FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) - As the demand for medical professionals continues to grow, Francis Marion University is starting to supply the community with the qualified, yet affordable experts it needs.
"Here in Florence where there is growing economy with the new industries coming here in town, they're going to need primary care providers and as a nurse practitioner, I can do that for them," said Stacey Creech, who is about to graduate with a master's of science in nursing.
Twenty-three people make up the school's first graduating class for the master of science in nursing, or M.S.N., program.
19 students were on the family nurse practitioner track and four students were doing the nurse educator program.
"Now I get to choose what to do," Creech said. "I don't have to call a physician and say, 'Hey can I do this?' Now I can make that choice and get it done for my patients faster."
The program is based on data the school received evaluating medical needs in the community.
"Right now, one of the programs that is being developed, even though it's not a nursing program, it's a health professions program. It's a physician assistant program and that was from data that we had recently collected also," said Dr. Ruth Whittmann-Price, FMU nursing department chair.
The M.S.N. students will graduate Saturday at 10 a.m. at the Smith University Center.
The graduates will still have to pass a certification exam and apply for an advanced practice nursing license.
More than 300 students will graduate in total and nearly 2,000 people are expected to attend the ceremony.