Missoula College’s associate of science degree in nursing has been ranked No. 1 in Montana, according to a news release from the University of Montana.
“The faculty here is really awesome,” said program director Linda Barnes on Friday. “The people that are teaching these students, they all are really passionate about nursing. Many of them still work as nurses on a part-time basis. So they really have kept up their skills. They’re giving these students a real world experience … They really deserve this.”
NursingProcess.org produced the rankings, which also named Montana Tech University in Butte No. 1 for its RN to BSN program (Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing). NursingProcess.org is a nonprofit educational and career resource for nursing students and cited as criteria academic quality, affordability, reputation and editorial ratings.
Missoula College, part of the University of Montana, won its top ranking for first-time pass rates for licensure and academic factors including enrollment, graduation and retention rates. The ranking notes the program can be completed in four semesters and offers “constant support” from faculty.
“With a student-to-faculty ratio that is as little as 13:1, the University of Montana focuses on offering you a personalized learning experience,” said a write-up from NursingProcess.org.
Meanwhile, on its website, Salish and Kootenai College notes it’s the first tribal college in the United States to offer the four-year bachelor’s in nursing. The program started in the most recent academic year.
“The BSN degree is now an industry standard, particularly among larger healthcare systems across the country including federal entities such as the Indian Health Service and Veterans Administration, (and) SKC is committed to providing the gold standard of pre-licensure degree offerings,” said SKC on its website.
After the pandemic hit and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Anthony Fauci gained popular acclaim, medical programs started seeing increases in applications. Montana State University-Billings, for instance, counted a 14.8 percent jump in nurses entering its RN to BSN program in the most recent academic year.
Missoula College’s ASN program has room for 18 students every semester, said Barnes. She said the most recent graduating class counted 17, and one graduate landed a job at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. (The news release said the college counted a 100 percent job placement rate in 2020, but Barnes said the count is anecdotal.)
The program anticipated it might see an increase in applications due to the “Fauci effect,” but that didn’t happen this time around, Barnes said. She said this year, there was a drop in applications, although they always receive more applications than they have slots.
“I feel like students may have wanted to take a year off from doing their prerequisites because of COVID and the way we have had to deliver education for the past year, which was mostly online,” Barnes said.
She noted the associates degree gives students a pathway to registered nursing licensure that’s just two years instead of four, and the news release said the students in the registered nursing track have a 94 percent three-year pass rate on the National Council Licensure Examination test.
“We encourage our students to go on and bridge to a bachelor’s degree, which takes them about another year,” she said. “It’s fairly streamlined, and they can do it all online. So the benefit of going to a two-year program is they have all the skills and the knowledge, and they can get jobs pretty much anywhere. They can be out and working and making money a lot sooner.”