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Innovation to Benefit Everyone: The Direct Entry Master's in Nursing (DEMN)

By Carrie Sherman, Editorial and Creative Services
March 12, 2008

With a degree in biochemical engineering, Patrick McAlary had worked 10 years in biopharmaceuticals, but he didn’t find his work fulfilling. His transition from that field to nursing was a long journey that took him to Southeast Asia and then back to New Hampshire where he earned his licensure as an emergency medical technician (EMT).

“As an EMT, I came in close contact with nurses,” says McAlary. “I realized that I wanted to do more than just hand off a patient. I was interested in the whole process of assessment, treatment, intervention, and outcome.”

The direct entry master’s in nursing program (DEMN) gave McAlary credit for his previous educational and work experiences. The program prepares nurses at higher levels of education and it prepares potential nursing faculty, addressing two critical aspects of the nursing shortage.

A national trend in nurse education

This innovative program, similar to many across the nation, is unique in New Hampshire. The two-year, 73-credit, full-time program is designed for those who have bachelor’s degrees in other fields but who want to enter the nursing profession. In the DEMN program, students can earn an advanced nursing degree without having to first complete an additional bachelor’s degree. Forty students have graduated from the accelerated program, which is now in its fourth year.

For Emily St. Germain Perrinez the DEMN program extended her interest in public health. After earning her master of public health (MPH) degree, St. Germain Perrinez went to work for the Mascoma Valley Health Initiative in Canaan.

“We also shared office space with a pediatric outreach clinic and I got to know the nurses,” says St. Germain Perrinez. “I saw that the nurses triaged all sorts of issues, and I wanted to give that kind of care.”

In addition to degrees in social work and public health, St. Germain Perrinez had worked in a physiology lab and, as an undergraduate, successfully completed several semesters of biology. The DEMN program was a perfect fit.

“I wrote my application with passion and fury,” recalls St. Germain Perrinez, who has found that she “loves the courses and the clinical experience.”

“Our students have degrees in biology, exercise science, geology, and chemical engineering,” says Susan Fetzer, associate professor of nursing and DEMN program director. “Each January, we admit a new cohort, comprising 24 students. Our students have been exceptional. After the first three semesters of courses, DEMN students are eligible to take the nursing licensure exam to become a registered nurse, and since the program started all of our DEMN graduates have been successful in passing.”

The N.H. nursing shortage

In New Hampshire, there are 19,000 nurses, and there is a 10 percent shortage of nurses.

“If there were an infusion of 2,000 more nurses, they could all find jobs,” says Fetzer, who is also a former president of N.H. Nurse Educators and more recently, president of the New Hampshire Nurses Association.

But for some time now, more students apply to nursing programs than can be accepted. They are turned away because there are not enough nursing educators available to meet the need. The DEMN program helps meet the critical need for nurses with master’s degrees to fill faculty positions and who have strong potential to continue on to doctoral work.

Improving patient outcomes

Additionally, DEMN graduates will improve patient outcomes. According to a study by Dr. Linda Aiken and colleagues, published in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA), master’s prepared nurses at patients’ bedsides lead to better patient outcomes and more cost effective care. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing states, “Graduates of accelerated programs are prized by nurse employers who value the many layers of skill and education these graduates bring to the workplace.”

Upon successful completion of their second year, DEMN students graduate with a Master of Science degree in the clinical nurse leader (CNL) program. They are also qualified nurse educators.

As part of that CNL curriculum, DEMN students study master’s level research in health promotion and illness management. They also complete a clinical immersion experience of approximately 400 clinical hours and conclude their CNL master’s preparation in a capstone project seminar.

For his capstone project, McAlary plans to pursue palliative care, an area that he’s already begun to research. St. Germain Perrinez may pursue additional education for midwifery and would like, eventually, to practice in a rural community.

A commitment to leadership in nursing education

UNH’s department of nursing is one of the oldest and largest departments in the College of Health and Human Services.

“As the only four-year public nursing program in New Hampshire, the department is committed to providing leadership in nursing education and practice in the state and region,” says Lynette Hamlin, department chair.

The department is fully accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. In addition to the DEMN program, the department of nursing offers a baccalaureate program, an R.N. baccalaureate program (the UNH degree program is offered in Durham, Keene, and Manchester), an R.N. baccalaureate online program, a graduate program in nursing, and post-master’s nurse practitioner certificate programs.

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