Five graduate nursing students are now part of A&M-Commerce history. Natalie Cooper, Mundi Gutierrez, Megan King, Samone Middleton and Jennifer Speulda are the first graduates of the university’s nurse practitioner program, which began in 2017.
“We’re thrilled to have our first class of graduates,” said Dr. Carole McKenzie, head of the Department of Nursing at A&M-Commerce. “It’s a small group but a really good group.”
Middleton said she’s proud to be in the first class of graduates from the program. She chose to continue her education at A&M-Commerce after completing the undergraduate nursing program.
“I had a wonderful undergraduate experience in the nursing program at A&M-Commerce,” Middleton said. “So, I had full confidence that the graduate program would be great as well.”
McKenzie said the graduates completed the requirements for their Master of Science in Nursing degree and can now take their certification exam from the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board, which will allow them to work as certified family nurse practitioners (FNP-C) in any state.
Middleton said she appreciated the hybrid format of the graduate nursing program. “I was able to take courses online and still have access to a variety of classroom learning experiences,” she said. The program, 46 credit hours in total, can be completed in two years with full-time study.
McKenzie noted there is an urgent need for health care providers in rural areas. She said nurse practitioners, who often serve as primary care givers, are vital to improving rural access to quality health care.
Nurse practitioners practice under the supervision of a licensed physician to provide comprehensive, continual health care for individuals and families.
“Nurse practitioners are trained in every component of care, from pediatrics through old age, including pregnancy,” said McKenzie. “They’re able to do much more for their patients than other nurses, so they’re more marketable in rural areas and they can make more money.”
“As a university in a rural area, it’s important that we provide nursing programs that allow students to get good jobs and stay in this area,” said McKenzie.
The nurse practitioner program at A&M-Commerce is growing, although application numbers are currently down, according to McKenzie—likely due to concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. She said there are about 20 students currently enrolled.
The program is relatively small compared to some programs offered in the DFW metroplex.
“We’ve had students transfer to our program because they just feel like a number over there,” said McKenzie. “We get to know our students and we have a more personalized approach.”
Middleton agrees. “I’m glad I continued my education with A&M-Commerce. The MSN faculty were very supportive and accessible,” she said. “I feel prepared and excited to begin my new career as a family nurse practitioner.”
Learn about the MSN nurse practitioner program at A&M-Commerce.