UAlbany School of Public Health Launches New Degree Programs in Nursing

Three people - two standing and speaking to each other, one sitting at a computer wearing a headset - are pictured indoors in a healthcare setting.
UAlbany's School of Public Health is poised to help bolster New York State's health care workforce, offering two new degree programs for nurses. (Photo by iStock)

By Erin Frick 

ALBANY, N.Y. (March 21, 2023) — The University at Albany is launching two new degree programs — a Bachelor of Science in Nursing completion program and a Master of Science in Population Health Nursing — to help meet the significant demand for qualified health care providers in New York.

Nearly 30,000 registered nurse positions requiring a bachelor’s degree were posted throughout New York State in the 12 months leading up to October 2022. That demand comes amid a growing call for the nursing workforce to have a strong understanding of the social determinants of health and health equity, including training with an eye toward addressing patients from historically minoritized and low-income communities as well as those with complex health needs.

As one of the most diverse public research institutions in the country, UAlbany and its School of Public Health are uniquely positioned to fill this unmet need. Enrollment for both programs is now open, and courses will start in Fall 2023.

“New York State is facing a severe shortage of health care providers, including nurses,” said UAlbany President Havidán Rodríguez. “Together with the fact that our state’s population is aging rapidly, with the proportion of New Yorkers in the 65+ age bracket the largest it has ever been, there is a critical and urgent need to bolster our health care workforce.

“With the creation of the nursing program at UAlbany, we are poised to help solve the nursing shortage by providing a pathway for existing nurses to attain advanced degrees to expand their skillsets and career options.”

The program comes in time to meet the needs of RNs throughout the state who are soon to be impacted by the “BSN in 10” law. Passed in 2017, the law requires all nurses practicing in New York to obtain a baccalaureate degree in nursing within 10 years of obtaining their initial licensure.

“As we approach 2027, marking a decade since ‘BSN in 10’ was passed, we can expect a surge in demand for degree-completion options for the first cohort of registered nurses to be affected by the law,” said Mary Gallant, interim dean of the School of Public Health. “UAlbany’s new Bachelor of Science in Nursing completion program — the only program of its kind in the Capital Region that incorporates important public health coursework essential for the nursing workforce of the future — provides a critical pipeline for registered nurses to obtain the degree required to maintain licensure in New York State.” 

Growing New York’s Health Care Workforce

The program will be led by Director and Professor Jessica Castner, who comes to UAlbany following a year-long residency as the Distinguished Nurse Scholar-in-Residence at the National Academy of Medicine.

“Demand for health care workers is soaring yet, in 2021, nursing schools across the country turned away 91,938 qualified applicants from baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs due to a shortage of faculty and other resources to accommodate them,” said Castner. “This shows that while demand for such programs is growing, our capacity to train nurses, as a nation, is insufficient. At UAlbany, we are ready to help fill this gap.

“Through coursework and clinical learning experiences, students enrolled in UAlbany’s nursing programs will have the opportunity to advance their skills in health assessment and evidence-based practice, preparing them to succeed in a variety of health care settings — from traditional venues like hospitals and private practice clinics to community-based organizations such as public health agencies, telenursing centers and home visiting services.”

The nursing program offerings align with Gov. Hochul's 2022 goal to grow the state's health care workforce by 20 percent over the next five years.

“Given that the Capital Region is home to numerous hospitals and medical facilities, there has long been high demand for a nursing program at UAlbany,” Gallant said. “Further, the pandemic has underscored the importance of a strong understanding of public health among those working in the health care field.

“At the School of Public Health, we count among our faculty top experts in the fields of epidemiology and biostatistics, health promotion, health policy and management, environmental health and biomedical science. We are extremely well positioned to welcome nurses seeking to advance their careers and develop knowledge and valuable skillsets that will be essential for meeting health care demands now and in the future.”

New Capital Region Pipeline

Thanks to the School of Public Health’s deep existing partnership with the NYS Department of Health, nursing students will have access to unique clinical placement opportunities related to public health and population health that will help advance their careers. By coordinating with nearby Hudson Valley Community College (HVCC), UAlbany’s biggest transfer partner, the BSN completion program will give students graduating with their associate degree in nursing from HVCC a pathway to pursue their BSN and MSN at UAlbany.

Students of the program will have opportunities to undertake research alongside faculty that are leaders in their fields.

“Because UAlbany is an R1 institution, nursing students will have the opportunity to get involved in research with nursing faculty as well as faculty in other programs at the School of Public Health and across UAlbany’s various schools and colleges,” said UAlbany Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Carol Kim. “These projects will span disciplines such as health policy, epidemiology, environmental health, and emergency preparedness, as well as research focusing on health disparities and the social determinants of health — all key research strengths of the university.”

Students will have the option to enroll in the BSN completion program on a full- or part-time basis. Coursework completed during students’ nursing associate degree will be counted toward the BSN.

“The pandemic exacerbated an existing shortage of health care workers,” Kim said. “The ‘BSN in 10 law’ was created to help strengthen New York’s health care workforce, and it is imperative that we provide opportunities for existing nurses to obtain this needed qualification in a way that allows them to maintain their current position, continue providing care and not forego salary. For these reasons, offering flexibility through a part-time option is key to ensuring student success.”

Master of Science in Population Health Nursing

The Master of Science in Population Health Nursing program is designed to prepare students for careers in community and public health nursing. This area of specialization focuses on the effects of health disparities on disadvantaged communities, as well as social determinants of health that influence outcomes for patients.

“This degree will expand graduates’ employment options to population and community health positions addressing issues ranging from infectious diseases to substance abuse, focusing on prevention and education as well as treatment,” said Gallant. “The 2021 National Academy of Medicine report Future of Nursing 2020-2030 called for greater investment in nurses trained within this specialization. Our MS program is specifically aligned to address this need.”

The MS program is fully online, requires 42 credits and can be taken on a full- or part-time basis.