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Dec 16, 2002

DePaul University Offers First Accelerated Graduate Nursing Program In The State Of Illinois

Susan Kinsley was working as a recreational therapist in Iowa when she decided it was time to pursue her dream of entering the medical field. After calling around to nursing programs in her home state of Illinois, she became discouraged when she learned that graduate nursing programs required that she have a bachelor’s degree in the field. Having recently earned an undergraduate degree from the University of Iowa, Kinsley wasn’t interested in starting over.

“My only option seemed to be to go for a bachelor’s in nursing that would take three years, said Kinsley. “Then I called DePaul and found out about the two-year master’s degree program. It was the best thing that I could have done.”

Kinsley, 25, became the first graduate of DePaul’s accelerated graduate nursing program last June and is now employed as a registered nurse (R.N.) at the University of Chicago Hospital intensive care burn unit.

DePaul began offering the accelerated graduate program in nursing two years ago to students who had degrees in other fields but wanted to enter the nursing profession. There are now 40 students in the full-time, two-year program. A second student will complete the program at the end of winter quarter, and more than 10 students are expected to graduate in June of 2003.

According to Susan Poslusny, chairperson of DePaul’s nursing department, there are hundreds of qualified prospects around the country who, like Kinsley, could help to ease the shortage of professionals in the nursing field if educational institutions would meet them halfway.

“We are attracting highly motivated, diverse students from different parts of the country,” said Poslusny. “They are bright; they write well; they speak well; and they have degrees in business, liberal arts, economics and sociology, to name a few. They also have had some exposure to nursing. They know what nurses do, and they like what nurses do.”

DePaul’s master of science degree in nursing program requires that students complete 48 credit hours in general nursing courses, 22 credits in graduate nursing, 12 credits in advanced practice nursing prerequisites and a two credit research project. Prerequisites for full admission include three biology courses, two chemistry courses, and classes in abnormal psychology, medical sociology, basic statistics and introduction to financial management. Students also are required to complete 830 hours of clinical study in the traditional areas of medical, surgical, maternal-child health, pediatric, psychiatric-mental health or community health nursing. Students who complete the program have taken all of the core courses that any R.N. has taken and can opt to pursue postgraduate courses in a specialty area, if desired. According to Poslusny, the program is designed, in part, for individuals whose ultimate goal is advanced practice nursing or doctoral preparation in nursing.

She indicated that programs that attract individuals with a stronger academic foundation in health care would help to change the future of the nursing profession.

A relatively young profession, nursing began as a training program within religious orders about 120 years ago. There has been a consistent effort to bring the profession into the academic arena. However, it was not until the 1940s that the first academic programs for nursing were started in the United States. More and more, according to Poslusny, hospitals are transitioning to academic-oriented programs, but decision-makers in the nursing educational arena still need to be convinced that there is a need for better-educated nurses.

“Nursing is the only health profession that does not require a master’s degree for entry into the profession,” explained Poslusny. “You cannot communicate on the same level with a physician who has 13 years of higher education when you have just two. Higher education gives nurses the credibility and skills needed to be a partner in health care.”

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, accelerated programs are catching on nationwide at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. Loyola and Rush-Presbyterian Medical Center offer accelerated baccalaureate programs, and there are at least a dozen universities in the country that now offer accelerated master’s degree programs.

In an effort to increase enrollment, DePaul will continue to market its accelerated graduate nursing program to non-nursing prospective students, many of whom are unaware that programs such as the one the university offers even exist. Most of the marketing is currently done over the Internet, which is the biggest source of information for prospective students today, according to program’s chair.

Like Kinsley, students who complete the program should have no problem finding jobs. The newly minted R.N. said she realizes that she is still a bit of an anomaly – possessing a master’s degree and lacking the experience to be classified as an advanced practice nurse – but that the right health setting makes all the difference. “My degree is so unique that I wanted to work in an academic medical center that would understand that I already know how to make a bed, and I’m equipped to provide patient care. DePaul’s program was challenging because I was coming into a totally new career, but they gave us credit for already having a degree and presented lectures and material accordingly.”

“Higher education is the path to the future in nursing,” said Poslusny. “You cannot remain the least educated player in health care and be the solution to the nursing shortage.” DePaul’s fully accredited nursing program offers 10 different concentrations, seven post-master’s certificate options and a master’s degree completion option for advanced practice nurses. DePaul distinguished itself in 1953 as the first institution of higher learning in Illinois to establish a graduate nursing program. For more information about the accelerated master’s program in nursing or other programs, visit the department’s Web site at or call 773-325-7280.