Mesa State gets OK to add nursing degrees

Mesa State College received approval Thursday to offer a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree and a Masters of Science in Nursing degree.

Nursing will be the third area to offer a masters program at the college, and the doctoral program will become the highest-level degree offered by Mesa State, according to college spokeswoman Dana Nunn. The college currently offers master’s degrees in education and business administration.

The Colorado Commission on Higher Education approved both programs unanimously during a Thursday meeting in Colorado Springs. The next step for the college is to get regional accreditation through the Higher Learning Commission, which may take until next summer, said Kristy Reuss, head of the college’s nursing department.

In the meantime, graduate-level nursing courses will begin as soon as spring 2011, Reuss said. It may take a year and a half or longer before doctoral classes are offered at Mesa State because the two new programs start with the same types of graduate-level classes.

A master’s degree in nursing prepares nurses for entry-level teaching positions and hospital jobs, while a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree prepares students for a career as a family nurse practitioner, Reuss said. Family nurse practitioners can perform some of the general duties of a physician, such as diagnosing and treating common ailments. Having more nurse practitioners in the community could help ease doctors’ caseloads and make it easier for a person to see a medical professional in the Grand Valley, Reuss said.

A handful of Front Range universities offer the same degree programs, but Mesa State will be the first Western Slope institution to offer either one. Reuss said Mesa State’s ability to offer both will be a great opportunity for the local health care system.

“As more hospital leaders and mid-level managers retire, we’re trying to build up a future workforce to take on those roles,” Reuss said. “There’s a lot of interest (in these programs) from our bachelor-of-science-in-nursing graduates and nurses working in the community. I think it’s going to be another successful step on our nursing career ladder.”

The commission approved two other new degree programs Thursday for Mesa State: a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering technology and a bachelor’s in hospitality management.


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