Mississippians begin new 12-month nursing program

Published 1:15 pm Thursday, January 12, 2023

When Robin Holman made the decision to switch from a teaching career to one in nursing, she knew a fast-track degree option would be her best bet. She found that golden ticket with The University of Southern Mississippi’s (USM) new, accelerated BSN pathway.

Holman is part of the initial ABSN cohort that began classes earlier this month at USM’s Gulf Park campus in Long Beach, Miss. Nine students are currently enrolled in the accelerated degree plan.

“What attracted me to this new pathway is the fact that it is a 12-month program,” said Holman. “Since I would need to quit work in order to do it, I needed something as quick as possible and offered through an established institution.”

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Holman, who lives in Gulfport with her husband, John, and their 10-year-old son, Blake, had been serving as an intervention specialist at Pass Christian High School until last December. While she treasured working with students who needed intervention assistance with academic struggles, Holman felt conflicted by a professional void.

“I went to college initially with the dream of becoming a pediatrician,” she said. “My life ended up taking me in a different direction, and so I never pursued anything in the medical field. I feel like I am coming back to my initial goals in life of being in the medical field, and I am super excited about it.”

The unconventional pathway helps eligible students earn a BSN degree in a shorter time and decreases barriers to admission, while providing benefits to those who have already earned a higher education degree. Plans call for two admission cycles per year.

Significant components of the accelerated plan include:

  • Can be finished in 12 months
  • Scholarships are available
  • Same degree as traditional BSN – has same clinical experiences
  • Able to bypass some typical requirements, having already earned a degree
  • CCNE accredited

Students enrolled in this degree option will be eligible to bypass some typical BSN requirements because they have already earned a degree. Prospective applicants must have completed a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university.

Dr. Elizabeth Tinnon, Associate Professor and Director of USM’s School of Professional Nursing Practice, notes that the initial cohort’s response helps validate the pathway’s potential.

“We knew there was a need for the program, but the interest in the program has been greater than we anticipated, which is great for the students, school, and addressing the nursing shortage,” said Tinnon. “We are monitoring the cohort carefully, more in terms of what is working for them and what we might need to change/adjust in terms of student success.”

The inaugural cohort features a diverse group of students, ranging in age from 22-42. All nine are Mississippi residents who have already earned degrees from USM, the University of South Alabama, Louisiana State University, University of Albany, Life University, the University of New Mexico, and Mississippi State University. Those degrees include the following fields: forensics, biological sciences, psychology, emergency preparedness homeland security and cybersecurity, biology, and kinesiology.

Michelle Toepfer serves as instructor and coordinator of the ABSN pathway. Her responsibilities include coordination of the curriculum being taught, teaching classes, collecting curriculum data for accreditation, and recruiting at events as needed. She has high expectations for the inaugural cohort.

“My hope is that we graduate and pin all nine students in December,” said Toepfer. “These students are very excited about the program. They are engaging and eager to practice nursing.”

Holman earned her associate of arts degree in general studies at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College before obtaining a Bachelor of Science in biological sciences from USM. She earned a Master of Education in school counseling from Lamar University.

When asked her thoughts on being part of this unique pathway opportunity, Holman said, “I love the idea of being in a first cohort, which I was in for my counseling master’s degree. I love that I get to be a part of something small so I know I can get any assistance that I need, especially since I haven’t been in school in a while.”

USM also offers a BSN program for those who do not already have a bachelor’s degree on Hattiesburg campus, as well as a fully online RN-BSN program.

To learn more about USM’s nursing program, call 601.266.5445 or visit: https://www.usm.edu/nursing-health-professions/index.php