SFA nursing grads tackle master’s program while facing challenges brought on by pandemic

Master of Science in Nursing program boasts 100% passing rate on most recent national exams

SFA nursing grads tackle master’s program while facing challenges brought on by pandemic
Stephen F. Austin State University's 2017 cohort of the Master of Science in Nursing program focused on nurse practitioners. (Source: Stephen F. Austin State University)

NACOGDOCHES, Texas (KTRE) - Stephen F. Austin State University’s Master of Science in Nursing program started with its first group in August 2017. That first cohort of ten students, graduated this May all passing their certification exams on the first try.

Elizabeth Werth has been a nurse for 18 years. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree from SFA in 2002 and this past spring with a Master’s.

“I was very glad to be a part of their first graduating class,” Werth said.

“It is really impressive that our students all passed on the first time to become certified nurse practitioners,” SFA’s Master of Science in Nursing Coordinator Erin Bailey said. “It’s not something everyone can do. It requires a lot of work and effort, so we are really proud of them.”

Bailey says unlike the bachelor’s program which is face-to-face, the master’s program is primarily online and takes eight semesters to complete with 720 hours on clinicals alone.

“They had to be a nurse before they started the program,” Bailey said. So, they were working while they’re going to school."

And doing all of that during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“They were involved in screenings and protocol developments in the State,” Bailey said. So, they were busy during this time on top of doing all these clinical hours in their last semester since they graduated in May in the middle of all of this."

While in the program, Werth worked part-time at Christus Good Shepard Surgery Center in Longview and just needed 72 hours of clinicals to complete when the pandemic hit.

“Luckily, my professors were able to get me into a clinic in Nacogdoches with some midwives,” Werth said. “I’m so thankful they let me in to finish my clinical hours there because the place I had set up in Longview wouldn’t allow me to do it.”

Werth says she was able to graduate on time in May and continue to work as an RN in Longview, but she says because of COVID-19 she did not get her Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) license until this month.

“It has definitely affected things, but it was still a great experience,” Werth said. “Glad to have done it, and thankful to all of my professors.”

Students can take an exam from just two certifying bodies in the US to receive their license and become a nurse practitioner.

SFA is taking new applicants for the nurse practitioner program. They start a new cohort every fall. Anyone who is interested can contact the Richard and Lucille Dewitt School of Nursing on how to apply.

SFA Officials says a grant from the T.L.L. Temple Foundation helped get the program started.

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