Congratulations! Nursing program honors first graduates -

PASCAGOULA — The first class of 21 nursing students to enter a University of Southern Mississippi and Singing River Hospital System partnership were honored Wednesday, not only for continuing their education but also for their dedication to Jackson County health care.

"This is going to put you in a position where you can do more good," said Chris Anderson, chief executive officer of Singing River Hospital System.
Anderson told graduates this program, which began in 2006 and allows nurses with associates degrees to complete on-site classes to earn Bachelor of Science in Nursing degrees, is one of many designed to "help you help us help our patients."

The program offers tuition scholarships to nurses in exchange for four years of service at Singing River Hospital or Ocean Springs Hospital, said Marsha White, associate administrator and chief nursing officer for Singing River Hospital.

"It's a great retention tool, and it helps the nurses if they want to go up the ladder," she said. "Also, the higher their education, the better the outcomes of our patients."

Students were taught prerequisite classes on-site at the Pascagoula and Ocean Springs hospitals. Once they entered into USM's BSN program, they began taking online courses. All services, such as admissions help, registration and book delivery, were completed on-site so nurses with other obligations and families would be able to participate easily.

USM Provost Robert Ly man said the program was a major milestone for USM in helping make education more assessible to Mississippi residents. USM's BSN program went completely online last fall. Lyman commended the graduates on their dedication to the profession, saying they had gone "beyond the minimum requirements" to develop their skills and show their dedication to the Jackson County region.

"Nursing needs to be looked at as a profession and not just a job," said recent graduate Jennifer Obiol, a nurse at Singing River Hospital. Obiol had already been enrolled in classes before the program started, but she said the new partnership "made it a lot easier because it brought the classes to you at the hospital."

Ocean Springs Hospital critical care nurse Alma **** erson agreed. "This is just a great opportunity the hospital offered," she said, noting she had wanted to go back to school for a long time but couldn't because she had children. "There would be no way I could have done this without the program."

The four-year contract to stay in the hospital system made no difference in her quest for higher education, she said. "I love this hospital system, and I would have stayed here even without the program."

BSN graduates will be "better able to ensure quality care and will be positioned to be leaders," said Katherine Nugent, director of the School of Nursing and associate dean of the College of Health at USM.