What Do You Do When Your Bachelor’s Degree Isn’t Enough? Masters in Nursing Offers Career Option

What Do You Do When Your Bachelor’s Degree Isn’t Enough? Masters in Nursing Offers Career Option

Emily Tomich grew up in Irvine, but it took traveling to a remote village in Tanzania to bring her to UCI’s door.

The journey began with a non-profit organization that builds wells in underserved areas around the world. As member of the organization, Tomich was asked to write education manuals on water hygiene. Within months, she was in a remote area of Tanzania, giving village leaders information on water hygiene that they could share with their people–insights into such things as keeping houses clean, hands clean, food clean.

Then, she entered the classroom.

As a white, female teacher in an all-boys high school, Tomich found that her words carried a lot of weight.  She led conversations about washing hands and talked with the boys about simple things they could do to prevent the spread of disease.

As their trust and respect grew, the boys began asking more clinical questions. Tomich was stuck. She had made other international public health trips, where she worked side-by-side with health experts. Here, it was different. She was on her own.

“These people were asking me about their health, their family’s health,” she said. “I was the authority in the room and I couldn’t answer their questions. I needed to do something to be able to help.” 

When she returned to her family home in Irvine, she began investigating nursing programs. Tomich had already earned an undergraduate degree in Public health and Exercise Science.  She knew a master’s degree would allow her to follow her passion and would open new opportunities to work as a public health nurse supporting community and population health.

UCI had just launched a Master’s Entry Program in Nursing (MEPN). It’s fast-track nursing program for professionals like Tomich, who have bachelor’s degrees and careers in other areas.

“We conceptualized this program because of the need for more nurses in the community,” said Lorraine Evangelista, PhD, RN, FAHA, FAAN, professor and interim associate dean for UCI’s Sue & Bill Gross School of Nursing. The MEPN program, approved in March 2016, received 300 applications for 20 slots in the first class. The applicant pool was, “the cream of the crop,” according to Evangelista.

UCI’s MEPN program offers a concentration in community health for underserved populations, which was of particular interest to Tomich. Through the MEPN program, Tomich would learn how to compassionately and objectively care for vulnerable populations, and even how to advocate with them.

Tomich applied to the highly selective program and was accepted. She began her coursework in summer 2017. “The UCI nursing network is so inspiring and wonderful to people starting their UC career,” she said. “I’m proud to be a UCI student.”

This past Fall, Tomich was honored with a scholarship to help her on her journey.  The scholarship was established with a gift form Feizal Waffarn, MD, a UCI School of Medicine professor emeritus in Pediatrics.

 “I am delighted to be able to support the School of Nursing, its students and the MEPN program,” said Waffarn. “In its first year, the MEPN program has attracted a class of diverse and talented students with great potential and promise. I look forward with confidence to the continued growth and success of UCI School of Nursing and its innovative programs.”