UIC GEP prospective students

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    Normally, I wouldn't post a thread like this. However, I believe that I need to put this information out there so that future students know what I did not before entering a graduate entry program, such as the one at University of Illinois- Chicago.

    Despite the high ranking both in Illinois and the U.S. overall, this program does not offer any advantages. Currently, students spend 15 months in an intense pre-licensure portion of the program. You are encouraged to not work, despite having to spend ~$50K on this portion alone. When you are done, you can sit for the NCLEX and earn an RN. This is not, however, a BSN or a MSN. Despite having an existing BS or BA, students are considered to be in the exact same pool as associates program graduates. The only real difference is that you spent 3 times a much as the students from your local community college.

    The nursing world is moving toward BSN or higher. This is simply a fact. To have magnet status, a hospital has to employ at least 80% bachelors or masters prepared students. As a result, many urban hospitals are only looking at candidates with BSNs or MSNs.

    It should also be noted that in a city such as Chicago, it is currently taking at least 6 months to find an entry level nursing job. This includes BSN students. Thus, it is even harder for mere RNs.

    You may be told that students are encouraged to finish the first 15 months of this program and then work full time while completing the degree part time. Once you are in the program this will change. The dean and other administrators will deny ever pushing working as an RN. They believe that the nursing world is working toward APN/NP/CNS going straight through school without obtaining significant RN experience. They will ignore anyone who mentions that no one can get hired in hospital as an acute care NP without any acute care experience, or how anyone is suppose to finance 4 years of full time schooling without any promise of a well paying job as an outcome.

    Aside from all of this, the staff is extremely unorganized. The lab portion of the program is a complete mess. Students are made to feel stupid on a weekly basis as well. Outcomes of testing depends almost entirely on who you are assigned to that week.

    If I hadn't already dumped thousands of dollars (in 2 months) into this program, and if I had already taken the pre-requisites, I would be dropping out immediately and applying to an accelerated BSN or generalist MSN program.

    The class if full of amazing individuals, and not every professor is a complete ass, but this hardly makes up for the rest of the program. Struggling through would be a lot more tolerable if there was a promise of a job at the end of the tunnel. No one had ever presented it to me like this before I applied, so I hope that this will be helpful to others in making their decisions.

    This program may still work for some of you, which is fine. If anyone who reads this has any questions, please feel free to let me know and I will do my best to answer them.
    Suey816 likes this.
  2. 11 Comments so far...

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    I really want to thank you for taking the time to post this. With that said though, I do have some questions.

    On the website, it does clearly state that you will not be receiving a BSN. Were you unclear about this before enrolling in the program? I am aware of the fact that we only receive the RN license and the potential of not being able to find employment with just that alone. I think that is a risk that comes with many of these programs, but seeing as how most schools don't offer a BSN but only an MSN, I don't see a conceivable way around it... I did contemplate just getting my ABSN but since that is not my end goal, it just seems more efficient and less costly for me to go to a direct entry school. Of course it's all a matter of preference and what you believe is best for you. But I don't believe that UIC misleads applicants about their RN licensure. You're not in the program to become a nurse, you're in the program to become an advanced practice nurse which is a big difference between yourself and a community college graduate (or it will be in 2-3 years).

    Most of these schools emphasize not working during the accelerated portion. I would not expect to work unless I was somehow lucky to get a non stressful part time hustle or job. The working part time thing was another issue I have heard echoed. Since you're only 2 months in, I am assuming that you haven't started looking for a job? Have you spoken with students who are further in the program about this? My own personal hope was to relocate outside of Chicago to another UI campus since I know UIC is big on distance learning and that it is possible to take classes at other campuses (then again, I could be wrong so if I am please let me know). But that is a valid concern of mine but once again I'm unsure how to resolve this since that seems to be the big elephant in the room with many of these programs.

    In regards to staff/professors/lab, I think that's out of every students control and something that you won't learn about until you're in the program, whether it UIC or any other schools. I attended Cal for undergrad and had far more bad or mediocre professors than good. But then the good professors were really good.

    So I guess besides the other questions I asked, what would you suggest to potential students such as myself? Save more money if you're admitted? Don't come if you're admitted?

    Thank you!
    Last edit by sittenfeld on Feb 21, '13 : Reason: Formatting
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    Thank you for your perspective.

