Augustana University Announces Master of Science in Nursing Program

By Jill Wilson | April 19, 2022

In support of it strategic plan Viking Bold: The Journey to 2030, Augustana is proud to announce the launch of its Master of Science in nursing (MSN) program in the fall of 2022, with an emphasis in two areas — adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner (AG-ACNP) and adult-gerontology clinical nurse specialist (AG-CNS). Beginning in the summer of 2023, the university will also offer two post-master’s certificate options, including AG-ACNP and AG-CNS.

Augustana’s strategic plan identified the goal of developing graduate degree programs, responsive to new and emerging student interests and community needs. In order to gauge the level of demand for graduate nursing programs in Sioux Falls and across the region, the Department of Nursing conducted a feasibility study that included an environmental scan of competitive local and regional nursing programs, comparing curriculum and costs, as well as surveys of prospective students and AU alumni. Prospective students indicated an interest in attaining a graduate nursing degree across more than a dozen areas of specialties, including nursing administration and leadership, ACNP and CNS.

“We are really excited to be entering this phase of nursing education. At the same time, we're also very concerned about, and have an eye on, the nursing and health care workforce needs of the community,” said MSN Program Director and Associate Professor of Nursing Dr. Lynn White.

The program will meet the increasing need for nurse practitioners certified to practice in the acute care setting and address the declining clinical nurse specialist workforce.

The 2021 South Dakota Nursing Workforce Report indicated that more than 78% of certified nurse practitioners in South Dakota are family nurse practitioners and less than 11% had an acute care certification. The 2021 report also showed that the number of clinical nurse specialists (CNSs) in the state decreased by nearly 13% from 2018, with another 41% of CNSs stating that they planned to retire or leave practice in the next five years. 

Currently, South Dakota does not have academic programming that trains acute care nurse practitioners or clinical nurse specialists.
“There are very few adult-geriatric acute care nurse practitioners — I’m one of only a few (at Sanford). There's not an abundance in South Dakota because there are really no resources for that. I believe the hospitals see the benefit in having that specialty,” said Augustana Assistant Professor of Nursing Pamela Barthle, who has practiced nursing for 36 years and is an AG-ACNP in cardiology at Sanford Health in Sioux Falls.

White added, “There is also a very big gap in clinical nurse specialist education. There's There are not very many CNSs in the workforce in South Dakota and many of those who are in the workforce are of retirement age.”

Nurses who hold a Bachelor of Science degree and valid nursing license with nursing practice experience are eligible to apply to Augustana’s graduate nursing program. The program will be delivered in a hybrid model with the curriculum designed to accommodate students who work while enrolled in the program. The certificate programs will provide an opportunity for nurses who already have received their master’s degree in a different nursing specialty area to become certified as an ACNP or CNS.

To learn more about the program and its upcoming information sessions, as well as how to apply, visit

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