HCC has the right prescription for nursing students

By Linda Conner Lambeck
Updated: 12/27/2009 09:06:56 PM EST

BRIDGEPORT -- Many students enter Housatonic Community College with aspirations beyond a certificate or associate's degree. But the two-year college often does not have all the courses needed to fulfill the prerequisites to enroll in a graduate-level program.

But that is what is promised -- at least in the nursing field -- with a new package of HCC courses designed to fulfill all the prerequisites for students interested in the University of Connecticut's Master's Entry into Nursing program.

To get into that program, candidates need a range of science classes, such as genetics, anatomy, physiology and microbiology, on top of a bachelor's degree. They also need a grade-point average of at least 3.0.

Kathleen Toedt, an assistant professor at Housatonic, realized the college offers all of those prerequisites, giving career-changing professionals a one-stop path to the UConn program.

UConn's graduate track program takes three years to complete, but after the first calendar year, students are eligible to take the registered nurse licensing exam.

UConn has offered the program for some time to help put a dent in the state's nursing shortage, but only recently has it been introduced at the Waterbury and Stamford UConn campuses.

However, neither Waterbury or Stamford offer all the prerequisites necessary for the program, said Toedt.

"Whether you need one prerequisite or all seven, we have them," said Toedt.

The HCC package is officially being marketed this spring, but students are already participating.

Kaitlyn Shake, 26, of Fairfield, said she is taking the science prerequisites at Housatonic as she completes a bachelor's degree at UConn Stamford. To get into the MEIN program, she needs genetics and a biology methods research course, which UConn Stamford doesn't offer.

"I did a lot of research before graduating. I knew I wanted to do nursing. I didn't know which track. I looked at a lot of programs and the timelines. I wanted a bachelor's degree regardless," said Shake, who earned an associate's degree from Housatonic last June.

Her eventual goal is to become a nurse practitioner or advanced practitioner registered nurse. She is interested in research.

Without taking breaks, Shake expects to collect a bachelor's by December 2010 and, fingers crossed, hopes to be in UConn's first Stamford MEIN program in January 2011.

She said the program is ideal because the first class will be limited to 16 participants.

"In another school, I could be one of 140," she said. "So far, I haven't heard anything bad about the program."

The Waterbury and Storrs campus admit 32 students each. About 150 apply for the program each year.