Graduate Nursing at Universidad Ana G. Méndez, Puerto Rico
Written by Yanilda Rodríguez, PhD, MSN, RN, Graduate Nursing Program Full-time Faculty
Tayra Pérez, EdD, MSN, RN, Nurse Administrator
The global and national deficit of nurses demands urgent attention in the recruitment and education of students at all levels, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic. Graduate programs are an option for nurses with undergraduate degrees who are seeking nursing education. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (2019) calls for nurses to continue their education and to perform at the highest scope of practice. Our students have stated that the main reasons for pursuing graduate studies include improving their professional knowledge, looking for a change in direction of their nursing career, improving their financial status, building upon previous learning, among others. The majority study full-time and have full-time jobs in the areas of case management/utilization review, critical care, emergency, home health, medical-surgical, rehabilitation, women’s health, private infusion centers, and hemodialysis. Those interested should seek the advice of qualified faculty before starting a program and choose the ideal graduate program that fulfills their career goals (Macdiarmid, et al., 2021). Therefore, our candidates receive advice before applying to the program about curriculum options, program goals, and outcomes of the Universidad Ana G. Méndez (UAGM) graduate nursing program. The UAGM is a non-profit organization, incorporated under the laws of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico since 1965. It consists of various academic institutions of higher education and branch campuses in the United States. All UAGM main campuses and off-campus instructional sites are regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. The UAGM provides a wide range of academic offerings from professional certificates to doctoral degrees, including a graduate nursing program, which is part of the Division of Health Sciences that was established in 2006. The program is offered at two sites located close to hospitals, clinics, long-term care facilities, and communities with easy access through public and private transportation. Faculty at the UAGM are encouraged by the governing organization and administrators to implement strategies that demonstrate caring behaviors that encourage students to stay in the program, including responding to emails in a timely manner, addressing student challenges as soon as they become evident (including referrals to early alert), establishing classroom settings that ensure learning, providing clear instructions regarding schedules and due dates, providing guidance to individual students, making contact information available so students know when instructors can address their needs out of classroom hours, and more.
From Candidacy to Initial Accreditation
In 2006, the UAGM identified a need for a graduate nursing program in the metropolitan area. At that time there was only one other graduate nursing program accredited in Puerto Rico. The candidacy process was initiated in 2008, and in 2010 initial accreditation was granted. The greatest challenge was to identify the resources and documents needed to demonstrate its potential to achieve accreditation. Faculty was organized in committees and subcommittees according to the evidence and critical elements required, including faculty, curriculum, resources, and outcomes as well as documentation regarding regional and national accreditation of the program and the governing organization. We believe that the greatest challenge was to explain our cultures and processes regarding higher education and the nursing career specific to Puerto Rico.
Specific Faculty Requirements for the UAGM Graduate Nursing Program
The UAGM graduate nursing program faculty have the following specific admission requirements: possess a baccalaureate degree in nursing from an accredited institution, have a grade point average of 3.00 or higher, submit EXADEP or GRE results, have an active, non-encumbered permanent nursing license to practice in Puerto Rico, show evidence of membership to the Colegio de Profesionales de Enfermería de Puerto Rico, have one year of experience in nursing for the case management specialty and one year of experience in the critical care nursing for critical care specialty, show two letters of recommendation from an employing agency or professors, and submit a curriculum vitae.
Graduate-level Nursing Program
The MSN program prepares students in two specialties: critical care of the adult (CCA) and case management (CM). Students are also prepared to assume a second functional role as a nurse educator or as a nurse administrator. The CCA curriculum includes nine core courses, four specialty courses, and three secondary role courses for a total of 49 credits. The CM curriculum includes eight core courses, four specialty courses, and three secondary role courses for a total of 46 credits. The majority of courses are offered in part-of-term models (an eight-week modality), while others are offered in a traditional, face-to-face model; most students in Puerto Rico study in face-to-face programs. Students are admitted to the program each year and continue progressing until they complete the number of required credits according to the specialty and second role. Additionally, students must complete a research project.
The MSN curriculum flows from the mission and vision of the MSN program, which aligns with the mission and vision of the governing institution. The end-of-program student learning outcomes are consistently used to plan teaching/learning and assessment strategies and are reinforced throughout the curriculum to achieve program outcomes. The curriculum includes courses that provide theoretical foundations for the development of MSN graduates such as: interdisciplinary management in health sciences, role development, nursing theories, statistics for health professionals, and nursing research. The curriculum also includes the three Ps (advanced pharmacology, advanced pathophysiology, and advanced physical examination) as part of the core courses. The second role curriculum includes theory and practice courses for the development of the competencies related to a nurse educator or a nurse administrator.
The following eight competencies are used to organize the curriculum, guide the delivery of instruction, direct learning activities, and assess student learning: scientific foundations, research (quantitative and qualitative reasoning), literacy (technological), direct clinical practice, clinical leadership, ethical decision-making, collaboration, and consultation. The curriculum is guided by the professional standards of practice of the Colegio de Profesionales de Enfermería de Puerto Rico (Puerto Rico Nursing Professional College), the American Nurses Association, and the National Patient Safety Goals. The following concepts are also integrated across curriculum: sensitivity to a culturally and ethnically diverse global society (implying a continuous awareness of the advancement in healthcare and the changing needs of society) and information literacy (implying MSN graduates will be able to access, critically evaluate, and manage information and sources for an evidence-based practice).
The MSN curriculum is also congruent with established professional standards, nursing practice competencies, role-specific professional standards and guidelines, and certification requirements; it has clearly articulated student learning outcomes and program outcomes consistent with contemporary practice. The curriculum of UAGM’s MSN program considers the established professional nursing standards of the professional nursing organization in Puerto Rico (Colegio de Profesionales de la Enfermería de Puerto Rico) and the professional standards of the American Nurses Association.