While the nursing shortage is a phenomenon being seen across the country, Arizona is among the states where nurses are needed most. A January 2022 report in Becker’s Hospital Review, a publication devoted to health care news and analysis, placed Arizona eighth in the nation for the percent of hospitals in the state with critical staffing shortages. The continued growth of new residents moving from out of state along with an already healthy retirement population, means that Arizona’s healthcare infrastructure is likely to continue to face challenges that could include treatment delays due to an understaffed nursing workforce. Alverno College hopes to help.

In an effort to meet this unprecedented challenge, Alverno College sought to expand its pre-licensure nursing program to the Phoenix, Ariz area. Alverno is a fully accredited, Roman Catholic women’s college based in Milwaukee, Wis. In August of this year, the school started the very first Mesa cohort of their Master of Science in Nursing – Direct Entry (DEMSN) program held in the Mesa Tower (formerly known as the Mesa Financial Plaza), which now bears a new name, Alverno College.

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Alverno has a rich history in nursing education dating back to 1932. Today, it is well known for the caliber of its nursing school graduates, preparing them with real-world experience through state-of-the-art simulations and clinical training.

Originally launched on its Milwaukee, Wis., campus in January 2020, the highly successful DEMSN is the only program in the Mesa area to award graduates with both a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Science in Nursing. Unlike a traditional nursing program, Alverno’s DEMSN is specifically designed for adults who have already earned a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field, and it can be completed in as few as 20 months. It’s ideal for anyone looking to change careers, and it allows students to leverage their past education and return to school to complete a nursing education at the graduate level. Alverno’s DEMSN program prepares its graduates to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam to become a registered nurse.

“I’ve always believed that nurses are the linchpin of any health care team,” said Linda Shanta, Ph.D., RN, ANEF, associate professor and director of the DEMSN program in Mesa. “Alverno’s DEMSN program offers people educated in other disciplines who wish to become nurses an expedited way to become highly educated nurses who are prepared to lead change in health care.”

Construction for Alverno’s new state of the art clinical learning center in Mesa began in 2021. Following their official grand opening and provisional approval by the Arizona State Board of Nursing early this year, enrollment began for the first DEMSN cohort, which started in August. At full capacity, Alverno’s Mesa location will have an enrollment of more than 200 students, and the college is already forging impressive clinical relationships with Banner Health and the Mayo Clinic. While the college is well known for its undergraduate and graduate programs in its home state of Wisconsin, adding its name to the tallest building in the Phoenix East Valley marks an exciting time for Alverno as it expands its footprint.

“We are thrilled that our first Direct Entry Master of Science in Nursing cohort in Mesa is off to a great start,” said Joseph Foy, PhD, interim president and vice president of Academic Affairs. “They have been welcomed warmly by the Mesa community, and already in their first semester these amazing students are living out the Alverno mission by giving back to the community through participation in the Mesa hydration campaign and accepting leadership and committee responsibilities in the Student Nurses Association of Arizona. Alverno is so proud that our nurses are making, and will continue to make, such a positive impact on the local community. We cannot wait for all of Arizona to experience what it means to be cared for and supported by an Alverno nurse.”

“Teachers strive to facilitate student development inside and outside of the classroom,” said Aaron Placensia, a current Mesa DEMSN student, about his first semester at Alverno. “It really makes a difference when you learn from someone that is emotionally invested in the process and truly interested in their students. I am incredibly grateful that I have been given this opportunity and can’t wait for future semesters.”

For more information or to apply for these programs, visit msn.alverno.edu.