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Readies Students for Success in Nursing

 Millikin University November 02, 2012

By Sara Browning

When it comes to nursing, Millikin University has what it takes to help students achieve their dreams.  Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois, offers an alternative option for graduate students to become registered professional nurses while keeping on the cutting edge of the job market.

Millikin University’s School of Nursing offers four graduate level programs leading to the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree. However, unlike graduate school nursing courses taken at other universities throughout mid-state Illinois, Millikin University’s Master’s Entry into Nursing Practice (MENP) program does not require students to hold a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) in order to be admitted to the program. Adopted by the institution three years ago, the program is specifically designed for students that have previously received their Bachelor’s degree in a field other than nursing. Exposing students to both graduate and undergraduate level coursework, MENP prepares students using a 30-month intensive program designed to equip them in classroom, clinical and practice settings. 

“Our program is the only one of its kind in mid-state Illinois,” says Dr. Kathy Booker, Professor of Nursing at Millikin University. “It’s unique because it offers entry-level undergraduate curriculum at the graduate school level. Right now, getting into nursing school as an undergraduate is nearly impossible because the programs are so competitive. This program creates a new, open door for students to be able to pursue their passion.”

“It’s higher preparation for students to become leaders in their field,” adds Dr. Mary Jane Linton, Professor of Nursing at Millikin. “Students are very well rounded and function at a higher level than the traditional graduate nurse.”

With the help of a $500,000 federal grant for which the University was approved in the summer of 2009, Millikin hired additional faculty to support the program. Students enter the program in July and graduate in December following 30 months of training. This year will be Millikin University’s first graduating class for students enrolled in MENP.

In the spring before December graduation, MENP students take the professional Registered Nurse Licensure Exam. Toward the end of the program students take the Clinical Nurse Leader Certification Exam, demonstrating they have completed the Master’s-level coursework and are eligible to practice in a particular area of nursing. Students graduate with a Master of Science in Nursing.

Breadth & Depth of MENP
One of many attractive features of MENP is the program’s ability to draw high-quality, motivated students with a passion for learning. “The students that enter this program are highly ambitious, highly driven individuals,” says Dr. Booker, “and because this course combines both undergraduate and graduate work, the workload is very heavy.”

Professors recommend students do not hold employment in order to contribute the necessary time and energy toward their studies and keep up with curriculum requirements. Says Dr. Linton: “Students put their life on hold to give 100 percent effort toward this program.”

Throughout the program students undergo basic preparation for nursing Monday through Thursday and take Master’s degree courses on Friday. Master’s degree courses are integrated with students that are already licensed registered nurses.

“The breadth of clinical experience required for this program is extremely demanding,” says Dr. Booker. “Students work 10-12 hour shifts in different areas of nursing. They begin with an introduction to medical surgical nursing and from there move into pediatrics and obstetrics, mental health nursing, community health and advanced medical surgical nursing.”

MENP requires a number of pre-requisite courses including anatomy and physiology I and II, microbiology, organic chemistry, abnormal psychology, lifespan development and graduate level statistics. Students must also have earned a 3.25 GPA or take the Graduate Record Exam. In addition, admittance to the program requires three letters of recommendation, a resume and a personal interview.

“We interview all the candidates and make a decision based on their commitment level and background,” says Dr. Booker. 
Meeting Student Needs

Millikin University goes the extra mile to ensure its nursing programs meet students’ specific needs. Students best suited for the MENP program are strong researchers, excellent writers and exercise a powerful work ethic, according to Dr. Booker.

“MENP students have a special skill set. Some students begin the program but later discover it’s too intensive, so they enroll in the undergraduate nursing program, which is better suited for their lifestyle. Our goal is to match our programs with our students’ needs to best prepare them for the workplace.”

Reaping Rewards
Students currently enrolled in Millikin University’s MENP program realize the benefits of combining undergraduate and graduate coursework in nursing. Alicia White, a senior at Millikin who will be graduating from the program in December, received her undergraduate degree in Biology from the University of Illinois in Springfield.

“My senior year as an undergraduate I worked as a phlebotomist,” says Alicia. “I saw the way some of the nurses were treating the patients, and I didn’t like it. I wanted to make some changes. I found out about Millikin’s program and discovered it gave me opportunities that weren’t offered at other places.”

Nkone Adu Antwi, a student at Millikin University who is midway through the MENP program, completed her undergraduate coursework at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. Following graduation, she worked as a certified nurse assistant (CNA) in Chicago. Nkone says her job helped prepare her for the nursing field.

“My background as a CNA played a huge role in my decision to enter the program,” she says. “I wanted to do something in the health care field because I’m very compassionate and I love to help people. This program seemed like excellent preparation for a career in the health care field.”  

Rozie Smith, also a current MENP student who received her Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Knox College in Galesburg, discovered that the MENP program at Millikin University was “exactly what I needed.”

“The program is very challenging, but I wouldn’t have it any other way,” she says. “MENP is training us to be responsible for people’s lives. That’s a tremendous responsibility I don’t take for granted.”

Alicia says the faculty at Millikin University holds students to a higher standard. High expectations translate into tougher course loads. “It’s definitely not a ‘float through’ program,” says Alicia. “You have to dig in and work hard and study.”

“It’s definitely a challenge,” says Nkone. “You’re completing a four- to six-year program in just a little over two years. It’s important to know your limits going into the program. You have to be very disciplined and keep your mind on your goal.”

But Rozie says the work is well worth the effort due to the vast amount of clinical experience the faculty provides. “The program is full of unique opportunities,” she says.  “We go to nursing homes and work with patients. We also participate in health fairs so we can interact with the public on a personal level rather than in a health care environment. It’s very important to the faculty that we receive the hands-on experience that parallels the classroom component.”

As students progress through the curriculum, Millikin faculty serves as a strong support group. “The faculty really encourages and embraces you at Millikin,” says Alicia. “Their doors are always open even after you finish a class.”
Rozie says the faculty is—in a word—“amazing.” “We’re not just students to them; we’re people. They really make an effort to get to know us both inside and outside the classroom.”

Even more rewarding than working side by side with engaged faculty members are the rewards students reap for their effort. Says Nkone: “Getting experience in this program now, seeing your patients smile back at you, receiving a pat on the back from your instructors to let you know you’re doing a good job—those are the true rewards. It’s as simple as that.” 

“This program allows you to see the impact you can make as a nurse,” adds Rozie. “It’s fulfilling to realize that you can make a positive difference in the world, and Millikin University gives you the tools you need to do it.”

For more information on Millikin University’s Master’s Entry into Nursing Practice (MENP) program, visit www.millikin.edu/msn.

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 Millikin University| November 02, 2012
Keywords:  Feature StorySHC

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