Augustana University is planning to offer a master’s of science in nursing program starting this fall.
The program will have an emphasis in two areas: adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner (AG-ACNP) and adult-gerontology clinical nurse specialist (AG-CNS).
By the summer of 2023, the university will also offer two post-master’s certificate options, including AG-ACNP and AG-CNS.
The program additions are part of Augustana’s “Viking Bold: The Journey to 2030″ strategic plan, which identified the goal of developing graduate degree programs, responsive to new and emerging student interests and community needs.
To gauge the level of demand for graduate nursing programs in Sioux Falls and across the region, the Department of Nursing conducted a feasibility study that included an environmental scan of competitive local and regional nursing programs, comparing curriculum and costs, as well as surveys of prospective students and AU alumni.
The 2021 South Dakota Nursing Workforce Report indicated that more than 78% of certified nurse practitioners in South Dakota are family nurse practitioners and less than 11% had an acute care certification, according to a press release from the university.
The 2021 report also showed that the number of clinical nurse specialists (CNSs) in the state decreased by nearly 13% from 2018, with another 41% of CNSs stating that they planned to retire or leave practice in the next five years, according to the university.
Prospective students indicated an interest in attaining a graduate nursing degree across more than a dozen areas of specialties, including nursing administration and leadership, ACNP and CNS.
“We are really excited to be entering this phase of nursing education,” Dr. Lynn White, associate professor of nursing, said. “At the same time, we’re also very concerned about, and have an eye on, the nursing and health care workforce needs of the community.”
Currently, South Dakota does not have academic programming that trains acute care nurse practitioners or clinical nurse specialists, according to Augustana University.
And there are very few adult-geriatric acute care nurse practitioners, Pamela Barthle, assistant professor of nursing and an AG-ACNP in cardiology at Sanford Health, said.
“There’s not an abundance in South Dakota because there are really no resources for that,” Barthle said. “I believe the hospitals see the benefit in having that specialty.”
White also said that there’s a gap in clinical nurse specialist education, and there aren’t many CNSs in the workforce in South Dakota and many of those who are in the workforce are of retirement age.
Nurses who hold a Bachelor of Science degree and valid nursing license with nursing practice experience are eligible to apply to Augustana’s graduate nursing program.
The program will be delivered in a hybrid model with the curriculum designed to accommodate students who work while enrolled in the program. The certificate programs will provide an opportunity for nurses who already have received their master’s degree in a different nursing specialty area to become certified as an ACNP or CNS.