Accelerated nursing master’s program to start at FPU in the fall

  • Dr. Paula L. McWilliam, Director of the School of Nursing at Franklin Pierce University, demonstrates the process of neonatal intubation. Courtesy photo

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 6/29/2020 4:29:29 PM

Franklin Pierce University has created a new, streamlined path to a nursing degree, specifically designed to allow adult learners to jump into the field with a master’s degree.

The 18-month master’s degree program allows college graduates with a degree in an unrelated field, who may be looking to start a second career, to receive all the clinical knowledge they need to start a nursing career.

Paula McWilliam, director of the school of nursing at Franklin Pierce University, said it’s one way to help bolster a field that is always clamoring for employees. The program is small, starting with eight slots for the fall semester, and another eight in the spring, but will give those students a running start to their career.

An 18-month program is intensive, McWilliam admitted – the university doesn’t recommend that students work during that study period, as they will be undergoing a total of 1,064 clinical and laboratory hours of study.

Paige Kennedy, an adjunct professor at Franklin Pierce, finished her master’s degree at the university last year, through its traditional path over two years. She said the degree opens up new avenues for her as a nurse, and would be a tremendous advantage for people looking to jump start a new career.

Kennedy said she’s known she wanted to be a nurse since she was a child, and directed her schooling in that direction from the beginning. For someone coming to it later in life, she said, this program is ideal.

“I was fortunate in that I knew from a young age what I wanted to do. But I have a lot of friends who have looked at nursing as a career, who already have some other degree, but just can’t commit to another three or four years of school. Having the opportunity to do an entry-level master’s program would be amazing for them,” Kennedy said.

Her own master’s degree has opened up her career options, she said, giving her the opportunity to teach, pursue management opportunities, and other leadership roles. She said having those opportunities presented at the outset is an advantage for students.

It simply lays out more options.

“My undergraduate focused very heavily on in-patient care. I didn’t really learn about other opportunities until I got out in the field. I think with this program, you’re getting a broad look at other avenues that are available to you in nursing right from the outset. In-patient nursing isn’t for everyone,” Kennedy said. “This program will make them aware of the different levels of nursing that are out there, and they can find where they fit best.”

The nursing shortage

The nation has been struggling to deal with a shortage of nurses for several years, with the demand expected to explode within the next ten years.

“I’ve been a nurse for 30 years, and there’s always been a nursing shortage,” McWilliam said. “The idea of an accelerated program allows students to move through the curriculum at a faster pace, so they can hit the ground running. The idea was to help with the nursing shortage, but also to get the adult learner into their role in a faster amount of time.”

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics is projecting a 10 percent increase in healthcare jobs between now and 2028, with registered nursing among the jobs projected to grow the most.

The need for nurses is growing with the nation’s aging population. Within the next ten years, a fifth of the country’s population will be above the age of retirement.

That growth means the need for more nurses. A lot more – 200,000 registered nurses entering the field each year.

One of the potential roadblocks is the number of nursing programs available.

In 2019, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing reported that 75,000 qualified applicants were rejected by nursing schools due to lack of space. One of the issues is a lack of nursing educators.

Studying nursing during coronavirus

The program is set to open for in-person instruction in the fall. Though students aren’t to work with patients infected with coronavirus during their clinical hours, they will still observe strict hospital protocol, McWilliam said.

The university is partnering with Dartmouth-Hitchcock to provide clinical hours for students. Nursing students will follow the standards and guidelines set by both Dartmouth-Hitchcock and Franklin Pierce University, including daily temperature checks and use of personal protective equipment, including masks.


Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.


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