Freshman Early Entry relieves stress for nursing hopefulsPublished on Thursday, September 6, 2018By: Alana BowmanReagan Patrick of Brandon knew she wanted to be a nurse when she was 12 years old.“My mother was pregnant with my brother, and I begged to be in the delivery room,” Patrick said. “She let me, and I fell in love with it – the energy, the adrenaline. I was like, ‘Wow! I want to do this when I get older.’”Andrew Ketchum of Walnut was a little younger when health care caught his interest.“When I was a kid, my Grandma would babysit me, and we’d watch Dr. G Medical Examiner on TV,” Ketchum said. “I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do, and then in 2009, when I was 10, my Grandpa had a quadruple bypass surgery.”It was during this time that Ketchum met a nurse named Todd. “He showed me that nurses do so much more than changing linens and how skilled they are, especially in the surgical intensive care unit.”Todd also showed him that men can be nurses too. “I never really knew that before.”Andrew Ketchum, left, third-year nursing student, prepares to aspirate a simulation mannequin’s stomach contents through a gastrostomy tube with classmates Laurel Gurney, center, and Corryl Kemp.For both Patrick and Ketchum, the University of Mississippi School of Nursing Freshman Early Entry program was a perfect fit. If a high school senior knows that nursing is the career they want to pursue, if they score at least 25 on the ACT, and if they have a 3.5 GPA, that exceptional student can apply for a spot in the School of Nursing upon entering their freshman year of college.Four colleges and universities in the state participate in the Freshman Early Entry program: University of Mississippi, Millsaps College, Tougaloo College and, most recently joining the program, Mississippi State University.Northington“It’s competitive to get into a nursing program,” said Dr. LaDonna Northington, professor of nursing and assistant dean for undergraduate programs. “We only admit 100 students in the traditional BSN program each year. Students who are accepted into the FEE program are given priority consideration for admissions if they maintain a 3.0 in all of their prerequisites.”Students aren’t bound by the program. If at any time during their first two years they decide that nursing isn’t for them, they can drop out.“This is a way to help students stay focused if they truly want to pursue nursing,” Northington said. “The Freshman Early Entry program provides a pathway for students to follow during the admission process. “It was so stress-relieving,” Ketchum said. “I still had to worry about keeping my GPA up, but it’s a lot more competitive closer to time. I was thankful to have that weight off my chest.”Jordan Willmes, a senior nursing student from Metropolis, Illinois, said that the program helped her gain a sense of identity in her freshman year. “After I got in, I knew I AM a nursing major,” Willmes said. “It was nice to tell people, ‘I am a nursing major. This is what I’m going to do, and I’ve already been accepted.”She said that knowing in high school the criteria to be accepted helped her to be a better student. “I remember taking the ACT so many times trying to get a higher and higher score,” to ensure she would be accepted into the program.In her senior year of nursing school, Jordan Willmes is taking part in clinical training in obstetrics at Wiser Hospital.The program also helps connect students with UMMC before they move here to begin the nursing program. “When a student is accepted, they are assigned an admissions officer in the registrar’s office who monitors their progress and stays in touch with students to make sure they are maintaining the 3.0 GPA range,” said Joshua Hardy, project manager in recruitment for the School of Nursing. “They also have access to the faculty.”He said that many students who are accepted to the Freshman Early Entry program visit UMMC during their freshman or sophomore years and get to meet School of Nursing ambassadors and faculty. “It helps them to ease into things, and they are more comfortable when they do come here for their junior and senior years.”Northington said the benefit to the school is in the quality of the students. “Those are usually highly motivated students,” she said. “If they are willing to be regimented with their prerequisites, we assume they will be regimented in their nursing courses as well. They are normally really strong students.”High school seniors who will attend the University of Mississippi, Mississippi State University, Tougaloo College or Millsaps College upon graduation can talk to the school’s advisor about a career in nursing and take advantage of the Freshman Early Entry program at UMMC.