New opportunity

Masters program created for school nurses

| Kelsea Renz Managing editor |

This semester saw the start of a new master’s program that combines courses from both the College of Education and the School of Nursing.
The program, formally called the master’s of science in education with an emphasis in school health, was created to give extra training to school nurses who otherwise could not move up on a pay scale.
“Teachers have the opportunity to earn extra degrees and move across the pay scale,” said Greg Kubler, assistant director of the Southeast Kansas Interlocal, “but nurses didn’t really have that opportunity.”
Some of the nurses who work with Kubler approached him to find a way they could have that opportunity and serve students better.
“I had topped out my pay scale and wanted to go back to school, but I wanted to stay doing what I was doing,” said Lorry Pichler, SEK Interlocal nurse.
Kubler researched to see if there were any master’s programs locally that fit the needs of the nurses, but could not find one. He then decided to try to create a new one.
“I contacted the College of Education and the School of Nursing and ran past them that we wanted to provide … deeper training for school nurses and they felt there was enough interest on the university’s part that we could partner with them,” Kubler said.
The program is known as an interdisciplinary master’s program, which means required courses come from more than one college.
“Within the School of Education, the Department of Teaching and Leadership worked with school nurses to come up with a program that meets their needs,” said Alice Sagehorn, chair of the teaching and leadership department. “Dr. Mary Carol Pomato also provided good courses for school nurses.”
The program consists of 12 hours of nursing courses, a three-hour leadership course, a three-hour research course, 21 hours of education courses specializing in special education and the choice of a three-hour elective course or a three-hour thesis course.
The school nurses decided special-education courses best fit their needs because many work with special-education children who also have medical problems.
“It’s important we understand the needs of children in special education,” Pichler said. “There are more and more children getting diagnosed as special education and it’s helpful for nurses to be able to help create medical plans so they can learn better.”
The entire program was designed to be online so any school nurse in the state of Kansas who wishes to earn another degree has the opportunity.
“Being online is one of the things that drew me to this program,” Pichler said. “I could complete my degree and continue to work full time and have my family. That’s why I hadn’t continued before.”
Those involved in the creation of the program are optimistic about its future.
“I am not aware of any other program like this,” Sagehorn said, “not in public health.”
“There’s obviously a need there,” Kubler said. “This program can provide greater opportunities for students and greater benefits for nurses.”

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