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MSN Scholarships Support, Motivate Graduate Nursing Students

UL Online -- Mon, 08/16/2021 - 10:17am

There’s no denying it. Earning a Master of Science in Nursing comes with logistical challenges. 

Just ask Kelly Bankston. Kelly Bankston, UL Lafayette MSN graduate, wears a black graduation cap and gown and holds her degree plaque during commencement exercises.

In May 2021, Bankston earned her MSN degree from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. 

Like many graduate nursing students, Bankston juggled working, driving her 7-year-old and twin 12-year-old boys to games and practices along with completing coursework and clinical hours. 

“I have a good husband who helped out a lot, and I was still able to do all this stuff with my kids,” she says. “But there were many late nights, and my weekends were basically dedicated to schoolwork.”

Amidst that pressure, Bankston found some relief through the scholarships she received through the University’s partnerships with donors passionate about supporting future family nurse practitioners.

Fostering Graduate Nursing Student Success

UL Lafayette's College of Nursing & Health Sciences began offering distance learning to MSN students in 1989, improving access for working nurses. Since then, the College has continued to remove logistical barriers for students while delivering a rigorous education.

That’s why the MSN program couples online coursework with in-person clinical experiences, making advancement more accessible for working registered nurses. 

Another barrier for many who are interested in becoming advanced practice nurses is cost. 

The University has worked to address that barrier through two distinct efforts.  

In 2020, MSN tuition was reduced to $480 per credit hour. Meanwhile, the college has steadily worked with other University departments to secure scholarships for MSN students, according to Dr. Melinda Oberleitner, Dean for the College of Nursing & Health Sciences.

“One of the funding priorities our College Development Officer, Nicole Jones, and I established was to increase scholarships for our graduate students, and we’ve been extremely successful in securing donations to fund new scholarships targeted to those students,” says Dr. Oberleitner.  

“We’re thankful to donors who recognize the need for and importance of providing financial support for students enrolled in our MSN program.”

Bankston was among the first graduate nursing students to benefit from the Dr. Philip Gachassin & Family Endowed Graduate Student Scholarship in Nursing. 

The scholarship was one of three Bankston received, although, she says, scholarships for graduate nursing students are rare. 

“Most of the scholarships I came across were for high school students going to college so I didn't figure there would be anything else out there,” says Bankston. 

Then nursing faculty emailed students about the available scholarships and Bankston was able to apply. 

The scholarships served as both rewards and incentives for Bankston.

“It helped to take some of the financial strain off of me,” Bankston says. “It also motivated me — it really did — to do well because I wanted to do right by the donors.”

Supporting the Future

Dr. Philip Gachassin, Medical Director of the Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Department at Oschner Lafayette GeneralDr. Philip Gachassin serves as the Medical Director of the Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Department at Ocshner Lafayette General. In his 20 years of practice, Dr. Gachassin says a key factor in patient outcomes and his success as a surgeon is the quality of the nurses in the room.

“I could recognize the difference between a very, very high-quality nurse and a good nurse. My patients’ care improved, and I became a better surgeon with the support of high-quality nurses. Over my years practicing in Lafayette, I recognized that the best nurses were all graduates of UL Lafayette.”

Although Dr. Gachassin had heard from his father – a UL Lafayette alum – that the University’s nursing programs was among the top in the country, seeing was believing for Dr. Gachassin. 

"I didn’t really think much about it, but after a while I realized the caliber of nurse the University was producing was above the level of the average nurse that I’d dealt with in my career and personally,” says Dr. Gachassin. “As I learned more about the College and their process of education, it made sense to me why they were so successful. I felt I had a duty to support the University and any of the future nurses they would produce.”

In particular, Dr. Gachassin aimed to support future nurse practitioners. He attributes his ability to effectively expand his practice over the last 13 years to colleague and nurse practitioner Lauren Naquin, a UL Lafayette graduate. 

“After she started working with me, it didn’t take long to recognize she was very educated, very skilled, compassionate listener for the patients, and could synthesize the information provided to her from listening to the patient and in the physical exam. Her knowledge base was very wide and that allowed me to deliver care to more patients while maintaining a very high-quality standard.”

Creating Access

For years, Bankston thought her career path was pointed toward administration. 

That changed when flooding around the Baton Rouge area in 2016 forced Bankston and her family from their home in Central to the more rural town of Clinton.Kelly Bankston, UL Lafayette MSN graduate, stands with her husband and three sons outside of the Cajundome during commencement exercises.

She says the lack of primary care providers quickly became apparent, and that sparked a new goal for Bankston.

“I knew I wanted to become a nurse practitioner, so I can help those that don't have easy access to health care, or help them navigate when they don’t have health insurance or have poor health insurance,” she says. “I enjoy helping people.”

Bankston is positioned to do just that as she prepares for her certification exam and a place among UL Lafayette MSN - Family Nurse Practitioner alumni. 

Scholarships available to Master of Science in Nursing students include:

  • Dr. Philip Gachassin & Family Endowed Graduate Student Scholarship in Nursing  
  • Dr. Amelie A. Hollier/APEA Endowed Graduate Student Scholarship 
  • James D. Moncus/BORSF Endowed Superior Graduate Student Scholarship Nursing  
  • Allie & Patlola Foundation Endowed Graduate Student Scholarship in Nursing 
  • Jewel Parkerson Lowe Foundation Endowed Graduate Scholarship in Nursing

Take the first step toward advancing your practice and improving patient care. Request information about UL Lafayette's Master of Science in Nursing online today!