Texas A&M’s College of Nursing received the No. 11 spot on the 2020 U.S. News & World Report ranking of online graduate nursing programs.
The college currently offers both Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degrees with campus locations in Round Rock, Texas, and Bryan, Texas. All three MSN programs — nursing education, family nurse practitioner and forensic nursing — offer online courses to accommodate students who are working professionals looking to advance their career in a specialty area, said Nancy Fahrenwald, the dean of the College of Nursing.
Fahrenwald said she and her faculty are proud of this accomplishment and their national recognition, as rankings are a way for colleges to indicate their success.
“While rankings alone do not provide a testimony to the overall quality of every program, together with our pass rates, our license and certification examinations, our completion rates and our employment rates, these results confirm what we already knew about Texas A&M University College of Nursing,” Fahrenwald said. “Our programs are outstanding, and our outcomes are exceptional.”
The College of Nursing was established only 12 years ago, and their online nursing programs began within the past six years. Matthew Sorenson, the assistant dean of graduate programs for the College of Nursing, said it is great to see their online programs nationally ranked next to other programs which have existed longer than A&M’s College of Nursing itself.
“This is a testament to our faculty who have spent a lot of time and energy learning how to teach online and really develop their ability to deliver the course load through online education,” Sorenson said. “Online teaching is very different from teaching in a classroom, and you have to look at different ways of engaging students and having them contribute. The faculty have done a really good job of demonstrating that they are able to put a course together in a clear, organized fashion that can engage the student body.”
While the distance education programs teach courses online, Sorenson said students come in for practicums and short, two-day residencies where they demonstrate their assessment skills in a series of scheduled labs and activities. The programs follow national guidelines reflected in the coursework to ensure students are receiving the professional standards required to work in the field, he said.
Fahrenwald said the most unique quality of A&M’s College of Nursing is its dedication to serving rural and underserved populations, which is part of A&M’s historical land-grant mission.
“We are truly preparing family nurse practitioners to provide primary care in rural areas,” Fahrenwald said. “Our other students have a keen understanding of health issues that rural dwellers face. … Our students also receive multiple certifications in areas of emergency response and disaster.”
In addition to this No. 11 national ranking, Fahrenwald said the Texas A&M University System Board of Regents named the College of Nursing a “Center of Excellence” in forensic nursing in August 2019 for its sexual assault nurse examiner training, innovations in forensic health care, and forensic and trauma associated research.
“That distinction allows us to be able to put Texas A&M nursing on the map for preparation of advanced forensic nurses,” Fahrenwald said. “We’re very excited about that.”
Fahrenwald said the college has future plans to increase both its Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in Nursing enrollments in order to meet growing workforce demands. They are looking toward designing additional specialization programs in psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner and nursing administration, as well as preparing to launch a professional doctoral degree in nursing, she said.