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Nursing degree goes online with master's

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The university’s nursing school gave nurses across Texas and the United States the opportunity to complete their master’s degrees through an online nursing program.

Paulette Burns, dean of the Harris College of Nursing & Health Sciences, said the online classes launched the master’s program in 2001. At the time, there was a nursing shortage and the program allowed nurses to work while advancing their degree.

“So that seemed like the best idea at the time — to offer it online — so they could complete their degree requirements without having to make the drive here all the time,” Burns said. “Plus, we wanted to reach nurses all over Texas, as well as the country.”

Prosper resident Emily Jestes said she took online classes when she received a scholarship at work. It was a chance to attend graduate school around her schedule.

Jestes said the toughest part was learning outside of a classroom. It could be harder to understand expectations without the personal interaction in a classroom, she said.

Burns said the online environment was very demanding. Students could not sit back and learn passively.

“If you didn’t ever post anything or anything like that, you wouldn’t pass the course because we wouldn’t know what you were thinking,” she said.

The program offered three certifications, Burns said. Students could graduate as a clinical nurse specialist in adult or pediatric nursing or as a clinical nurse leader.

Jestes and Fort Worth resident Paula Wyman both will graduate as clinical nurse leaders. Wyman said the role created more contact with the patient than a nurse who worked rotating shifts.

“You are getting to work with your patients at least five days a week and overseeing all their care and combining all of the interventions that are being done for them,” Wyman said.

Burns said all class work was submitted and graded online. Students should have rudimentary technology skills and knowledge, such as how to send and receive email, and a willingness to learn online.

For the hands-on experience, students should find a local clinical facility, Burns said. They could find a preceptor, someone with a master’s in their certification, to help them meet clinical objectives.

The master’s program can be completed in two years as a full-time student or in three years studying part time, Burns said.

Students should expect to pay a $112 online fee for every three credit hours in addition to the normal university tuition rate, Burns said.

Many other schools have online nursing programs, Burns said. The nursing shortage caused many schools to use online education for graduate school.

Some current master’s programs could be moved to the doctorate level in the future, Burns said. The nursing school will look at adding informatics, management of patient and electronic data, and nursing administration to its online master’s program.

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