Office of Commissioner of Higher Education

A New Model for PN and ASN Nursing Programs

The following guidelines for Practical Nursing (PN) Programs in the Montana University System and the three community colleges have been adopted by the Board of Regents:

(1) the credential awarded to students who complete a practical nursing program will be an associate of applied science;

(2) all of the practical nursing programs will be 50 credits;

(3) all of the practical nursing programs will include a common set of nursing courses, totaling 24 credits plus a two-credit "scope of practice course."

Table 1 describes the pre-nursing and nursing courses in more detail.  It also includes the coursework for those programs that offer both a Practical Nursing and an Associate of Science in Nursing credential.

Nursing students can follow a variety of pathways under this model to complete a nursing program.

This model was developed by a work group made up of all of the PN and RN nursing administrators in the MUS System, the community colleges and one tribal college; some nursing faculty members; and representatives and staff from the State Board of Nursing. The Board of Regents authorized this project in May 2004, based on a recommendation of the Nursing Coordinating Group and the work that that Group had done on nursing issues for almost a year. The work group was also careful to respond to the issues raised in the Legislative Audit report concerning transfer of credit practices in the Montana University System. 

The new model, currently utilized by at least 22 other states, includes (a) pre-nursing coursework that is appropriate for both the PN and RN credential; (b) an initial year of nursing courses, with a so-called exit point or stop-out for programs that offer both credentials; students can sit for the LPN licensure examination at that stop-out point; and (c) an additional year of nursing coursework, for students who want to continue their education, after which they can take the RN licensure examination.

Implementation of this academic program model will take some time, but work has already begun. Table 2 sets out the implementation schedule. Curriculum revisions will have to work their way through the internal review and approval process for academic programs on each campus.  Several programs will also have to develop new courses, particularly in the area of pre-nursing coursework, and may have to find faculty to teach those classes. The State Board of Nursing will then have to approve each individual program.

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