School of Nursing

MS in Nursing - Option for Non-Nurses with Baccalaureate Degrees

Coordinator, Graduate Nursing Programs: Marjorie Thomas Lawson (until Jun 30, 2013) Cheryl Sarton (after July 1, 2013)

Professors: Harris, Spross

Associate Professors: Farmer, Hart, Johnson, Lawson, Peake-Godin, Randall (Carla), Sepples

Assistant Professors: Baugh, Fackler, Samia, Sarton

This program allows students who hold a baccalaureate degree in another field to earn a master's degree in nursing in three years of full-time study. Students taking this program build their undergraduate and graduate nursing courses upon previous academic and life experiences. Admission is competitive and limited. This program requires full-time enrollment in the planned sequence of study.

During the first year, students admitted to the Option program complete 500-level cross-listed courses, as well as two upper-division undergraduate courses. Upon completion of the summer of the second year, or after completing nine credits of graduate study following completion of undergraduate courses, students must sit for the State Board Examination (NCLEX-RN) and become licensed as a registered nurse. Failure to pass the NCLEX-RN licensure examination prior to the first graduate clinical practicum will stop progression in the program. Upon completion of all graduate courses, a Master of Science in Nursing is conferred.

Prerequisite Course Requirements

Due to the intensity of the MS Option Program, every applicant is required to have completed an undergraduate statistics course with a grade of B- or above prior to their May matriculation. In order to reduce the number of credits during the first summer (Summer I), it is strongly recommended that students complete an undergraduate pathophysiology course with a grade of B- or above; USM course or comparable. Students, who complete a research course other than CON 521 at USM, must submit an electronic copy of the course syllabus for review to determine content equivalency at the time of admission to the program.

  • If course(s) are taken at an institution other than USM, transcripts must be requested by student at completion of course(s) and forwarded to the School of Nursing to be placed in academic file.
  • All remaining courses not completed prior to matriculation will be incorporated into the first summer course schedule (Summer I).
  • All courses completed prior to matriculation and considered for transfer must have a grade of B- or above.
  • Completion of a course in anatomy and physiology is highly recommended.
Program Policies

In addition to the general policies described in the University of Southern Maine Graduate Catalog Academic Policies chapter, specific policies for the graduate program in nursing are as follows.

Admission Credit

This credit, which has been earned at USM, must be approved by the graduate faculty prior to admission and is subject to the condition that a grade of B- or better was received for the coursework. A maximum of six credit hours may be approved for admission credit provided a grade of at least a B was earned in each individual course. Exceptions to the maximum credits allowed at time of admission must be approved by the Graduate Curriculum, Admission, and Advancement Committee (GCAAC).

Transfer Credit

This credit must be approved at the time of admission and request for approval included as part of the admissions application. Up to a total of nine credit hours may be approved as transfer credit provided a grade of at least a B was earned in each individual course. Additional transfer credit may be approved in unusual circumstances.

Background Check Requirement

Students must pay for and complete a comprehensive background check  prior to starting graduate clinical courses. In addition, students must sign a disclosure agreement allowing the school to provide access to this background information to our clinical affiliates. Affiliates have the right to deny clinical placement based on criminal background. Denial of clinical placements will stop progression in the graduate nursing program.

Health Requirements

Students must comply with School of Nursing clinical health requirements and any additional requirements of those health care agencies to which they are assigned for clinical residency.

Prior to starting APRN clinical specialty courses, a copy of unencumbered RN licensure must be on file in the School of Nursing. Health insurance, equal to or better than the USM Student Health Insurance Basic Plan, and professional rescue-level CPR certification are required prior to beginning clinical coursework. CPR certification is only accepted from the American Heart Association.

Program Grade Policies

In the first year of their program, students in the MS Option Program for non-nurses, must achieve a minimum of a B- in all NUR, CON, statistics, and pathophysiology designated courses. If such students earn below a B-, they may retake the course one time; however, they will be placed on probation and may not progress to second-year courses. Failure to correct probationary status after one semester will result in dismissal from the Graduate Nursing Program and academic withdrawal from the University. A grade of less than B- in a required course that is repeated or in a second course will result in dismissal from the Graduate Nursing Program and academic withdrawal from the University.

