Determining the Regional Need for a Master's Nursing Program

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Desiree Hensel, PhD, RN, PCNS-BC, CNE
School of Nursing, Curry College, Milton, MA, USA
Judith A. Halstead, PhD
Commission for Nursing Education Accreditation, National League for Nursing, Washington DC, DC, USA
Karen L. Carlson, PhD
College of Nursing, The University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM, USA


A rising infant mortality rate, increasing prevalence of diabetes, and deadly drug crisis are some of the factors contributing to Indiana’s overall health ranking of 39th among 50 states. Health disparities are particularly evident in the state’s predominantly rural Southwest Central region. With no graduate nursing programs located in that 11 county area, the region also had some of the lowest levels of educational preparation among registered nurses in the state. The University’s strategic plan included initiatives to improve the health of the communities served, including the creation of a regional academic health center (RAHC). Creation of the RACH was accompanied by the need to increase the expertise of nurses in the local workforceThe purpose of this Experienced Nurses Faculty Leader’s Academy (ENFLA) scholar’s project was to explore the feasibility of developing and implementing a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program with a community health specialty track on a regional campus of a core School of Nursing. As part of the decision-making process, a needs assessment was completed with the specific aims of determining the:

1. extent of prospective student interest in enrolling in a MSN graduate degree program on the regional campus; and 2. which MSN speciality majors should be offered based upon prospective student feedback.


A team of stakeholders was assembled to create the needs assessment. The 23 item tool addressed participants’ interest in enrolling in selected MSN tracks if offered on the regional campus. Links to the anonymous survey were sent to all current School of Nursing students (N=197), all nursing alumni (N=471), all 2016 nursing graduates (N=52), all registered nurses at the local partner hospital (N=approximately 700), and all county school nurses (N=6). Data were collected and managed using REDCap electronic data capture tools.


The survey remained open between the dates of December 9, 2016 and January 14, 2017. Of the 175 respondents, 116 indicated that they were interested or very interested in enrolling in an MSN program on the regional campus. Among the participants likely to remain in Southern Indiana the strongest MSN specialty interest was for the family nurse practitioner ([FNP], M=2.69/4) and nursing education (M=2.23/4) specialty tracks. There was only moderate interest (M=1.43/4) in a community health nursing track.


While the community health option was initially desired by administration as it would meet the perceived health needs of the region, prospective student data did not support it as a viable offering. Offering a FNP or nursing education track created a challenge in that it could potentially divert students from the main School of Nursing campus. The proposed plan now is to explore means by which a shared resource model can be created between the Bloomington and Indianapolis campuses to offer the FNP and Nursing Education specialty tracks. The next step is to design that model.