More Nurses for the Mississippi Delta

(Stoneville, MS) – Delta State University’s nursing program is booming and providing welcome relief to hospitals and clinics across the Delta in need of these skilled professionals.  One reason for the recent success of the DSU Robert E. Smith School of Nursing is the partnership it formed with the Delta Health Alliance.  Lizabeth Carlson, DSU Nursing Dean, explains, “With critical funding from Delta Health Alliance over the last five years, we have been able to offer scholarships to students, increase our faculty positions, and purchase the best lab equipment available.  More than 315 nurses have graduated from our program since our partnership was formed.”

According to Carlson, nursing students come from all backgrounds: one student came from a farming family and decided to get her nursing degree in her mid-thirties; another was a first generation college student. Greenville resident Emily Newman, Director of the school’s Health Education Center is a retired Memphis City School District administrator who took advantage of a Delta Health Alliance nursing shortage scholarship to forge a new career.

According to Karen Fox, Delta Health Alliance CEO, “The nursing shortage in the Mississippi Delta is twice the state and national average, and that’s one of the reasons we wanted to focus resources to overcoming that deficit.  And the performance of the DSU School of Nursing has topped all expectations.  They really are meeting a need here in the Delta.”

The Delta State/Delta Health Alliance nursing program has four objectives: one, to increase the capacity to educate more nurses; two, to increase the quality and quantity of applications to the nursing program; three, to improve graduation rates; and four, to increase the number of nursing students who elect to remain in the Delta region and practice after graduation.

According to Dean Carlson, the project has eclipsed each of these objectives. “We have tripled the enrollment for those who declare pre-nursing as a major,” she said. “We have increased the graduation rate and our retention rate for the program has gone from 57 percent to 80 percent, and each measure was accomplished without having to dilute the nursing schools admissions or graduation standards.”

“It has been a wonderful relationship,” Carlson said, “I came to Delta State in 1998 and there were a lot of people who didn’t realize Delta State had a nursing school. But, now people know who we are.”

The partnership with Delta State is just one of 18 programs developed to improve health care in the Mississippi Delta.  For more information, log on to www.deltahealthalliance.org or www.deltastate.edu.