The University of South Florida is launching a new five-year track for students from Pinellas, Sarasota and Manatee counties pursuing their second degree in nursing. The partnership between USF’s College of Nursing, USF St. Petersburg and USF Sarasota-Manatee is intended to boost the number of baccalaureate-trained nurses in the Tampa Bay Area.
“I want USF College of Nursing to be the first solution to prepare nurses at the baccalaureate level for the Suncoast region,” says Dr. Victoria Rich, whose appointment as Dean of the USF College of Nursing and Senior Associate VP of USF Health was announced May 18.
The Suncoast Nursing Accelerated Pathway program allows students to earn bachelor’s degrees in Biology at the USFSP or USFSM campuses, then transition into the College of Nursing’s accelerated Bachelor’s of Science degree in Nursing program. While enrolled in the Tampa nursing program, students would be able to do clinical work in their home counties.
The program starts next fall.
Rich, who holds master’s and PhD degrees in nursing administration from the University of Pittsburgh, says the program makes it easier for students who enter college with a different major to switch into nursing. She knows firsthand what that is like. “I wanted to be a PhD botanist. I loved plants. I loved growing things. Then I realized after I had my children ... I want to be a nurse,” recalls Rich, whose first degree was in biology.
Students who pursue the five-year track will not only be better trained for bedside treatment, but will be on the career path to becoming nursing scientists and researchers. In this role, they typically research symptom management.
“This background in biology will actively be very powerful moving forward as we prepare nurses for the future,” Rich says.
USF students on the Tampa campus have a number of paths to earn a second degree in nursing, including an added five-semester program they can pursue after earning another degree like biology, psychology, journalism or marketing.
The new Accelerated Pathway Program is intended to make it easier for students who find it difficult to travel to Tampa for classes. “We’re hoping the candidates going into this program are more likely to stay in the Suncoast region hospitals,” she adds.
USF is hoping to enroll 10 students in the program at each of the USFSP and USFSM campuses, but there’s not really an upper limit they will accept. “If this becomes a tremendous program, we will find the faculty,” she asserts.
A large portion of Florida is considered “medically underserved” according to the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration.
Rich joined USF’s College of Nursing in 2015, and had been serving as interim associate dean of academic programs. She begins her new job June 15.
She has more than 35 years of leadership experience, having served as Chief Nurse Executive and Associate Hospital Administrator for the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center and Associate Professor of Nursing Administration at the University of Pennsylvania Health System’s School of Nursing.
She earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, with highest honors.