UNLV School of Nursing online MSN program ranks 10th nationwide

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Nursing students gain valuable insight and experience into the clinical world through the Clinical Simulation Center of Las Vegas. Student perform simulated exercises through patient interactions, skills assessments, and interprofessional relationship building. March 9, 2022 (Josh Hawkins/UNLV Photo Services)

Since its founding in 1965, the UNLV School of Nursing has held a variety of prestigious rankings that have put it on the map nationwide. More recently, the school’s online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program has been recognized by the U.S. News and World Report for being 10th overall. This new ranking comes as a byproduct of increased quality assessments, research activity, faculty resources, and class selectivity. 

With three tracks stemming from the master’s program, UNLV has ranked in the top 30 every year for the past 11 years.

“A huge part is really being student-centric and being thoughtful in what we offer to our students, we have a faculty that is very dedicated and committed,” said Imelda Reyes, the dean of advanced education of the school of nursing. “We also just have a really well-designed program for our students, it really offers them [the students] exactly what they need to be really good nurse practitioners.”

Due to this high ranking, a new budget of $3 million was allocated for advanced education scholarships. Alongside that, the program is funded by differential fees that allow for the school to reinvest in its students.

“We are resourced pretty well here at the nursing school, we have differential fees associated with our nursing programs,” said Reyes. “Those fees are a way for us to reinvest in ourselves and students. For example, last year we were able to purchase a review course for them and make sure that they are well prepared.”

The UNLV School of Nursing uses those differential fees to also create a real-world experience for its students. 

Currently offering three tracks stemming into its master’s program, one track, the family nurse practitioner (FNP), utilizes sums of the fee in order to have standardized patients for the students in the program. This offers a clinical experience for students and allows them to work within a safe environment, while still receiving all the necessary tools for success in a real work setting. This also allows the faculty to gauge where a student is at in the course and where they need to make course corrections.

“Utilizing those fees in the best way possible is extremely important and is our top priority,” said Reyes. “From a budgetary perspective though, I feel that we are well supported.”

Moving forward the UNLV School of Nursing does have plans to continue improving and refining the tracks and programs offered. The Masters of Science in Nursing program specifically is about to undergo a curricular redesign in order to keep up with the nationwide standards.

“We are very responsive to national standards that come out,” Reyes said. “The national standard [The American Association of Nurse Practitioners] that guides nurse practitioner practice is increasing the amount of clinical hours that students have to do, so we at this end need to make the changes to the curriculum.”

While most graduate students are working nurses alongside continuing their higher education, the MSN program is still designed in a way that is accessible to working professionals yet still rigorous and up to the national standards.

“While we recognize that most of our graduate students are working nurses, we designed the program to be friendly yet rigorous,” Reyes said. “We want them to feel like they came out of this program with something that truly benefits them.”

The MSN program is highly selective given that it only accepts 85 students across the three tracks offered. Reyes explained, “The psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHPN) accepts 30 students, the FNP accepts 35, and the nursing education accepts up to 20 cohorts.”

According to Reyes, UNLV is looking to offer more tracks such as the certified nurse midwife track as well as certified registered nurse anesthetist track in the near future.

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