    Unfortunately, it seems that new LPN, RN, BSN-RN, and NP grads are having trouble finding jobs across the board. I don't see how that is UIC's fault though. They clearly state you are coming out as an RN student and not a BSN-RN. I know they do tell people to do the advanced practice program part time so that you can get bedside experience, but I think that it's also the responsibility of the student/applicant to understand how tough it is to get a job out there and that might not happen.

    I am a little distressed to hear about the part you state that once you are in the program "the dean and other administrators will deny ever pushing working as an RN." Almost all of the other programs I applied for I would be completing solely full-time and I would probably consider doing the same at UIC if accepted. However, I do know they push that in the information sessions, and I too would feel a little upset if I had originally planned on going part-time.

    I also considered ABSN programs and just don't want another Bachelor's degree. I am also planning to apply to two generalist MSN programs for next January as well if I do not get into any of the direct entry NP programs I've applied to. However, I know that I want to hold an advanced nursing degree because I want to be a primary care provider. I would rather go through in one shot to get my degree.

    You also say that "they will ignore anyone who mentions that no one can get hired as an Acute Care NP without any acute care experience." Are you referring to experience you could get during the advanced part of the program while working part time or is there a lack of experience during the clinicals of the advanced practice part? Again though, no matter what it seems that new grads are having trouble finding jobs, even BSN grads, so what is UIC to do about this? You can find posts on AllNurses from LPN's complaining there are no jobs because BSN-RN's have taken them and BSN-RN's complaining there are no jobs because ADN nurses have taken them. If I am misunderstanding something, please correct me!

    Once again, thanks for your perspective and taking our questions. These schools are in the business of making money at the end of the day, so hearing from someone about the negatives is good because we certainly won't get that from the schools!
    sittenfeld likes this.
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    I was clear about the fact that I would not receive a BSN before enrolling in the program. That is not always the case with new students, though, so I wanted to point that out to everyone looking into it. It use to not matter much in the short run if you had a RN or BSN. In the past year of so this has changed drastically, especially in Chicago. GEP students use to get jobs at hospitals that will no longer even take their resumes.

    I do not blame UIC for the change in job market, of course. I do, however, blame them for presenting this as a program where you can work full time as an RN after 15 months (if you want), and then later say that getting RN experience is not necessary and not the main focus of the program.

    The students in the program ahead of me are having a very difficult time getting hospitals to even LOOK at their resumes.

    I would also like to point out the difference between a generalist masters in nursing and the specialized masters that students in the GEP program work toward. Depaul and Rush offer generalist MSN degrees for students in graduate entry programs. These programs are about 2 years and send you on your way with a MSN. You can then go on to take more classes and become a NP if you wish. At UIC, you skip the generalist MSN and go straight for the MS in a specific concentration. Going full time, this will take approximately 3.5-4 years.

    I can speak pretty well to the struggles of the class above me, as I heard them first hand in a college of nursing town hall meeting just last week. Going through full time without ever working as a nurse, in my opinion, is a risky move. Sure, you will be doing clinical rotations. However, you never really know what it is like to work as a nurse, master skills, and manage a case load, until you practice. That being said, I'm not sure how many hospitals will be willing to take on someone as a pediatric NP who has never worked in a hospital outside of clinical rotations. The nursing school at UIC seems to disagree, but that is the general consensus that students have been getting when they call recruiters.

    On a positive note, there are some really great instructors and professors. I also couldn't ask for better classmates. Everyone is extremely supportive and collaborative. I now a student in a generalist MSN program who is having the opposite experience with her peers.

    No one has told me this, so don't take my word on it, but I know UIC is changing their future curriculum. Rumor has it that they are phasing out masters programs for NPs and moving toward doctorates (DNP). It makes me wonder if they will alter the GEP program to get a generalist MSN at time of licensure and then go straight to DNP for most tracks. DNP (doctor of nursing practice) for Nurse Practitioners is the way the nursing world is moving right now, so that would be a progressive move for UIC.
    sittenfeld likes this.
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    I may be mistaken, but I am pretty sure Rush had a master's entry for NP's that had been changed into the GEM program with the way things are going for the DNP. So I believe you when you say UIC could be changing their curriculum. I kind of remember being hinted that at an information session last summer.

    I have really been wrestling with the fact that lacking clinical experience as an RN is not only risky, but looked down upon by many. I still really struggle with that fact. But, at the same time, I really struggle with the fact that if I do a generalist MSN program, I am going to spend more time and money in the long run. I'm not going into nursing for the money, but I will/already do have lots of student loans to pay back so it's a conflicting situation.

