October

Dr. Leigh Holley leads the School of Nursing's accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing program at the Oxford Instructional Site at the University of Mississippi. Photo by Kevin Bain/The University of Mississippi Marketing Communications
Dr. Leigh Holley leads the School of Nursing's accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing program at the Oxford Instructional Site at the University of Mississippi. Photo by Kevin Bain/The University of Mississippi Marketing Communications
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Dr. Leigh Holley protecting public through Accelerated BSN program

Published on Monday, October 10, 2022

By: Annie Oeth, aoeth@umc.edu

Caring for patients is central to Dr. Leigh Holley’s nursing career. She’s fulfilling that calling as associate professor of nursing at the School of Nursing and assistant dean for the Oxford Instructional Site at the University of Mississippi.

The School of Nursing’s baccalaureate programs, ranked 67th in the country by U.S. News & World Report, include a traditional Bachelor of Science in Nursing and accelerated BSN programs at the University of Mississippi Medical Center location and an accelerated BSN program in Oxford.

"The BSN degree offered in Oxford is a rigorous accelerated program for students with a previously earned baccalaureate in another discipline. Students enroll each summer and complete the program in only 12 months,” Holley said.

Julie Sanford
Sanford

Dr. Julie Sanford, dean of the School of Nursing, said Holley is already making an impact in Oxford. “We’re so fortunate to have Dr. Holley joining us and are excited about the future of the University of Mississippi School of Nursing in Oxford and at UMMC. She is a valued member of our nursing faculty, and her input is already strengthening nursing education at both our locations.”

The School of Nursing, headquartered on the UMMC campus in Jackson since 1956, has the advantage of having programs on the campus of the state’s only academic medical center and in Oxford.

“Both institutions have tremendous resources,” Holley said, “and I believe any way we can partner to share resources and empower nursing students, faculty, staff and graduates has the potential to positively impact the health of Mississippians. The scientific explorations being conducted both individually and jointly across these two research powerhouses is advancing health and wellness locally and globally.”

With a limited amount of time in the program, Holley is working to ensure that the nursing curriculum at the Oxford program is “concise and succinct yet thorough.”

Holley talks with accelerated BSN students at the Oxford Instructional Site, which had been Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi. Photo by Kevin Bain/The University of Mississippi Marketing Communications
Holley talks with accelerated BSN students at the Oxford Instructional Site, which had been Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi.
Photo by Kevin Bain/The University of Mississippi Marketing Communications

“If this program was a movie, it would be called ‘Fast and Furious!’” she said. “Graduates of the accelerated BSN program then take the licensing exam to become registered nurses.”

Her mission as a nursing educator is simple: to protect the public. “The way I achieve this is to ensure we send safe, competent nurses into the workforce.”

Registered nursing is listed by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as one of the fastest-growing jobs in the U.S. through 2029, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. The number of RNs in the workforce is expected to grow from the 2019 figure, 3 million, to 3.3 million by 2029. Nearly 176,000 job openings for RNs are expected each year, figuring in nurse retirements and workforce exits.

Holley, a Prentiss County native, joined the University of Mississippi School of Nursing this year, coming home to Mississippi with husband Steven Holley, vice chancellor for administration and finance at Ole Miss, who is also from Prentiss County.

Holley talks with an accelerated BSN student.  Photo by Kevin Bain/The University of Mississippi Marketing Communications
Holley talks with an accelerated BSN student.
Photo by Kevin Bain/The University of Mississippi Marketing Communications

An alumna of Ole Miss, where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Applied Science in psychology, Holley began her nursing career with an associate degree in nursing from Northeast Mississippi Community College. She earned a Master of Science in Nursing from Union University and gained her Doctor of Nursing Practice degree from Abilene Christian University where she was a professor of nursing.

Holley came to UMMC after independent consulting, teaching graduate and doctoral online and preparing nursing graduates for licensure through Hurst Review Services. Prior to that, Holley was dean of nursing and program director at West Coast University in Ontario, California.

“Being a nurse, I have always enjoyed the positive impact I can have on patients one at a time,” she said. “As an educator, that positive impact increases exponentially with every student I invest in because they will care for countless patients over the course of their career. I cannot imagine doing anything else!”

The School of Nursing’s Oxford program accepts and graduates about 70 students each year, a number Holley hopes to see grow.

The Oxford-based nursing program has an advantage in its location – the South Oxford Center, which housed the old Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi before being purchased by the university in 2017.

“Ole Miss has a great spot for its accelerated nursing program – a former hospital,” she said. “This environment organically promotes learning and acclimation to the clinical setting for nursing students in a way other nursing school labs may only hope to do. Most nursing programs work very hard to accomplish such realism in their simulated experiences. We are incredibly fortunate to have such an amazing space.”

Another plus, Holley said, is the span of the program. “Students can complete their training in a year and then launch their nursing careers.”

But that’s not all. “I believe another benefit is we are contributing to public health by meeting the health care needs of north Mississippians. We have many students who live in Oxford and neighboring communities. The geographic location of this program is not only serving the needs of students but also the patients who will be cared for by our graduates.”