HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WHLT) – In an effort to combat a national nursing shortage, The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) has established partnerships with Alcorn State University, Pearl River Community College (PRCC), and Jones College that will create easier pathways for students to earn a nursing degree.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the schools was signed during a special ceremony held Monday, June 20 on USM’s Hattiesburg campus.

The unprecedented academic partnerships provide qualified applicants to USM’s pre-licensure Bachelor of Science (BSN) in nursing program (i.e., those without a nursing licensure) who would otherwise be delayed an alternative admission pathway to a nursing degree.

Under the new agreements, qualified pre-licensure BSN applicants not accepted into the USM program will be offered an opportunity to apply to Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or Practical Nursing (PN) programs at Alcorn, Pearl River, or Jones. Previously, students not accepted into USM’s program could have applied to the other schools but customarily found themselves forced to wait until the following semester.

“This will be a seamless process where they will be considered as a part of our decision making and then offered to them as an option, instead of denying them initially,” said Dr. Lachel Story, Dean of USM’s College of Nursing and Health Professions. “The enrollment process becomes just another pathway.”

The agreements also stipulate the USM will provide students who maintain their eligibility an opportunity to return to the BSN or RN-BSN program upon completing ADN or PN programs. As part of the University’s academic success pathway, USM’s pre-licensure BSN program will identify any students incurring academic difficulty and assist those who may need to transition to ADN or PN programs.

Another exciting development from the new partnerships is the Rural Health Scholars Program (RHSP) between USM and Alcorn State. The program’s purpose is to increase the number of doctoral-prepared nursing faculty from diverse backgrounds; prepare nursing scientists to improve rural health outcomes and improve the health of the communities surrounding Alcorn State – Adams, Claiborne, Franklin, Jefferson, and Wilkinson counties.

Some highlights of the program include:Students in USM’s Nursing Leadership Doctoral Program can apply for this competitive program.

  • Priority for the RHSP will be granted to current Alcorn State master’s-prepared nursing faculty who are enrolled in USM’s Nursing Leadership Doctoral Program and exhibit an interest in rural health.
  • Scholars will participate in an intensive research experience at Alcorn State based on their specific dissertation that addresses a rural health need in the surrounding community.
  • Scholars will participate in an intensive research experience at Alcorn State based on their specific dissertation that addresses a rural health need in the surrounding community.
  • Scholars will be paired with a mentor who has experience in rural health research and a doctoral-prepared Alcorn faculty who will serve as a community expert.
  • Grant funding will be provided to scholars for tuition and books while enrolled in USM’s Nursing Leadership Doctoral Program as available