Students in the MS Option Program must receive a minimum of "pass" in first-year clinical courses to progress. For a second-degree option student who receives a first low pass grade in a first-year clinical course, the first low pass may be repeated once. If the student receives a second low pass in the same or another first-year clinical course, the student will be dismissed from the Graduate Nursing Program. Second degree option students must complete all first-year course and clinical requirements before being eligible to start the second-year courses (Summer II).

Students in the MS Option Program who fail NCLEX-RN cannot progress in their course of studies without review by the GCAAC and permission of the director of the School of Nursing.

In the second- and third-year years of the program, all students must achieve a minimum of a B- grade for all required courses. The first time a student earns below a B-, the course must be retaken successfully (B- or above) in order to continue with program progression. A second- or third-year course can only be retaken one time. Failure of the course retaken or of a second course will result in dismissal from the Graduate Nursing Program and academic withdrawal from the University. If the course in which a grade below a B- has been earned has a concurrent clinical course, progression in the theory/practice course sequence stops. A grade of B- or better must be achieved in the course which is repeated before the theory/practice course sequence resumes.

Because of the interrelatedness of concurrent clinical and theory courses, the following policies apply. If a student fails a clinical course (C+ or below) but passes the concurrent theory course (B- or above), the student must repeat the clinical course within one calendar year. If more than one calendar year elapses between failing and repeating the required clinical course, the student will be required to retake the concurrent theory course.

If the student fails a theory courses (C+ or below) but passes the concurrent clinical course (B-or above), and the student retakes the theory course within one calendar year, the student will be required to perform eight hours of clinical, including attendance at clinical seminar every week. If more than one year elapses between failing a required theory course and retaking it, the clinical course must be repeated in its entirety.

Students who fail (C+ or below) any of the concurrent clinical or theory courses cannot proceed to the next clinical-theory sequence course until the failed course has been successfully retaken.

A grade of C or below in the clinical component of a course will result in dismissal from the Graduate Nursing Program and academic withdrawal from the University. (Please refer to the Academic Policies section of this catalog.)

In any semester in which the cumulative GPA falls below 3.0 (B average) the student will be placed on probation. Failure to correct probationary status after one semester will result in dismissal from the Graduate Nursing Program and academic withdrawal from the University. An incomplete grade in a clinical and/or concurrent theory course must be satisfied prior to progression to the next sequential course unless an arrangement involving the student and the faculty of both courses has been agreed to in writing. A 3.0 GPA is necessary for graduation. Students may only count three credits of C in an elective toward graduation. A cumulative GPA below 2.0 in any one semester will result in dismissal from the Graduate Nursing Program and academic withdrawal from the University.

The GCAAC and program faculty reserve the right to review a student's record to make recommendations regarding progression.

Student Appeals & Complaints

The School of Nursing follows the UMS graduate student and appeals policies.

Non-Academic Complaints

To provide graduate students with assistance in resolving disagreements or complaints of a non-academic nature, the University has designated the Office of Graduate Studies (OGS) to respond to student inquiries. The mission of (OGS) is to provide impartial guidance to students in identifying the nature of their disagreement or complaint. OGS staff will guide students to the appropriate University policy or procedure to utilize in seeking resolution. The academic policies described below are not applicable to student complaints about unlawful discrimination or sexual harassment; however, an OGS representative can advise the student about the University policies and procedures to follow when student complaints of this nature arise. Please contact the assistant dean of Graduate Studies at (207) 780-4812 for more information on this process.

Academic Grade Appeal Policy

The purpose of the academic grade appeal policy is to provide a fair and speedy review of all student appeals of academic grades in graduate/professional programs at the University of Southern Maine; this policy will permit such appeals to be determined in a manner that reflects the interests of both the student and the instructor. The only matters reviewable under this policy are claims of prejudice on the part of an instructor in an academic exercise or activity for which a grade leading to academic credit is awarded, and/or evident and prejudicial error in the administration or grading method used for any paper, examination, performance, or other exercise or activity for which a grade leading to academic credit is awarded, provided that the academic judgment used in determining the merits of the grade to be awarded to such exercise or activity shall not be reviewable.

