At a time when firms in many industries are tightening their belts and some students are wondering whether jobs will be available for them when they finish school, students enrolled in graduate programs at the Nursing School seem to be branching out in all directions of the health care field. Calling nursing a "recession-proof" profession, Nursing School administrators and students said that there is always a large demand for nurses in general and an even greater demand for nurses with advanced degrees. "For the most part, people think we're educated in hospitals to be handmaids to surgeons," said doctoral candidate Peter Preziosi, who is president of the Nursing School's Doctoral Student Organization. "The good news is that people who have opted for nursing will always have a job." And Nursing School Associate Dean Florence Downs said that the trend away from the nursing profession that reached its peak during the early 1980s has been significantly reversed in recent years. "People got out of the profession about eight years ago when women were more interested in going into business," said Downs, who also serves as director of Graduate Nursing. "Now nurses are becoming more autonomous with advanced education, and, contrary to what many people think, it has not taken them away from the bedside but instead kept them there in those roles with more responsibility than they've ever had," she added. In fact, enrollment in the school's doctoral program is up 13 percent from last year and enrollment in its master's program is up about eight percent, according to Senior Admissions Officer Sue Rosner. Rosner said that the Nursing School has the largest number of alumni from its graduate programs than any other school accredited by the National League for Nursing Schools. There are currently over 500 students enrolled in the school's various graduate degree programs. Dean Downs added that there are many people with other degrees who have worked in various professions and now are returning to school to get a nursing degree. · One way in which the University's Nursing School has tried to cater to this growing number of students has been to implement an accelerated program that will enable students to receive their bachelor's and their master's degrees in about three and a half years, instead of the usual five or six years. "This is primarily a streamline program for people with other degrees that want to pursue nursing," Downs said. There are currently 20 students enrolled in the two-year old BSN-MSN program. The first group of students to complete the program will receive their master's degrees in August 1992. As the fastest growing program in the Nursing School, the BSN--MSN attracts a large number of students with degrees in non-health fields and nurses without bachelor's degrees. Associate Director for Admissions Sue Schwartz said that since the program's inception two years ago, enrollment has almost tripled. "The whole image of nursing has been enhanced over several years making it more reasonable to people who before felt they had to go to medical school," Schwartz said. Those interested in the program are required to apply to both the undergraduate division, as a transfer student, and to the graduate division. An applicant must be accepted by both divisions to enroll in the BSN-MSN program. Students then meet with an advisor in the Nursing School to formulate a program that best accomodates their previous training and interest. According to Frances Thurber, director of the BSN-MSN program, almost every applicant accepted by the undergraduate division is accepted by the graduate division. Thurber said that students who enter the program are usually certain of their specialty area in nursing, but students have the option of taking a leave of absence before beginning their work on their master's degree. In the first year of the program students begin working towards the bachelor's degree but take some graduate level courses that will also count toward the master's. If a student has a liberal arts background, then many of the distributional requirements may be waived. The requirements include courses on research methods, statistics, inorganic and organic chemistry, anatomy and physiology, microbiology, nutrition, and a course on conceptual models in nursing practice. In addition, students must submit a senior inquiry paper on a clinical problem in collaboration with a faculty member who specializes in that area. In the past, students have written about pain management in patients with oncological diseases and developmental delays in children with chronic illnesses. Also, while at the undergraduate level, students are required to do clinical work in several different areas from pre-natal care to gerantology. All clinicals consist of hands-on experience in hospitals. For example, all nurses must take the six-week labor and delivery clinical which requires all nurses to complete two-week rotations through the ante-partum care, delivery and post-partum care units. Students enrolled in the program praised the "flexibility and individualized character" BSN-MSN provides. Laura Chalk, a BSN-MSN student still in the undergraduate phase, said that the program at the University is one of only four in the country. Chalk has a bachelor's degree in French literature from Tufts University and said she wants to be a midwife. "Other programs I looked at seemed really hurried," Chalk said. "I was most impressed by the midwifery faculty. They give their undergrads a lot of experience." Nancy Havill, a BSN-MSN student who has a degree in environmental research management from Pennsylvania State University, also wants to specialize in midwifery. According to Havill, nurses working as midwives have been able to work on a higher level of authority, caring for the woman throughout her pregnancy and childbearing years. Havill spent two years as a Peace Corps worker in the Philippines. She said that after she graduates she hopes to work in public health service with women who have had limited access to prenatal care. Stacey Levitt, who is in her second year in the BSN-MSN program, graduated from the University with a bachelor's degree in Fine Arts in 1981. But after working her way up to become president of a local construction company, she decided that she wanted to study nursing. Still working on the bachelor's part of the program, Levitt has been doing her clinical work in nuclear medicine with researchers of aging and dementia at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. The researchers use small amounts of radioactive material to observe the development of the subjects' brains. At the hospital, Levitt counsels volunteers of all ages who will undergo these tests, which allow researchers to monitor changes in the normal aging process of the brain and then compare these results with patients who have Alzheimer's Disease and other neurological disorders. Levitt has also done her clinical work in labor and delivery. "I want to help people with neurological diseases, but if something else comes along I want the chance to check it out," Levitt said last week. "That's what's so great. Nursing at Penn gives you a chance to branch out and grow." · The Nursing School is divided into six major areas of study: adult health and illness, nursing children, health care for women, psychiatric nursing, family and community nursing, and science and role development. In addition to the BSN-MSN program, the Nursing School offers 20 different master's programs for students who want to further their education and a Ph.D. program, which can either be added on to the master's degree credits or pursued immediately after the bachelor's degree. Admissions Officer Sue Rosner said that the Nursing School has more master's programs than any other school, with most programs taking only one year to complete. "Every nurse can find their interest at Penn and can do it in a reasonable amount of time," Rosner said. The Nursing School also offers a graduate program which combines a master's or Ph.D. in nursing with a master's of Business Administration from the Wharton School. Dean Downs said she has no immediate plans to change any of the graduate programs in the school, adding that the Nursing School at the University is the only Ivy League school which offers all three graduate programs. "I don't believe in fixing what works," Downs said. "Right now things are going pretty well."Comments powered by Disqus
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