MOU between USM and Mississippi colleges aims to ease pathways to nursing degree

Published 8:22 am Thursday, June 23, 2022

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The University of Southern Mississippi has established partnerships with Alcorn State University, Pearl River Community College, and Jones College that will create easier pathways for students to earn a nursing degree, the university states.

This newfound partnership is an effort to combat a national nursing shortage.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the schools was signed during a special ceremony held Monday, June 20 on USM’s Hattiesburg campus.

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The unprecedented academic partnerships provide qualified applicants to USM’s pre-licensure Bachelor of Science in Nursing program, including those without a nursing license, who would otherwise be delayed an alternative admission pathway to a nursing degree.

Dr. Lachel Story, Dean of USM’s College of Nursing and Health Professions, reached out to nursing directors and deans at Alcorn State, Pearl River, and Jones to explore creative solutions to help more students achieve nursing degrees, and subsequently help alleviate the ongoing nursing shortage.

“We, like many programs, turn away high-quality applicants every semester because we have more qualified applicants than we have capacity to enroll,” Story said. “These students need and should be enrolled in a nursing program. These partnerships will provide those students an opportunity to complete their initial nursing degree with these schools and return to USM for a BSN degree.”

Under the new agreements, qualified pre-licensure BSN applicants not accepted into the USM program will be offered an opportunity to apply to Associate Degree in Nursing or Practical Nursing programs at Alcorn, Pearl River, or Jones.

Previously, students not accepted into USM’s program could have applied to the other schools but would have found themselves forced to wait until the following semester.

“This will be a seamless process where they will be considered as a part of our decision making and then offered to them as an option, instead of denying them initially,” Story said. “The enrollment process becomes just another pathway.”

Dr. Gordon Cannon, Vice President for Research at USM and Interim Provost, said that the partnerships offer exciting opportunities for students and the four schools involved.

“In addition to benefitting individual students who wish to complete their baccalaureate nursing degree, this transfer agreement will have a positive impact on the nursing workforce and address the critical nursing demand in our Mississippi communities,” Cannon said. “I appreciate the work that went into developing this agreement and look forward to enhancing our strong partnership with Alcorn State, Jones College, and Pearl River Community College.”

The agreement also stipulates that USM will provide students who maintain their eligibility an opportunity to return to the BSN or RN-BSN program upon completing the other programs at Alcorn State, Pearl River or Jones. As part of the University’s academic success pathway, USM’s pre-licensure BSN program will identify any students incurring academic difficulty and assist those who may need to transition to ADN or PN programs.

Another development from the new partnership is the Rural Health Scholars Program between USM and Alcorn State. This program’s purpose is to increase the number of doctoral-prepared nursing faculty from diverse backgrounds; prepare nursing scientists to improve rural health outcomes and improve the health of the communities surrounding Alcorn State, including Adams, Claiborne, Franklin, Jefferson and Wilkinson counties.

“I initiated that conversation because I wanted us to find creative ways to increase doctoral-prepared nursing faculty as well as faculty who have expertise addressing rural health issues,” Story said. “This will help address the nursing faculty shortage and the nursing shortage in general while improving the health of our state.”

Some highlights of the program include:

Students in USM’s Nursing Leadership Doctoral Program can apply for this competitive program.

Priority for the RHSP will be granted to current Alcorn State master’s-prepared nursing faculty who are enrolled in USM’s Nursing Leadership Doctoral Program and exhibit an interest in rural health.

Scholars will participate in an intensive research experience at Alcorn State based on their specific dissertation that addresses a rural health need in the surrounding community.

Scholars will be paired with a mentor who has experience in rural health research and a doctoral-prepared Alcorn faculty who will serve as a community expert.

Grant funding will be provided to scholars for tuition and books while enrolled in USM’s Nursing Leadership Doctoral Program as available.

“We are excited about the opportunity to partner with USM, PRCC, and JC to assist in providing a solution to the nursing shortage crisis across our state,” said Dr. Felecia M. Nave, Alcorn State President. “In addition, Alcorn is proud to work with USM to launch the Rural Health Scholars Program, which will offer a critical healthcare resource to underserved communities. Since its inception, the Cora S. Balmat School of Nursing at Alcorn has been devoted to servicing the healthcare needs of Southwest Mississippi and beyond.”