An appeal under this policy shall be carried out according to the following procedures:

The student should present his or her claim, in writing, to the instructor involved and shall seek to have the matter resolved by the instructor. In no event shall there be a right of appeal hereunder for a claim presented to the instructor more than thirty days after a final grade is posted to the student's record. The instructor must respond within fourteen days of receiving the appeal.

If the student remains aggrieved by the decision of the instructor under step one, he or she may, within fourteen days after formal receipt of the instructor's final decision, appeal, in writing, to the director of the program in which the course or other exercise or activity is offered. The program director must respond within fourteen days of receiving the appeal.

If the student remains aggrieved by the decision of the program director of the department under step two, he or she may, within fourteen days after formal receipt of the program director's final decision, appeal, in writing, to the dean of the college in which the course or other exercise or activity is offered.

The dean, after discussion with the student and instructor, may resolve the grievance by agreement or render a decision within twenty-one days of receipt of the written appeal. The decision may be (a) that the appeal be dismissed, (b) that a grade be changed or the student be allowed an opportunity to retake an examination or other exercise, or (c) that another appropriate remedy be administered.

The student or the instructor may, within fourteen days of the receipt of the decision of the dean, appeal to the associate provost and dean of Graduate Studies in writing, stating the reason for the appeal and delivering a copy of the writing to the opposing party and the dean. The opposing party may, within ten days of receipt of the reasons for appeal, reply in writing to the associate provost and dean of Graduate Studies. The associate provost and dean of Graduate Studies shall review the original claim, the written decision of the chairperson or program director and dean, and the written reasons for the appeal and reply. The associate provost and dean of Graduate Studies shall, within twenty-eight days of receipt of the appeal and after reviewing the matter, prepare a written decision which shall uphold the decision of the chairperson, program director, or dean, or prescribe any other appropriate remedy. The associate provost and dean of Graduate Studies' decision shall be final and not subject to further review. Copies of the decision of the associate provost and dean of Graduate Studies shall be delivered to the student, the instructor, and the chairperson or program director and dean. The total time for resolution from the first appeal to the final decision shall be less than 120 days. If a faculty member/administrator fails to address the appeal within the specified time frame, the student may take the appeal to the next level.

Appeals of Dismissal or Withdrawal

All appeals of dismissal or withdrawal must follow the appeals process defined by the School of Nursing (refer to above Academic Grade Appeal Policy). The dean of the college must be included in this process. Within fourteen days following the student's receipt, in writing, of the decision by the School of Nursing Director, the student may appeal in writing to the associate provost and dean of Graduate Studies. The decision of the associate provost/dean of Graduate Studies shall be rendered within three weeks and shall be final. Please contact the assistant dean of Graduate Studies at (207) 780-4812 for more information on this process.

If a student withdraws or is withdrawn from the University during the first two weeks of the semester, there will be no courses or grades recorded. A student withdrawing or being withdrawn after the second week through the eighth week will receive a W grade for each course in which the student was enrolled. A student withdrawing or being withdrawn after the eighth week will receive regular grade designations as determined by the instructor(s). Under unusual circumstances, grades of W can be assigned after the eighth week if approved by the instructor and the director of the program, and with final approval of the associate provost and dean of Graduate Studies.

General Enrollment Policies

When students have accepted admission to the Graduate Nursing Program they must matriculate in the semester they were accepted or they will be withdrawn from the program.

Students enrolled in the MS Option Program must successfully complete all of the first-year requirements before starting their second-year course of study. If students choose to drop back into the traditional undergraduate nursing program they will be withdrawn from the Graduate Nursing Program. Students may then reapply to the graduate nursing program once they have successfully completed the Bachelor of Science degree with a major in nursing.

Matriculated students in the early phase of their graduate studies may choose to change their area of specialization prior to starting the specialty core. Transfer of major into a specialty other than identified at the time of matriculation is dependent on availability. Once graduate students have started in the theory/clinical sequence of their specialty concentration no changes will be permitted.

