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New RFU Master of Science in Nursing for Entry into Nursing Practice Program Clears Final Regulatory Step

RFU’s new College of Nursing has been approved by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) to offer a Master of Science in Nursing for Entry into Nursing Practice (MSN-ENP) degree program, which is designed to help alleviate a growing nursing shortage in Lake County and surrounding region. The Illinois Board of Nursing and the Illinois Board of Higher Education have also granted necessary approvals for the college, the first of its kind in Lake County.

“Nurses have proven to be among the greatest heroes of the pandemic,” said President and CEO Wendy Rheault, PT, PhD, FASAHP, FNAP, DipACLM. “We need them now more than ever. We’re hoping to inspire more young people to enter the nursing profession and practice in their communities. We’re confident that we can graduate the nurses our clinical partners need to help improve quality of care and patient outcomes.”

College of Nursing Founding Dean Sandra Larson, PhD, CRNA, APN, FNAP, has led the formation of innovative community and clinical partnerships aimed at broadening access to undergraduate and nursing education to attract people typically underrepresented in nursing into the profession.

“We’re bringing together a network of support focused on enhancing the diversity and advanced degree preparation of Lake County’s nursing workforce,” Dr. Larson said. “That will enable us to increase the supply of nurses and, perhaps most importantly, to prepare a future nursing workforce with the optimal knowledge and skills needed to function in an increasingly complex healthcare system.”

The 24-month MSN-ENP program will prepare students in both fundamental nursing concepts and the multifaceted evolving skills they will need to join, and ultimately lead, the profession. A combination of holistic, didactic coursework, 680 hours of clinical rotations, and lessons learned in both the Simulation and Empathy labs will provide the educational foundation students need to confidently begin their RN careers. 

The program will admit students with strong foundational baccalaureate degree preparation in the liberal arts. RFU and Lake Forest College have partnered to create early conditional admission for select Lake Forest College students. The program features an accelerated pathway by which students can earn a BA from Lake Forest College and a MSN degree in five years. Another key feature is the Nursing Education to Workforce Pathway, which identifies diverse Lake County high school students who want to become nurses and guides them through high school, then undergraduate degree completion at Lake Forest College and into the MSN-ENP program at RFU. 

“We are so excited to have the opportunity to welcome and educate students from diverse backgrounds,” said Lori Thuente, PhD, RN, director of the MSN-ENP program. “We designed the pathway in collaboration with our clinical and community partners. Our goal is to serve our incoming students so they, in turn, can serve others.”

“Nursing is about more than technical skill and knowledge. An extraordinary nurse is also well-rounded, culturally competent, critically thoughtful and a masterful communicator,” said Lake Forest College President Jill M. Baren, MD, MBA, MS. “These are the foundational skills taught in a liberal arts education at Lake Forest College. It helps you become a leader and instills in you the core values needed to be successful in improving patient care outcomes.”

The College of Nursing received a green light in January 2022 from the Illinois Board of Higher Education to offer a Doctor of Nursing Practice: Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (DNP-PMHNP) degree. The 33-month program, which aims to address a shortage of mental health professionals in the northeastern Illinois region, will be offered through a blend of remote and on-campus learning, with an emphasis on delivering effective, evidence-based psychiatric mental healthcare services in interprofessional settings. DNP-PMHNP students participate in supervised outpatient and inpatient experiences while completing a required 1,000 clinical hours for graduation.

RFU’s College of Nursing is representative of the largest segment of U.S. healthcare professionals, which accounts for more than 3.8 million registered nurses nationwide, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

“Nursing plays a major role across so many healthcare and research settings and increasingly in executive leadership,” said RFU Provost Nancy L. Parsley, DPM, MHPE. “A dedicated nursing college enhances our interprofessional (IP) culture and mission and strengthens our brand as a leader in IP health professions education. It brings new resources, creates more value for our clinical and community partners, and enhances our sustainability and our many community collaborations.”

RFU developed the College of Nursing’s programs in partnership with healthcare systems that need nurses in the ER and for critical care, pediatrics, maternity, mental health and many other areas of service. Clinical partners include Northwestern Medicine, Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, NorthShore University Health System, the Lake County Health Department and the Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center.

RFU’s Fall Quarter begins on Aug. 15 for students that include those in the DNP-PMHNP program. New student orientation takes place Aug. 9-12. The first cohort of MSN-ENP students is scheduled to be on campus for the start of the Spring 2023 academic quarter in February. Plans are taking shape for a ribbon-cutting ceremony in the College of Nursing, located in a newly renovated wing of the Basic Sciences Building.

Posted July 20
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