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Ranked No. 22 in the nation by U.S. News and World Report, the School of Nursing’s graduate nursing programs continue to grow in size and prestige.The report, issued in January, is based on the results of peer-assessment surveys that were sent to deans, administrators and faculty at accredited nursing degree programs in the United States. Specifically interested in measuring the academic quality of online graduate nursing programs, the report lists the schools with the highest averages.
“Certainly, being ranked as one of the country’s top 25 graduate nursing programs speaks volumes about the quality of our graduate degree programs, but more importantly, I think the success of our alumni speaks even louder,” said Dr. Marcia Rachel, School of Nursing associate dean for academic programs.
Doctoral Alumni Highlight Educational BenefitsWhile alumni of each of the school’s graduate programs have long had a track record of success, the Ph.D. in Nursing program’s graduates, perhaps, have some of the most storied accomplishments.“After completing the Ph.D. program, I received a scholarship to pursue additional training in New Zealand—an amazing professional and personal development opportunity,” said 2006 Ph.D. in Nursing graduate Dr. Fleetwood Loustalot, team lead for the CDC’s Division for Heart Disease and Prevention’s Epidemiology, Surveillance and Health Services team.“The training further qualified me for a competitive fellowship at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Now on staff at the CDC, I draw on the foundational training that I received at UMMC daily,” he said. “As the only academic health sciences center in Mississippi and home of the region's state-of-the-art basic science nursing lab, our Ph.D. students have rich resources to develop their optimal career trajectories,” said Dr. Mary Stewart, director of the Ph.D. in Nursing program. “Because of faculty mentoring and commitment to rigorous, relevant research, our graduates are able to assume leadership roles that influence nursing care across the nation.”Indeed, the unique research opportunities available to School of Nursing students draw applicants from across the Southeast and, in turn, allow students to develop their own research programs and gain experience in research methods.Dr. Anita Mitchell, associate clinical professor at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences College of Nursing, graduated from the Ph.D. in Nursing program in 2003. Since then, she has regularly utilized the education and research she obtained in the doctoral program.“I was seeking a program based within a medical center so that there were more programs available for clinical research, and I wanted a program that had face-to-face classes instead of all online classes. I also knew that the University of Mississippi has a reputation for high quality in graduate education,” said Mitchell, who teaches both master’s and Ph.D. nursing students while also coordinating with her institution’s neonatology department’s research efforts.Like the Ph.D. program, the Doctor of Nursing Practice program offers a combination of online and in-person classes and is kept intentionally small while continuing to receive more applicants than it has available slots, and like the Ph.D. program, the DNP program offers working nurses part-time and full-time plans of study while also providing them with supportive, nurturing faculty mentors who are leaders in their fields.For that reason, the DNP program was a perfect fit for 2012 DNP graduate Dr. Jennifer McCaffery, a medical service/cardiology nurse practitioner at the G.V. Sonny Montgomery VA Medical Center in Jackson, Miss.“The best part of my DNP experience was the interaction with colleagues,” she said. “Our small class size and face-to-face meetings allowed us to become a really close group that supported each other both in our academic pursuits but more importantly, after graduation as colleagues.”“The faculty treated me like a peer. They encouraged me to reflect on my strengths and weaknesses so that we could formulate a learning plan that made sure I had all the tools I needed to be successful upon graduation. The program challenged me to grow, but I never felt that I was without the support that I needed,” McCaffery said.While the rigor of the two doctoral programs is undeniable, equally undeniable are the programs’ real-world applications. “The education I received in my Ph.D. program has made it possible for me to carry out successful research programs in my field. I have used every piece of information I learned on how to carry out research, but probably the greatest benefit has been the ability to analyze, interpret and think critically. These are priceless skills that were truly enhanced during my doctoral education,” Mitchell said.“The Doctor of Nursing Practice program has taken my advanced nursing practice to the next level, especially in terms of effective advocacy for and care of patient populations,” said Dr. Molly Moore, 2012 DNP graduate and School of Nursing assistant professor.Moore uses the skills she learned in the DNP program in her day-to-day interactions with patients at the school’s local nurse practitioner-run clinic at Johnson Elementary, as well as in the education she passes on to the next generation of RNs.“In addition to enhancing my own personal knowledge-base, the DNP program granted me the ability to provide a more effective level of care to the people of Mississippi,” Moore said.Advancements, Accolades Follow MSN Grads100 percent.This is the percentage of 2012 Family Nurse Practitioner and Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner graduates who passed the national certification exams, which upon successful completion, award the nurse practitioner credential.However, the success doesn’t stop with the School of Nursing’s nurse practitioner tracks. Across the board, all six MSN tracks—Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner, Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner, Family Nurse Practitioner, Nurse Educator, Nursing and Health Care Administrator and Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner—are seeing both growth in their applicant pools, as well as augmented respect associated with the students graduating from them.Amber Arnold began the MSN program’s Nursing and Health Care Administrator track as a nurse manager for UMMC and was promoted to patient safety officer afterwards. Estelle Watts graduated from the Nursing and Health Care Administrator track and went on to accept a position with the Mississippi Department of Education, where she now oversees the state’s school nurses. These are just two stories exemplifying the upward mobility and career advancement opportunities presented to the administrator track’s graduates.Students, like Arnold and Watts, are already reaping the benefits of their education from the School of Nursing, but they also will be the first to tell you that U.S. News and World Report’s No. 22 national ranking only reaffirmed what they already knew.“No surprise to me,” Arnold said.The ranking, which speaks to online graduate nursing programs, encompasses not only the Nursing and Health Care Administrator, but also the Nurse Educator, Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner and Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner, something that affords students great flexibility, without sacrificing quality or individualized faculty support. They are also tracks that offer students significant professional growth and versatility.“The flexibility of the program was a perfect fit for me, a busy working mother and wife,” she said.Recognition as one of the country’s top online graduate nursing programs was also no shock to Eloise Lopez-Lambert, who upon completing the online Nurse Educator track, was promoted to the position of UMMC nurse residency coordinator.“The education and mentoring I received at the University of Mississippi School of Nursing have equipped me to empower the next generation of nurses with critical thinking, leadership and professional nursing skills,” Lopez-Lambert said.Similarly, the real-world applications of the Nursing and Health Care Administrator track resonate with Arnold. “My graduate nursing degree has helped me consider broad implications when facing challenges and difficult decisions in my profession,” Arnold said. “It has also inspired confidence in those decisions, knowing that I will continue to learn daily from the circumstances surrounding me.”For more information about the School of Nursing’s graduate programs, please visit www.umc.edu/son.
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