Program Progression

Continuous Enrollment

Once matriculated into the graduate program, students must be continuously enrolled in the program unless a written, formal request for a leave of absence has been submitted to and approved by the coordinator of the Graduate Nursing Programs or the chairperson of the GCAAC. Continuous enrollment requires that every graduate student must earn at least six credits toward his or her degree every calendar year from the time of the first registration until completion of all requirements for the graduate degree. If the continuous enrollment policy is not maintained, a letter will be sent to the student, the advisor, and the Office of Graduate Studies from the coordinator of the Graduate Nursing Programs.

Leave of Absence

Students enrolled in the full-time MS Option Program are not eligible for a leave of absence. All other students in the Graduate Nursing Programs may request a leave of absence. The leave of absence waives the continuous enrollment policy for a period of one calendar year. Note that when a request for a leave of absence is made at midterm, USM's current grading policies apply. Approval of the leave of absence is the responsibility of the coordinator of the Graduate Nursing Programs or the chairperson of the GCAAC. Once a decision has been made regarding the leave of absence, a letter will be sent from the coordinator to the student, the advisor, the Office of Graduate Studies, and the registrar.

To request a leave of absence, the student must:

  • Meet with his or her advisor to discuss the potential impact of the leave of absence on progression
  • Collaborate with the advisor and describe the terms of the request
  • Submit a written request to the coordinator or chairperson of the GCAAC with a copy to the advisor
  • Confer with the coordinator prior to the end of the leave of absence to ensure that the student can register
Background Check Policy

Affiliates have the right to deny clinical placement based on criminal background. Denial of clinical placements will stop progression in the graduate nursing program.

Inactivation Policy

Student admission, matriculation, and/or progression will be inactivated under the following conditions:

  • Failure to maintain continuous enrollment as outlined above
  • Absence of written communication with the advisor and/or coordinator regarding matriculation/progression plans (e.g., no request for leave of absence)

The School of Nursing will advise the registrar of the student's inactive status. Students, whose file has been inactive for greater than or equal to one calendar year, may be required to repeat courses or reapply for admission. Students who have been placed on inactive status must meet with the coordinator or the GCAAC chairperson to determine what requirements must be met to activate registration.

Time Limit

All requirements for the degree must be completed within three years from the date of first matriculation.

Professional Licensure

Students are required to maintain current registered professional nursing licensure. Students are required to notify the graduate program coordinator of any change in status of their RN license.

New England Regional Student Program

The University of Southern Maine master's degree program in nursing is a participant in the New England Regional Student Program. For further information contact the Office of Graduate Studies, University of Southern Maine, 96 Falmouth St., Portland, ME 04103, (207) 780-4386.

The School of Nursing is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. For additional information contact: the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, One Dupont Circle, NW, Suite 530, Washington, D.C., 20036; (202) 887-6791.

The Graduate Nursing Programs of the School of Nursing are subject to change at any time without advance notice.

Commitment to Civility

The concepts of community and social justice are central to the mission and philosophy of the USM School of Nursing. Faculty, students, and staff are committed to promoting a healthy and just environment that supports transformative learning, academic integrity, open communication, and personal and professional growth among the diverse members of our academic community. We believe that these commitments are grounded in intellectual openness, in personal and professional accountability, and in the democratic values of inclusivity and mutual respect which are guided by rational discourse and by a relational ethic of care.

We are grateful for the opportunities to learn and work with peoples of diverse ethnic, racial, religious, cultural, political, social, and economic backgrounds as well as with people who are disabled and people of different gender, sexual orientation, and age. Acknowledging the ethics and values that underlie the health professions, it is our belief that these ethics and values should be recognized, practiced, and cultivated in our learning and work environments. Our goal is to increase the awareness of students, staff, and faculty to the importance of civility, its implications, and the behaviors that are acceptable and not acceptable in our learning community.

Civility is the art of treating others, as well as ourselves, with respect, dignity, and care. Civility is apparent when we are sensitive to the impact that our communications, practices, and behaviors have on others, and when we acknowledge each person's self-worth and unique contributions to the community as a whole.

As members of the School, we are committed to learning and practicing in ways that support a caring and socially just community. The following are examples of how we create and sustain civility.

