of Nursing (SON) is a national leader in health professions education at the baccalaureate, master’s and practice doctorate levels. We are known for our commitment to excellence, innovation and creativity, and our engagement with community partners. The overall goal of this curricular innovation is to build on the SON’s previous successes to revise the master’s of nursing (MSN) curriculum which may serve as an national model to implement two of the Future of Nursing’s recommendations: Recommendation #2: Expand opportunities for nurses to lead and diffuse collaborative improvement efforts and Recommendation #7: Prepare and enable nurses to lead change to advance health.

The model of master’s level nursing education is being developed collaboratively with other health professional colleagues and non-health professional colleagues, including the Dolan School of Business, The College of Arts & Sciences, The School of Engineering and the Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions. This curriculum will be implemented collaboratively with partner institutions including The Veterans Administration (WHVA) Connecticut Healthcare System; Stamford Health System; St. Vincent’s Medical Center, a member of Ascension Health; and Danbury Hospital, a member of Western Connecticut Health System. The University has very positive relationships with these clinical partners and the SON deeply values their input in creating a master’s program of distinction.

Moving toward an inter-professional model of health professional education that will result in healthcare improvement is the foundation of the curricular redesign. The resulting curricula will provide students with the opportunity to develop skills and competencies in both clinical and non-clinical areas (e.g., business, systems management, communication, education etc.) and will be supported through experiential learning opportunities and a rigorous immersion experience. This new model will encompass the curricula essential for Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) certification and expanded options for students with diverse interests that focus on supporting clinical care. The Future of Nursing recommendations, The Essentials of Master’s Education, Core Competencies for Inter-professional Collaborative Practice and Faculty Preparation for Global Experiences Toolkit are critical resources for this revised program.

This work is supported by the Kanarek Family Foundation.

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