Dean Dr. Tina Martin is leading the UMMC School of Nursing at a time of expansion to meet the need for more nurses in the state.
Dean Dr. Tina Martin is leading the UMMC School of Nursing at a time of expansion to meet the need for more nurses in the state.
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Expansion and curricular transformation on School of Nursing dean’s agenda

Published on Monday, March 11, 2024

By: Annie Oeth,

Photos By: Melanie Thortis and Joe Ellie/ UMMC Communications

Creating more baccalaureate-educated registered nurses is at the heart of transformations underway at the University of Mississippi Medical Center School of Nursing.

Dr. Tina Martin, who became the school’s eighth dean March 3 after serving as interim dean since July 1, is focusing on increasing the number of School of Nursing graduates to meet the growing need for nurses in Mississippi and beyond.

“As the state’s flagship nursing program, the UMMC School of Nursing is leading the way to increase the number of nurses and nursing educators,” Martin said. “Excellence has been a hallmark of the School of Nursing since its beginning, and now, more than 75 years later, that is the focus of changes underway.”

Nursing enrollment at the UMMC School of Nursing in Jackson and Oxford is already on the rise. With the opening of a traditional bachelor of science in nursing degree track at Ole Miss’ South Oxford Center, enrollment is expected to rise to 900 students or more.

Ground has been broken on a new home for the School of Nursing on the Medical Center campus, which will provide the space for a 25% enrollment increase.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projections, there will be 3,349,900 registered nursing jobs in 2032, a 6% increase from 2022’s number, 3,172,500.

Exacerbating the need are rising numbers of retiring nurses, an aging population, and a shortage of nursing faculty, which limits nursing school enrollment, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

Martin, sixth from left, helps break ground on a new home for the UMMC School of Nursing in June 2023. Joe Ellis/ UMMC Photography
Martin, sixth from left, helps break ground on a new home for the UMMC School of Nursing in June 2023.

A curriculum transformation

While growing in facilities and programs, the School of Nursing is going through a curriculum transformation that embraces competency-based nursing education.

“Competency-based nursing education evaluates nursing students on the skills and competencies needed to provide the highest quality patient care,” Martin said. “This is an exciting and challenging time to be in nursing education with the transformation to competency-based education. Building the future nursing workforce to meet the needs of an ever-changing health care system is complex and will require visionary collaboration. We must continue the momentum that is already in place and empower faculty to pursue excellence in nursing education.”

Traditional nursing education had focused on the knowledge needed to become a registered nurse, with skills playing a lesser role. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing has embraced competency-based curricula to ensure that nursing schools have graduates who will meet the AACN competency expectations.

Embracing nursing education

Martin, a professor of nursing who holds a PhD in clinical health sciences, an MSN and a BSN, all from UMMC, has served the School of Nursing in various roles since joining UMMC’s faculty ranks in 1999. She has been associate dean for administration since 2022, assistant dean for accreditation and evaluation from 2016 to 2022 and interim assistant dean for undergraduate programs from 2020 to 2021.

“When our students are busy and studying hard, I understand because I’ve been there,” she said. “I’ve been where they are now.”

Martin started working at UMMC as a 20-year-old medical transcriptionist at UMMC in 1990, working for the Department of Radiology.

“(Department chair) Dr. Brent Harrison, (and radiology faculty) Dr. Ramesh Patel and Dr. Bharti Patel quickly became mentors to me,” she said. “They talked to me about careers in health care and opened my eyes to nursing as a career option. I owe a lot to them and valued my time in radiology.”

With their encouragement and support, Martin enrolled in nursing school while working full-time.

“I would type before and after classes and on the weekends” she said. “When I wasn’t in class, I would transcribe.” After graduation, Martin was a registered nurse in neurology/neurosurgery and radiology, but her studies continued.

“I never thought I would be in nursing education, though,” she said.

That changed in 1999, when Martin moved to a family nurse practitioner position in neurology. “The position was shared with the School of Nursing, so I taught two days a week.”

She never looked back, embracing nursing education and her nursing alma mater.

Community partnerships

Community partnerships are woven into the fabric of the UMMC School of Nursing, Martin said, and as dean, she will seek to increase academic-practice partnerships to hone students’ skills while increasing service to Mississippians.

During her tenure, Martin has provided care to South Delta School District students through SON school-based clinics. From 1999 to 2009, she was a family nurse practitioner in the Department of Neurology, collaborating with neurologists to diagnose and treat neurological conditions in an outpatient setting.

“My practice experience has helped me to better understand the challenges nurses face as they transition to practice,” she said. “It’s so important that schools of nursing strengthen practice-education partnerships to better understand the evolving need for competent, practice-ready nurses.”

Workforce development

Nursing schools often serve a working population of registered nurses who want to continue their education by earning a BSN, a master of science in nursing, a PhD in nursing or a doctor of nursing practice degree.

The UMMC School of Nursing will continue to reach this working population by offering courses designed for this population, Martin said.

Studies have shown that nurses who have baccalaureate nursing degrees have better patient outcomes,” she said.

The AACN agrees, approving a 2019 position statement that called for registered nurses to be prepared for licensure with a BSN or equivalent nursing degree.

“At UMMC, we have an RN-to-BSN track that’s designed for working nurses,” Martin said. “Continuing education for nurses improves patient care and is essential for workforce development.”

Martin said she is looking forward to collaborating with Dr. Kristina Cherry, UMMC's chief nursing executive, in encouraging nurses at the Medical Center to continue their education at the School of Nursing.

Martin is also seeking to increase nursing research, which has already been rising at UMMC. In 2022, the School of Nursing saw 57 research publications in 2022, up from 27 in 2021.

Dr. Scott Rodgers, associate vice chancellor for academic affairs at UMMC, said Martin’s experience and expertise as a nurse and educator at UMMC, as well as her months of serving as interim dean, uniquely qualified her for leading the School of Nursing.

Portrait of Dr. Scott Rodgers

“Dr. Martin has been leading the UMMC School of Nursing at a pivotal time,” he said. “The School of Nursing has a rich history as the first academic nursing program in the state and the second-oldest school on the Medical Center campus, but it must continue to pursue excellence in nursing education and grow to best meet Mississippi’s need for more nurses. We believe Dr. Martin is the leader who can accomplish those goals.”