It’s no secret that nursing — the nation’s largest healthcare profession — offers a rewarding and secure career. With one-third of the nursing workforce expected to retire in the next 10 to 15 years and a forecasted surge of 1 million residents in Nevada, well-trained nurses will be much in demand.
UNLV’s School of Nursing is tackling that ongoing demand by offering undergraduate and online graduate degrees through both traditional and accelerated tracks.
Can You Get a Master's in Nursing Without a BSN?
No nursing background? No problem! In 2021, the School of Nursing launched an Accelerated Second-Degree BSN program for graduates with non-nursing degrees looking to try a different field. To open even more opportunities for students and increase the nursing workforce, UNLV is also launching the Direct Entry - Generalist Master of Science in Nursing program (DEMSN) in fall 2023.
The DEMSN program, which is already accepting applications for its first cohort, takes students with non-nursing bachelor’s degrees and prepares them to become a registered nurse — from introductory concepts and basic skills to a general master of science in nursing degree. The focused format has the added benefit of fostering close relationships with faculty mentors.
Acacia Herndon, a nursing student with a bachelor’s degree in physiology and a minor in developmental psychology, says, “All of the teachers I’ve found to be really caring and invested in us doing well.”
Because these programs were developed for students with a non-nursing background — Herndon, for example, with a bachelor’s in physiology and a minor in developmental psychology — the variety of skills and insights the students bring to each class makes the program unique. “I think it's a strength of our cohort [that] we get to share different types of experiences with each other because we've all had different backgrounds,” says Herndon. “In that sense, it's more enriching to have that diversity.”
Advanced Nursing Degrees to Fill Need for Specialists in Mental Health
With a wide variety of degree programs, UNLV nursing students gain professional skills that allow them to thrive in all areas of the industry. Graduates go on to become registered nurses, nurse practitioners, educators, and researchers. The school’s new psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner program was developed to meet another high-need area: the shortage of mental health practitioners.
Nevada, especially, has struggled with having enough psychiatric providers for patients in rapidly expanding communities. Patients can wait three to four months for an appointment with a psychiatrist.
Rona Balicas Divinagracia earned her Bachelor of Science in nursing in the Philippines before enrolling in UNLV’s master in psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner program. She and her cohort are part of an advanced nursing track that’s addressing mental health issues and the stigma that can come with them. She sees herself eventually owning her own clinic with therapists to balance out the pharmacological with therapeutic patient treatments.
But Divinagracias’ long-term goals are more than just career-based. She wants to help spur conversations about mental health and be a leader in promoting wellness in her community. “I want people to be comfortable with talking about it,” she says. "It's like having the flu. Most of us will get the flu. We'll see a provider for that. I hope it will be like that with mental health, too. I hope I'll be able to not just educate but also set an example.”
Meeting the Demand — Your Way
From the accelerated second bachelor program for students new to the field to advanced degree programs for those ready to specialize, School of Nursing offers a wide range of top-ranked programs to enable students to pave their ideal career path.
For UNLV student Trent Sebastian Eisma-Naparan, a career in nursing was always top of mind; both his parents and grandparents worked in the vocation. Prior to 2020, he had been performing in the Cirque du Soleil show, KÀ, but the pandemic reignited his interest in medicine, and nursing offered an accelerated path toward employment. “Being in [health] is something I wanted to do forever,” he says. “Also, there are so many different aspects of nursing. I could literally do anything.”
Building Career Networks
Outside of the classroom, the School of Nursing fosters extensive community partnerships to provide students with hands-on learning experiences. Currently, the school maintains around 187 clinical partnerships, providing nearly 300 clinical sites for undergraduate and graduate students.
Many students also take advantage of the Nevada Nurse Apprentice Program to gain workforce experience while helping hospitals fill shortage gaps.
Herndon, for example, is completing the accelerated bachelor’s program and working as a paid nurse apprentice at Centennial Hills Hospital Medical Center to augment what she was learning in school. “I think it's important for us to get as much hands-on experience as possible before graduation," Herndon says. “It's a way to get our feet wet and be more prepared for when we start working.”
- No GRE/MCAT
- Graduate-level courses available online
- Only Ph.D. nursing program in Nevada
Nationally Recognized Excellence in Nursing Education
The School of Nursing is known for sustained excellence in student learning and professional development in nursing and is the first institution in Nevada to earn the distinction. According to U.S. News & World Report, UNLV’s online master’s program is nationally ranked in the Top 10 overall. The school offers three master's tracks — family nurse practitioner, psychiatric mental health, and nurse educator — and has ranked within the Top 30 each year since the publication began rating online nursing programs in 2012.
“These rankings motivate us to keep pushing to be innovative and to elevate even more highly skilled and dedicated professionals entrenched in evidence-based education,” says Angela Amar, dean of the UNLV School of Nursing. “Our master's program, like all our graduate programs, is a stepping stone to advanced nursing, to specialized care, and greater patient outcomes.”
The UNLV program is approved by the Nevada State Board of Nursing, which makes UNLV students, after successful completion of the program, eligible to take the National Council for Licensure Examination (NCLEX RN). In addition to taking and passing the NCLEX, graduating students must apply for licensure to practice as a registered nurse in each U.S. state or territory where they will work.
For more information, email UNLV's nursing program or call 702-895-3360.