Amid nursing shortage comes new master’s degree program

The Pennsylvania College of Technology board agreed Thursday to move forward with the development of a master’s degree program in nursing.

The action activated a timeline that is expected to end with the acceptance of the first group of master’s degree students in August 2021.

The degree will offer two program options: one as a family nurse practitioner and the other in nursing education.

“This is a significant step for the institution,” Dr. Davie Jane Gilmour, college president, said in introducing the measure.

Penn College first began offering nursing degrees in 1962 with a practical nursing certificate program. An associate degree was added and because of the popularity of this, the certificate program ended in 2015. From 1988 until the present, various programs were added to the area of study to advance the career opportunities for students in the nursing field.

With the master’s degree program, which will be offered online, full-time students will be able to complete their degree requirements within two years.

Nursing is the largest program at Penn College with an average of 400 nursing student in the academic program and about 200 pre-nursing students seeking entrance into one of the nursing majors, according to Dr. Sandra Richmond, dean of nursing and health services.

“We are very proud of our nursing program outcomes with all of our pre-licensure programs meeting or exceeding state and national first-time NCLEX (the nursing licensure exam) pass rates,” Richmond said.

Citing a shortage of nurses, which she said is “nationwide and predicted to get worse,” Richmond said it has been estimated that in the coming years it will take 1.1 million registered nurses to cover the deficit.

A physician shortage is also a problem. By training nurse practitioner graduates in that program could help fill that need.

“Nurse practitioners will play a critical role in addressing the need for primary care providers,” she said.

The proposed timeline calls for an anticipated launch date in fall 2021, the college announced. Implementation will require the college to hire additional full-time nursing faculty and administration.

The approval of this graduate-level program marks the second advanced degree program at the college. In 2017, the college began offering its first graduate degree option, a combined bachelor/saster of science in physician assistant studies.

In other business, the board approved two budget policies. According to Gilmour all policies are reviewed and approved on a five-year cycle.

The board also heard a report from Jason Bogle, director of construction projects at the college, on the progress of two current projects, one an addition to the Metal Trades Center at the Williamsport campus and one at the Wellsboro site.

The next board meeting will be at 3 p.m. April 25 at the Schneebeli Earth Science Center, 203 Allenwood Camp Lane, Montgomery.