Lifesaving degree

By wayne.steffen on October 21, 2013 @ 1:46am

The baby's heart wasn't beating.

Rushing to help with a million things happening at once, the nurse prepared a dose of epinephrine, also known as adrenaline, to return the child to the living. But the dose was too much—10 times too much.


The situation was a simulation and the baby was a Laerdal manikin. This time Stephanie Blundell, assistant professor of nursing in Fresno Pacific University's new master of science in nursing program, was the "confederate," intentionally making the mistake to judge the reactions of the students, all registered nurses.

Blundell has seen students make that and other mistakes that would be fatal in real life. Simulations are a central part of the MSN curriculum because, more than reading a case study, a simulation sharpens students' skills and gives them a taste of the emotional side of the work. "It's important we have a very safe environment," Blundell says.

Classes for the MSN program began August 28, 2013, at the North Fresno Center with 20 registered nurses with bachelor's degrees. The goal of the 51-unit program, which will meet weekly for five semesters, summer included, is to prepare students for licensure as nurse practitioners and nursing educators.

FPU offers two tracks: family nurse practitioner and nurse educator/clinical specialist. The first track focuses on caring for patients and the second on teaching. All students, however, will do a micro-teaching practicum.

A great start Community support for the MSN program has already been strong. The Fresno-based Leon S. Peters Foundation has given $140,000 to purchase equipment for the simulation lab. Blundell's story moved the foundation to finance a child manikin as well as an adult-sized one, in addition to two-way screens and a multi-position electric hospital bed. "We need nurses in the Central Valley," said Foundation President Kenneth Peters. "This gift helps everyone."

Edwin and Mildred (Warkentin PBI '48) Ewy have given an additional $17,000 for nursing equipment. The Ewys provided seed money for Fresno Pacific's bachelor of science in nursing program.

Both donations will help the MSN program create nursing leaders. "The gifts from the Peters Foundation and the Ewys are a direct contribution to quality of life," said Karen Cianci, dean of the School of Natural Sciences.

Why nurse practitioners? Nurse practitioners are becoming more important in California's Central Valley as the new federal health and insurance regulations take effect in an area already short on resources, including medical doctors. "Every national trend will be exacerbated in the Valley because many rural and urban clinics are already underserved," Cianci said.

With the ability to supervise clinics, prescribe medication and oversee health promotion and disease prevention efforts, nurse practitioners can free up doctors for many other tasks. "A master's education in nursing equips nurses with valuable knowledge and skills," said Mariamma Mathai, Ed.D., professor of nursing and director of the nursing program.

This opportunity to do good for the Valley is also a chance for the students to do very well. While nurses can earn $80,000 a year in hospital, the income of a nurse practitioner, depending on where he or she practices, can be twice that, Cianci said. "This is a burgeoning and highly paid career," she said.

Quality from the first The nursing department, which already offers a BSN through the bachelor's degree completion program, has been going full speed since the FPU Board of Trustees approved the MSN program this June in order to start in August. "That's two months, that's huge," Cianci said.

Response was immediate. The goal was to start with 15 students. "In 48 hours we had more than 18 applicants," Cianci said. Ultimately more than 30 applications were received.

Current students have a combined 230 years of experience and range in age from 20s to mid-career. They come from a variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds, including Hmong, Hispanic, Filipino, Indian and African American as well as European American. Some have missions or military experience. "You really felt like you were in a professional meeting," Cianci said of orientation.

The FPU difference Wherever they come from, students will learn true health care involves more than prescriptions and procedures. Care for the whole person is one way FPU's MSN program stands apart. "The university is Christ-centered and the program is grounded in Christian principles," Mathai said.

The program is different in format as well. The curriculum is a blend of in-person and online instruction, in a cohort system where a group of students remains together through the program. "The class schedule is geared toward the working adult," Mathai said.

Graduates will have the tools to improve health in the Valley. "Our nurses will be able to teach patients how to care for themselves and how to make healthy lifestyle choices," Mathai said.

The next cohort is now planned for fall 2014. For more, contact Joanie Joy at 559-453-3446.