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      FMU starts new hybrid nursing program in the Lowcountry

      There's a new nursing program offered through Francis Marion University for the 2014-2015 academic year.

      The RN to BSN program debuts in Mount Pleasant this fall, allowing registered nurses with two-year degrees to get their four-year degrees.

      An Institute of Medicine report says the shift to baccalaureate degrees is vital to the future of the American healthcare system.

      The committee behind the report wants to see the number of nurses with a BSN at 80 percent by 2020, and Ruth Wittman-Price, Director of Nursing at FMU, says increasing those numbers is the main goal behind the new program.

      "In South Carolina, we're trying to get to 65% BSN-prepared by 2020, so with that we redeveloped our program so it would be more accessible to people," said Wittman-Price.

      The new program also extends the school's geographic scope by taking their program to Mt. Pleasant at the invitation of town officials, who believed FMU could offer collegiate programs to Lowcountry-area citizens undeserved by existing 4-year public schools in the area, according to Tucker Mitchell, Executive Director of Public Affairs for FMU.

      "It's our first offering for the baccalaureate courses we're going to offer in the Lowcountry area," Mitchell said.

      "There was a need down in Mt. Pleasant. There's a large number of hospitals, and there wasn't a state education program down there that could provide the services," added Wittman-Price.

      Students in the hybrid program take classes in Mt. Pleasant one day a week, and the rest of the classes are done online with some time set aside for meetings with instructors.

      The Florence and Mt. Pleasant programs combined have more than doubled their enrollment this year, and school officials say they believe that trend will continue in 2015.

      Since the inception of the new RN to BSN program, FMU officials have been invited by the College of Charleston to explore a broad collaboration with them on offering new educational programs in the Lowcountry.

      FMU President Dr. Fred Carter is expected to meet with Glenn McConnell, College of Charleston's new president, in September to discuss the possible new programs.