  • Support the autonomy and just treatment of self and others by facilitating an open, respectful, and caring environment.
  • Accept responsibility and accountability for one's own behavior when interacting with students, faculty, and staff.
  • Respect and protect the rights and property of others.
  • Speak or behave in a manner that does not disrupt or interfere with the learning or work of others.
  • Practice personal and academic integrity and expect it from others.
  • Demonstrate respect for others by actively discouraging discriminatory conduct, violence, coercion, or intimidation against any member of the academic community.
  • Demonstrate a willingness to listen and be open to hearing the perspectives of others. This includes actively seeking to hear from and making a safe space for voices of dissent.
  • Explore controversial issues through open dialogue and respectful deliberation.
  • Respect freedom of expression while recognizing that such tolerance does not require agreement with expressed ideas.
  • Engage institutional resources and persons to resolve conflict when necessary.

We will not tolerate harassing or discriminatory conduct of any kind. Everyone has the responsibility to foster a safe and supportive learning and work environment. This can include any individual asking others to stop disrespectful or abusive speech and/or disruptive behavior. Collectively, faculty, staff, and students in the School of Nursing are responsible for ensuring a safe and supportive learning and work environment. Approved by SON faculty 01/26/12

Application Deadlines

Second Degree Direct-Entry MS-Option Program–November 1.

Admission Information

Admission to the Master of Science degree Option program is on a competitive basis. The graduate program in nursing seeks candidates whose baccalaureate preparation, scholastic achievement, professional experience, interest, motivation, and references are predictive of successful graduate study.

Each student's application for admission will be evaluated based on a composite of the following recommended standards.

  • A minimum of a baccalaureate degree from an accredited college or university.
  • A minimum undergraduate cumulative grade point average of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale, or a B average.
  • An undergraduate course in introductory statistics which includes descriptive and inferential statistics, with a minimum grade of B.
  • Test Scores: MAT or GRE taken with five years of application submission
    • Miller Analogy Test (MAT): A score that ranks in the 45th percentile or higher for intended major.
    • Graduate Record Examination (GRE):
    • Taken prior to August 1, 2011 - combined aptitude scores of 1,000 (V.Q.) or higher.
    • Taken after August 1, 2011 - a verbal reasoning score of 153 or higher; a quantitative reasoning score of 147 or higher; and, a minimum of 4.0 on the analytic writing sample.
  • Submission of official TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or IELTS scores in addition to GRE scores (if English is not first language).
    • Applicants whose native language is not English must have earned a TOEFL score of at least 550 on the paper-based test, 79 or higher on the Internet-based test, or 213 on the computer-based test, or an IELTS score of 6.5 or higher.
  • Current resume.
  • A personal interview with graduate faculty of the School of Nursing may be requested following a preliminary review of all required admission materials.
Application material

In addition to the materials described in the Admissions Information section, applicants for this program must submit:

  • A completed online USM graduate application and application fee.
  • Completion of a program selection form.
  • Two letters of recommendation reflecting professional practice and academic achievement.
  • An essay reflective of professional goals.

 For forms and additional application information, please visit the Graduate Admissions web page

The Graduate Admissions Committee will review each individual's undergraduate coursework and make individual prerequisite requirements if any one or more areas are significantly under represented. (For instance, an individual whose major includes no social sciences may be required to take sociology/psychology courses.)

Sample: Full-time 3-year program sequence

Summer I (Year 1)
     BIO 345 Pathophysiology
     CON 521 Health Related Research
     CON 502 Pharmacology
     CON 556 Concepts in Community Health
     NUR 509 Health Assessment
     NUR 508 Health Assessment Practicum
     NUR 511 Transition to Professional Nursing Role for MS Option Students
     NUR 514 Fundamentals of Nursing Lab for MS Option Students
     NUR 512 Nursing Arts and Science for MS Option Students
     Total Credits: 23

Fall I
     NUR 541 Adult/Older Adult Health Nursing
     NUR 542 Adult/Older Adult Health Nursing Lab
     NUR 530 Mental Health Nursing for MS Option Students
     NUR 531 Mental Health Nursing Lab
     NUR 538 Older Adult Health Nursing Community Partnership for MS Option Students
     NUR 532 Nursing Care of the Older Adult in the Community
     Total Credits: 17
 
