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February 5, 2003

As the nationwide nursing shortage focuses attention on recruiting first-line RNs, SFSU's School of Nursing is finding new ways to also increase working nurses' career satisfaction and retention.

Associate Professors Amy Nichols and Andrea Boyle have designed an innovative MSN program that helps RNs with bachelor's degrees move up the career ladder -- an effort to retain these much-needed professionals in their field.

With an emphasis on flexibility, peer support, and respect for the experiences and knowledge that working professionals hold, the two-year MSN cohort program is tailor-made for nurses who want to enhance their career mobility and earning potential without putting their careers or family lives on hold.

Nichols and Boyle will present the innovative model at the American Association of Colleges of Nursing's February Master's Education Conference.

"What makes this a model program isn't that we have elements other programs don't have," Boyle says, "its the way that we combine the elements."

That innovative combination includes evening and Saturday class schedules, since weekday classes create barriers for working professionals; faculty willingness to bring classes to the workplace; teachers who employ adult learning principles that respect the needs, interests and experiences of practicing nurses; and a remarkably supportive atmosphere.

Support comes from two directions -- faculty and fellow students. Students are accepted into a cohort, and complete all classes as a group. The group structure provides encouragement and peer support that's especially important for nurses who are apprehensive about hitting the books after a many-year break from academia. The level of faculty support is unusual as well. The faculty provide intensive advising and mentoring that helps students with the tough balancing act of work, study and personal life.

Thelma Domingo, who graduated with the pilot cohort in summer 2002, said it was her fellow classmates who buoyed her up when pressures seemed overwhelming. Domingo's delighted that she persevered. "I'm more marketable and more confident now," she said. "My scope of knowledge is bigger and my mind is broader."

While SFSU and nursing programs nationwide are understandably focused on attracting new nurses to the profession, fully addressing the nursing shortage calls for attention to the entire career ladder. Advanced practice nurses drive change and research in the profession, Nichols points out, and are essential for helping the profession grow.

"But then there's a whole other piece of this," Boyle adds. "The education makes you better in whatever it is you want to do -- it makes you look at things differently, to think differently."

A second cohort of 19 students is currently enrolled. For information on the next cohort, e-mail Andrea Boyle or Amy Nichols.

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Last modified February 5, 2003, by the Office of Public Affairs