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Healthcare

UNTHSC’s New Nursing Degrees to Focus on Entrepreneurship and Leadership 

The Fort Worth health center added two new degree programs last month after a Board of Regents vote to address the nursing shortage. 
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The University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth has added two new online degree programs that will begin this fall: Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN) and Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Practice Innovation. The Board of Regents approved the decision last month.  

The programs seek to address what UNTHSC says is a nearly 7,000 nurse shortage in North Texas. Since the “Great Resignation” due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Texas has been reeling from a critical shortage of nurses estimated to be as high as 30,000 in 2023. Cindy Weston, founding dean of the HSC College of Nursing, says that resiliency and agility will be embedded into the curriculums of these programs to prepare nurses for future strains in the profession. 

“What the Health Science Center is doing very proactively is creating these new degree programs that will shore up the nursing profession here in North Texas,” Weston said. “We’re preparing nurses as leaders and innovators so that they can take these situations they face in healthcare and find the solutions to adapt and evolve the healthcare system to meet the needs of the patients and populations that we’re serving.” 

The MSN in Nursing Practice Innovation degree curriculum takes five to seven semesters to complete. The program aims to encourage entrepreneurship and retention through learning and skill enhancement. To help nurses reinvent themselves in other areas of the professions, the program offers new certificates that students can pursue based on their specialization, with specialization areas like digital health and AI and innovation in healthcare management. 

“There’s no other degree like this in Texas right now,” Weston said. “Who better than nurses – who are on the front lines of healthcare and are closest to the problems that our patients and communities are facing – to be closest to those solutions? We’re going to equip them with the ability to innovate, to bring those innovations and ideas into fruition. Then, we can provide wrap-around services for them to incubate their ideas and grow that, whether it’s a product that will benefit patients or whether it is a care delivery model that will improve outcomes.” 

The RN to BSN degree can be completed online in two to four semesters. In addition to online coursework, students will receive hands-on clinical experience at the campus’s simulation and virtual-reality training lab. The program will allow licensed nurses prepared at the associate degree or diploma level to upscale to a bachelor’s prepared RN.  

According to the National Institutes of Health, hospitals and healthcare organizations that employ more nurses with a Bachelor of Science degree, also known as “magnet destinations,” tend to have lower lengths of stay, mortality rates, healthcare costs, and improved health outcome metrics. Though the program is expected to impact the metroplex, UNTHSC is focused on providing accessibility to nursing students in rural cities so they can practice and help serve their communities.  

“Wide ranges of rural Texas have no access point,” Weston said. “They drive for hours just to have a primary care visit. Having more nurses in rural Texas provides those access points, and it shores up our critical access hospitals, which are providing vital care and stabilization in those areas, which is essential for our rural communities.”

Applications for both programs are open until July 1st, and classes begin on August 16th. In addition, UNT HSC has announced two other proposed degree programs: the traditional Bachelor of Science in Nursing and the Master of Science in Nursing in Psychiatric Mental Health, which will launch in the fall of 2025. 

The traditional Bachelor of Science in Nursing will allow registered nurses prepared at the associate degree level to receive their bachelor’s degree in two semesters with face-to-face instruction on campus. The Master of Science in Nursing in Psychiatric Mental Health is a pipeline program designed to address the state’s need for access to mental and behavioral healthcare services. In 2022, more than 160 Texas counties did not have access to psychiatrists or psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners.  

“I believe one of the benefits of the pandemic is that we’ve seen a de-stigmatizing effect on receiving mental and behavioral healthcare services,” Weston said. “We’ve always known that we needed to offer these services, and now some of that stigma that was a barrier is gone, and everyone is ready to receive that care, and so we need more professionals to provide that access.”  

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Celie Price

Celie Price

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