Colby-Sawyer College Launches First Graduate Program, a Master of Science in Nursing

Colby-Sawyer will expand its exceptional nursing education options this fall and offer its first graduate program, a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). In collaboration with Dartmouth-Hitchcock (D-H), the college’s longtime partner in the health professions, Colby-Sawyer developed the 37-credit program to meet the demand for higher education of the advanced generalist nurse. Program graduates will be eligible to sit for the Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) certification exam.

A CNL is a highly skilled clinician who focuses on outcomes-based practice and quality improvement. CNLs oversee the care coordination of a distinct group of patients using evidence-based practice and provide care to patients in complex situations. Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC) plans to deploy CNLs in their inpatient medical-surgical and critical care settings in order to augment the health system’s focus on high quality care delivery to its patients and families, according to Dr. Susan Reeves ’88, dean of the Colby-Sawyer College School of Nursing and Health Professions and Gladys A. Burrows Distinguished Professor of Nursing. Developed in 2007, the deployment of CNLs in similar clinical care environments in other areas of the country has yielded improvement in patient outcomes and costs.

Colby-Sawyer’s MSN program, co-designed by nursing leaders from Colby-Sawyer and D-H, will initially enroll a cohort of 12 part-time students from a segment of DHMC employees to fill the demand for the new role of Clinical Nurse Leader. Applications from the D-H system and other health care organizations are now being accepted for the fall semester.

“I want to acknowledge everyone who worked so hard to expand Colby-Sawyer’s undergraduate education mission and create our first graduate degree program,” said Academic Vice President Laura Alexander. “This addition is a fantastic and logical step forward in the college’s evolution, particularly given our strong, decades-long partnership with Dartmouth-Hitchcock.”

In its letter accrediting the program, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges’ (NEASC) Commission on Institutions of Higher Education noted that the MSN is “aligned with Colby-Sawyer’s mission to ‘prepare students for their professions and lives of ongoing learning.’”

“We are excited and have high expectations for the clinical nurse leader role at Dartmouth-Hitchcock,” said John Malanowski, executive vice president and chief human resources officer at Dartmouth-Hitchcock. “Our practice and education partners have been working together to define the curriculum for this role and create a new care delivery model needed to maximize the skills of the clinical nurse leader. The creation of this CNL role will have a positive impact on staff engagement and retention, improved patient outcomes and organizational performance.”

Colby-Sawyer’s MSN degree may be completed in 21 months. It combines classroom work with hybrid/online didactic and clinical practice at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon and is structured around the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education’s (CCNE) Essentials of Master’s Education in Nursing.

The graduate program will be housed in Colby-Sawyer’s School of Nursing and Health Professions and supported by the institution’s existing qualified nursing faculty as well as nurse leaders from DHMC. NEASC observed that with new dedicated nursing lab and administrative spaces, Colby-Sawyer has a well-developed infrastructure to support graduate-level work, including student support services and access to digital library resources.

Colby-Sawyer is already home to one of the state’s top-performing undergraduate nursing programs, and D-H considers Colby-Sawyer its own undergraduate nursing program. Colby-Sawyer’s undergraduate nurses have passed the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN ) on the first attempt with a five-year average of 96.03 percent as compared with 89.47 percent for the state and 84 percent for the nation.

This spring, Colby-Sawyer graduated its first cohort in its RN to BS degree program. The college also offers related majors in health care management and public health.

“The Clinical Nurse Leader role has been implemented across the country and has been demonstrated to influence significant improvement in patient outcomes, patient and family satisfaction, as well as staff and physician satisfaction,” said Gay L. Landstrom, executive vice president and chief nursing officer. “I have been so pleased to work with Dr. Reeves on the development of this master’s degree program. Colby-Sawyer is an ideal partner to bring this program to the D-H system and help us create the workforce we need for the future. I am pleased that we have selected 12 talented D-H Registered Nurses who will be supported by scholarship to attend the program and bring that new knowledge back to D-H and those we serve.”

Master of Science in Nursing Application.

About Dartmouth-Hitchcock

Dartmouth-Hitchcock (D-H) is a nonprofit academic health system that serves a population of 1.9 million in New England. D-H provides access to more than 1,000 primary care doctors and specialists in almost every area of medicine, delivering care in Lebanon, NH at its flagship, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center; the Norris Cotton Cancer Center, one of only 45 Comprehensive Cancer Centers in the nation; the Children's Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock; affiliate hospitals in Lebanon, Keene, and New London, NH, and Windsor, VT, and through the Visiting Nurse and Hospice for Vermont and New Hampshire; and at 24 Dartmouth-Hitchcock clinics that provide ambulatory services across New Hampshire and Vermont. The D-H system trains nearly 400 residents and fellows annually, and performs world-class research, in partnership with the Audrey and Theodor Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth and the White River Junction VA Medical Center in White River Junction, VT. In 2016, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center was named one of "100 Great Hospitals in America" by Becker's Hospital Review.