First Graduates of MGA's Master's Degree in Nursing Look Forward to Expanding Careers
Thursday, January 11th, 2018
After working as an RN for nearly a dozen years, Darquita Loyd was ready for her career to take a new direction as she eased into her mid-30s.
"In order to move beyond being a bedside nurse I had to obtain a higher degree," said Loyd, who works for Navicent Health in Macon. "I was ready to do more as a nurse."
A bachelor's degree graduate of the former Macon State College, Loyd in 2015 began receiving postcards in the mail with details about an upcoming master's program in nursing at her alma mater, now Middle Georgia State University. After attending a drop-in information session that School of Nursing faculty held at Navicent, Loyd applied for admission and joined the charter class.
In late summer 2017, she became one of the first students to complete MGA's Master of Science in Nursing - Adult/Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner program.
She is thrilled about the career options she now has as an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse, whose role in healthcare settings is usually more specialized and independent - and higher paying - than that of an RN. "It's great to be part of the first graduating class," Loyd said. "We're setting the foundation for those who will follow in our footsteps.”
The charter master's degree class consists of 11 students, all of whom participated in MGA's fall graduation ceremony in December 2017. All enrolled when MGA launched the master's program in January 2016.
"We're excited to reach this milestone," said Dr. Lawanda Greene, assistant professor of Nursing who coordinates the program. "Getting a new master's degree established is challenging work but it pays off when you actually see students getting ready to graduate and know they are going to have a positive impact on their future patients."
MGA's Master of Science in Nursing - Adult/Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner program requires students to complete 43 hours of graduate coursework. The advanced practice program prepares RNs to provide care to a broad population base in a variety of acute/sub-acute care settings, including hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, nursing homes, physician specialty practices, trauma units, burn units, and community healthcare.
The program's curriculum focuses on acute, complex chronic, critical care, and health promotion. Students hone critical thinking skills in order to develop plans of care that includes non-pharmacological approaches. They are expected to learn how to lead quality improvement projects within healthcare facilities. All coursework is online, but to be eligible for certification each student must accumulate at least 630 clinical practice hours while mentored by NPs or physicians.
The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing recently granted initial accreditation to the master's degree program at MGA.
Terri LeDoux, another member of the charter graduating class, works in ICU at Southern Regional Medical Center in Riverdale just south of Atlanta. She said the ability to do the coursework online drew her to MGA's master’s program, as did the reasonable costs.
"The tuition is very affordable at Middle Georgia State," she said. "I saved up for a couple of years prior to avoid getting loans. Middle Georgia State is very doable without having to obtain loans."
LeDoux expects to have more autonomy as a Nurse Practitioner. "As RNs, we have developed care plans for our patients for years," she said. "As Nurse Practitioners, we will have a broader scope of practice to treat our patients and still collaborate with physicians when needed."
Having more autonomy on the job is also important to another charter class member, Casey Clark, an RN for seven years who works at Coliseum Medical Center in Macon.
"Nurse Practitioners and other midlevel providers are becoming staples for medical practice," he said. "It still hasn't completely sunk in that I have a master's degree in nursing but I'm looking forward to all the doors I think it will open for me and my family."