Spring I
     NUR 543 Reproductive and Sexual Health Nursing
     NUR 544 Reproductive and Sexual Health Nursing Lab
     NUR 545 Child Health Nursing
     NUR 516 Child Health Nursing Lab
     NUR 513 Advanced Nursing Skills Lab
     NUR 523 Management of the Critically Ill Adult/Older Adult for MS Option Students
     NUR 526 Management of the Critically Ill Adult/Older Adult Clinical for MS Option Students
     Total Credits: 18

Total  Credits - Year 1 : 49-61

Summer II (Year 2)
     Begin study in one of the following advanced practice nursing concentrations:
          Family Nurse Practitioner
          Family Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
          (See appropriate sections below for sample program sequences)

Summer II – Both Concentrations - 9 credits
     NUR 604 – Nursing Research
     NUR 606 – Leadership, Health Policy, & Role
     BIO 545 – Advanced Pathophysiology

Family Nurse Practitioner Concentration

Fall II – 13 credits
     NUR 601 – Advanced Pharmacotherapy
     NUR 602 – Advanced Health Assessment
     NUR 603 – Nursing Theory & Knowledge Development
     NUR 608 - Applied Theories for Advanced Interpersonal Skills

Spring II – 10 credits
     NUR 650 – Primary Care of the Adolescent
     NUR 651  - Women’s Health in Primary Care
     NUR 652 – Primary Care Management of the Well Child
     NUR 654 – Prenatal Care in Primary Care
     NUR 664 – Primary Health Care of the Adult I
     NUR 667 – Clinical Practicum & Seminar I

Summer III – 3 credits
Graduate elective – 500/600 level  course

Fall III – 11 credits
     NUR 653 – Primary Care of the Child with Episodic Illness
     NUR 658 – Clinical Project
     NUR 665 – Primary Health Care of the Adult II
     NUR 668 – Clinical Practicum & Seminar II

Spring III – 7 to 10 credits
     NUR 658 – Clinical Project (3 credits) if not taken in Fall III
     NUR 666 – Primary Health Care of the Adult III (3 credits)
     NUR 669 – Clinical Practicum & Seminar III (3 credits)
     NUR 690 – Role Seminar (1 credit)

Total Credits - Years 2 + 3: 53

Total Program Credits: 102-114

Family Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Concentration

Fall II – 13 credits
     NUR 602 – Advanced Health Assessment
     NUR 671 – Foundations of Advanced Practice Mental Health  Nursing
     NUR 672 – Biological & Behavioral Components of Mental Health & Illness
     NUR 680 – Advanced Psychopharmacology

Spring II – 12 credits
     NUR 601 – Advanced Pharmacotherapeutics
     NUR 603 – Nursing Theory & Knowledge Development
     NUR 685 – Advanced Psychiatric Mental Health Care of  Children, Adolescents, & Families
     NUR 686 – Clinical Practicum & Seminar I

Summer III – 3 credits
     Graduate elective – 500/600 level  course

Fall III - 9 credits
     NUR 658 – Clinical Project
     NUR 674 – Advanced Psychiatric Mental Health Care of Adults  & Older Adults
     NUR 673 – Clinical Practicum & Seminar II

Spring III - 7-10 credits
     NUR 658 – Clinical Project (3 credits) if not taken in Fall III
     NUR 679 – Advanced Psychiatric Mental Health Care of  Groups & Vulnerable Populations
     NUR 676 – Clinical Practicum & Seminar III
     NUR 690 – Role Seminar

Total Credits - Years 2 + 3: 53

Total Program Credits: 102-114

Deadline: November 1 for summer (May) admission

Admission Information and Links:

Information Sessions about this program are held on a regular basis

USM Office of Graduate Admissions 

NCLEX-RN Pass Rates

For 2012-2013, the USM School of Nursing had the largest number of first-time test takers of the NCLEX-RN exam, a licensing exam for US nurses, in the state of Maine. The group of 154 accounted for over 20% of first-time candidates and had a pass rate of 89.61% - surpassing the state average of 82.52% and national average of 84.3%.