Nursing program adds neonatal track

The School of Nursing at the College has teamed up with Thomas Jefferson University’s (TJU) College of Health Professions and the School of Nursing at the University of Delaware (UD) to offer a neonatal nurse practitioner education program to those in the tri-state area.

The new 37-credit graduate program prepares future nurse practitioners to become experts in diagnosing and treating weak infants, as well as managing their health care and aiding their families.

Currently, both New Jersey and Delaware have an extremely high infant fatality rate. It is estimated that 6.5 infants of every 1,000 live births die before the age of one. This prompted TJU to look into creating a program that specializes in neonatal health care.

As a result, TJU contacted Susan Bakewell-Sachs, dean of the School of Nursing at the College, and Claire Lindberg, coordinator of the graduate program in the School of Nursing at the College, to participate in writing a grant request for the funding of the program.

Both doctors are well-experienced in the area of neonatal care. Lindberg worked as a nurse caring for pregnant women, and Bakewell-Sachs worked in a neonatal unit in the past.

Together with UD and TJU, Lindberg and Bakewell-Sachs helped to create the Neonatal Education Consortium. This consortium, funded by the United States University’s College of Health and Human Services, serves as a means to help reduce infant fatalities and possibly put an end to the shortage of nurses in the neonatal field.

The neonatal nurse practitioner program is for registered nurses with a bachelor’s of nursing degree (BSN) interested in entering advanced practice. It is also fitting for registered nurses with non-nursing bachelor’s degrees that enter through the College’s Bridge Program to master’s of nursing (MSN).

The Bridge Program to MSN is a graduate studies program for registered nurses with a non-nursing Bachelors of Arts (BA) or Bachelors of Science (BS) degrees who wish to enter advanced practice in the areas of adult or family health. The program is designed so that graduate students can complete it in two academic years of full-time study and two summer terms.

Registered nurses with a BSN will take seven core courses required of all students on the nurse practitioner track at the College and then take additional courses for the neonatal nurse practitioner specialty track at TJU. In the end, the student will graduate with a master’s nursing degree from the College.

Such an arrangement is quite beneficial for the College and for in-state graduate students interested in the field, according to Lindberg.

“The program layout is great because graduate students (in New Jersey) can get their MSN a lot cheaper paying in-state tuition fees,” she said. “Plus, we can offer our students this opportunity without creating new classes or hiring staff with neonatal expertise.”

Undergraduate students also see the advantages of the program. “I think it is a great idea because it helps make our nursing program stand out and its gives undergraduates the opportunity to come back to this school and get their master’s,” Doris Santos, sophomore nursing major, said.

In addition to the neonatal nurse practitioner track, the School of Nursing at the College offers graduate programs that lead to a master’s of Science in nursing in the specialties of family nurse practitioner, adult nurse practitioner or clinical nurse leader.