To address the nursing shortage in Arizona, the University of Arizona (UA) College of Nursing created an accelerated master’s program for people who hold university degrees in other fields. The only program of its kind offered in Arizona, it is 15 months long and offered in both Tucson and Phoenix. Reaching a record number of students, the Master of Science for Entry to the Profession of Nursing (MEPN) program enrolled 113 students last May, up from 98 students the previous year.

Nursing shortages are occurring nationwide due to increased healthcare demands and working nurses aging out of the profession. UA’s nursing program hopes to continue expanding to help fill the nursing workforce as well as facilitate students looking for a great profession. In addition to accepting more students into the accelerated master’s program, admissions to the program also increased this year from 220 to 260. 

The MEPN might even be more appealing to some students because it is less selective than UA’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing program. So far, the program has enrolled students with a wide range of degrees from neuroscience to fashion design, with many students having held long professional careers before acceptance into the master’s nursing program. These older and more experienced students have a lot to bring to the table; their maturity and professionalism often translates well into nursing.

Students choose to make a career switch to nursing for a variety reasons, many of them being attracted to the stability that nursing offers or looking for a more fulfilling career path. The program is not easy, squeezing four and a half years of nursing curriculum and training into 15 months, and requiring students to complete 1,000 clinical hours. The program doesn’t remove any curriculum from the education that bachelor’s students receive, so students and educators are forced to operate in double time.

Most MEPN students don’t have time for outside jobs with their tight schedules of classes, labs, and coursework; however, the program does offer flexibility because students pursue a nursing career in an expedited way. This also allows for a more diverse student population like first-generation students who are working to support their families. The UA College of Nursing and the university’s department for Diversity and Inclusion are proud to train students to serve in diverse communities where medical needs are more profound. There aren’t enough nurses currently in the field to serve diverse communities in Arizona so it’s important to facilitate that need through this program.

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