U.S. News & World Report ranked USC’s online graduate nursing as the leading program in the nation for the third year in a row.
According to U.S. News & World Report, this award is given based on student engagement, faculty credentials, peer assessment from other programs, services and technologies and student excellence. However to the Dean of the College of Nursing, Jeanette Andrews, the award is about evolving with the times.
As the culture of nursing has shifted since COVID, with nurses working twelve-hour shifts, Andrews has worked to shift the program with it, ensuring that working nurses can come back to school at any time.
"You really can't have evening class or weekend class. So we shifted graduate education, the class portion, so nurses would have access to online classes if they wanted to come back to school," Andrews said.
Andrews said she is very proud that the nursing program's hard work has been recognized.
“I am so thrilled for our team and our students," Andrews said. "We have talented students, and they are committed to really making a difference in our profession and in our communities."
The students have made a significant impact in shaping the online graduate nursing program, according to Andrews. She has a Dean's Advisory Board of students who she meets with two or three times a semester with undergraduate students in one group and graduate students in another.
“(The students) really do inspire us to be better," Andrews said."We have really great ideas from them,”
The excellence of the program has managed to impact third-year nursing student Jordyn Hughes, who is not in the online program, but says she is not surprised about its high ranking.
"I've heard so many nurses from just my hometown that graduate from USC, and they were the ones that were teaching me how to just do stuff or showing me different things when I was a volunteer (at) NICU," Hughes said. "I remember the one thing that stuck with me was that there was a 100% NCLEX passing rate, and that's where I was like, 'Okay, if this program is going to genuinely prepare me to pass that ... then this is where I want to be.'"
NCLEX stands for National Counsel Licensure Examination, and passing this exam is crucial in order to become either a registered nurse or a licensed practical nurse.
Over the two and a half years she's been a student at USC, Hughes has seen the program attract students at a rapid rate. She's met people from all over the country, and even across the globe.
Like Hughes, online nursing students are required to come to Columbia and get hands-on experience in their respective clinical courses. For Hughes' upper-division courses, this includes going to the Prisma Health Heart Hospital once a week and translating her .
Andrews said that the nursing program will be expanded in 2024 with the addition of a new building in Lexington and that over the next five years, upper-division graduation numbers will aim to increase from 220 to 300.
Alicia Ribar, the executive associate dean for academic affairs and accreditation at the USC College of Nursing, said winning this award is not just for the benefit of the university, but for the state of South Carolina as a whole.
South Carolina is experiencing the fourth-highest shortage of nurses in the country, so Ribar is keen on increasing the program's enrollment to meet the nursing needs of the state.
“In order to (help the nursing shortage), we have to get the word out that we have good, quality programs, and this award helps us to do that," Ribar said.