New Four-Year Nursing Major Approved for Fall 2005

Published 06.01.2005


The School of Health Sciences at Pennsylvania College of Technology has begun accepting students into its newest nursing major, which was approved recently by the state Board of Nursing.

Students who enroll in the new major will enter as freshmen in a four-year program that leads to a bachelor-of-science degree and helps prepare them to take the registered-nurse licensing exam. The program is meant to appeal to students who know they want a bachelor's degree − especially those who know they want to attend graduate school.

The four-year major will not replace the college's current bachelor-degree nursing major, which enrolls students who are already licensed registered nurses. First-year students who do not yet have a registered-nursing license have the ability, through the new four-year major, to earn their bachelor's degree in eight semesters, as opposed to the 10 semesters it often takes for a student to earn an associate's degree and then enroll in the registered nurse-to-bachelor-of-science nursing major.

"If they want to go on to graduate school, they're ready much sooner," said Pamela L. Starcher, director of nursing at Penn College.

Starcher said that, nationwide, there is a severe shortage of candidates for nursing jobs that require master's degrees, including teaching positions, nurse anesthetists and nurse practitioners.

"By them getting their bachelor's degree earlier, they're going to be more inclined to get their master's degree and fill the roles that are opening up," she said.

She said new nurses are not graduating as quickly as veteran nurses are retiring. In addition, more nurses will be needed as the baby boomer population ages. The shortage is also being seen in nursing education. Nationwide, Starcher said, the average nursing educator's age is above 50.

Even for those who do not plan to pursue a graduate degree, Starcher said there are more opportunities available for nurses with bachelor's degrees to advance to mid-management positions. The new major will also make registered-nursing degrees available to more Penn College students. Enrollment in the two-year associate-degree major is limited, which means many students must opt for the certificate major in practical nursing.

In addition to the new four-year bachelor-degree program, courses for the registered nurse-to-bachelor-of-science nursing major will be offered online.

While the stepped program appeals to students who are working in the field of nursing while they are taking classes, Starcher anticipates that the new four-year program will appeal more to recent high-school graduates.

She said the School of Health Sciences expects to admit 18 students into the four-year bachelor-degree major for Fall 2005.

Penn College will seek accreditation for the major through the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission. A nursing education program is not eligible for accreditation until its first class of students is nearly ready to graduate. The three existing programs in nursing have already been accredited.

For more information about the academic programs offered by the School of Health Sciences at Penn College, call (570) 327-4519, send e-mail or visit online.