Q&A with Nursing Dean Andrews

The University of South Carolina’s online graduate programs in nursing started 15 years ago. The curriculum was one of the first online programs the university offered, targeting working nurses who wanted to join the ranks of nurse leaders, conduct research and teach. The program has been ranked No. 1 by U.S. News and World Report, but College of Nursing leaders are not resting on their laurels, instead they are working to continue making the programs better.

We sat down with College of Nursing Dean Jeannette Andrews to discuss the programs’ success and plans for the future.

What was the impetus for creating online programming for nursing education?

“We’ve been offering distance education for graduate-level nursing students since 1988 because we recognized years ago that nurses who want to come back for their graduate degree often worked full time as nurses. That means weekends, evenings and 12-hour shifts, so we had to have more flexibility to give access to our programs to those who live beyond our region. Our online programs have been going on for 15 years, and we were the first on campus to present online delivery.”

What’s the value to nurses?

“It’s a flexible and accessible option and they can get such a high-quality online. The curriculum is very competency-based, where students meet with faculty twice a semester to assess competencies to give them the hands-on component. Then what they learn in the online classroom is applied to what they are doing in the field.”

What’s the value to the people of South Carolina?

“90 percent of our students stay and work in-state and 70 percent of those work in underserved areas, so we are a major pipeline for providing care to rural areas, which is tremendous. Seeing the diversity of expertise, gender, race, ethnicity, we do certainly think we’re shaping health care in South Carolina.”

How has the program evolved over the years?

“What has evolved is our innovation and delivery of those online programs. Instead of replacing an online course with a taped lecture, it's more about innovating and engaging students to work with each other and with faculty instead of passively listening to a video.

JoAnne Herman, faculty emeritus, and Mary Ann Parsons, the former dean for the College of Nursing, were very instrumental in growing this program. Dean Parsons was visionary: Our Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program was the fourth in the country. Vera Polyakova-Norwood, our director of online learning, has been with the program for at least 10 years. She is a noted expert on the topic around campus and challenges faculty to really develop a product that facilitates learning in an active way. One of the reasons I think we have really moved up to this level is because we listen to our stakeholders – our faculty, staff, alumni and students who have given feedback. We also listen to the health care systems to give them what they need in their workforce.”

What’s next for the online programs?

“We are looking the health care delivery gaps that still exist in our state and how we might address them. Health care information is one, along with forensic nursing and palliative care. We are looking at what our consumers tell us is needed, and are trying to respond by including programs that will further health care delivery in the state, which is the mission of the College of Nursing.”

Learn more

Read our story about the College of Nursing's No. 1 ranking.

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