    Just curious, this college of nursing town hall meeting you are talking about... is that something that anyone can attend?
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    I echo many of the sentiments that you wrote of, hi616.

    I also planned to go through the MSN program full-time, especially since I would like to get a MPH as well. The experience factor is definitely a concern for me... seems like a situation where the student will always end up the loser.

    I'm also not interested in Generalist programs. Otherwise, I would have applied to UCLA's program last fall. I don't necessarily mind the change from MSN to DNP but I will mind if I am not grandfathered in.

    But everything is still speculation and what-if's, and it's hard to make decisions based off of that. But you have definitely given me things to think about.
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    It is interesting to read everyone's perspectives here. It was my understanding that the majority of people who apply to programs like UIC's GEP is because they know they want to become APN's and this program will get them there. I am just a little confused on why there is so much worry about RN vs. BSN when the overall program is designed for students to become APN's in their choice specialty. I can definitely understand the worry of not finding a job as an RN during the Master 's portion (competing against BSN), and how that could effect chances of landing a job once an APN if you don't have enough experience. It's a lot of time and money to invest in your education. Coming from a family of nurses and nurse practitioners, some just out of school; I have been told that those who network properly while in school have no trouble finding jobs whether they are RN / BSN.

    Sure, this program does not award students a BSN, but it is a fast track option to become an APN and for those who want that in the end, I think it is a great choice. I am not trying to make this political but many people forget that Obamacare isn't going going to kick in until 2014. It doesn't matter what your political views are, these are just facts.

    Health Care Reform Timeline

    In my opinion, student applying to programs like this are ahead of the game because they are thinking long term. In the next few years 30 million more Americans are going to have health insurance. That means 30 million more people are going to be need basic care, which is not going to be given by physicians. There just aren't enough doctors out there and not enough money to pay them. It is the role of nurse practitioners that is going to expand to cover these patients. Talk to any working doctor or nurse and they will tell you the same thing. In the next few years there is going to be a HUGE demand for nurse practitioners to provide primary care. I'm just saying if people applying to this program and scared of 'not finding a job' when they graduate, I would recommended reading this article who was sent to me by a nurse practitioner.

    Nurse Practitioners Are In -- and Why You May Be Seeing More of Them - Knowledge@Wharton

    I worry about finding jobs once a nurse as well. I have a lot of student debt I'm currently paying off along with rent...and the cost of living in Chicago is not cheap. And the part you said about the staff being unorganized is freaking me out a little.....I just don't want this post to scare away people who know they want to be an NP in the end. For those who already have a BS this program is the way to get there, especially if you want to go into family practice.
    sittenfeld likes this.
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    To add some credence to justkeepswimming's post...I am a student in the class above him/her and I also would greatly discourage anyone from applying to the GEP program. Believe what you will (as I did when I was in your shoes) but there is much merit to what justkeepingswimming has to say.
    The job market is incredibly tough for everyone, but having just an RN places you at a disadvantage for almost every hospital job you might apply to. I am one of few (out of a cohort of 70) that was lucky enough to get a job and it was only through personal connections. I understand that our end goal is to be an NP but RN experience is necessary and critical to be successful. Speaking with HR representatives from Advocate, NorthShore, Advenstist, and Sinai health systems it was made abundantly clear that they will not hire an NP that has not previously worked as an RN. I was told that this rule applies to both the primary and acute care settings. I should also mention that in the case of Acute Care NPs you will not be allowed to go into clinical without at least 1 year of RN experience as mandated by the director of that specialty. For those that cannot fathom working as an RN, perhaps PA school might be a better option. You have more clinical training hours built into the program and you will be better equipped to enter the workforce as a midlevel provider. If you have zero desire to work as an RN, a fast track to NP is not the way to. Just my thoughts..let me know if you have questions.
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    buzzj, I'm starting UIC's GEP program in Jan 2014 under the the Acute Care NP specialty. When you say you're not allowed to go into clinical without RN experience, are you talking about the Masters-level clinical? I was admitted without any experience as an RN so I don't see how they would admit me into the program and then ban me from doing the clinical hours I need to continue my degree until I complete a year working as an RN in places that won't hire me without a BSN...

    After reading this thread, I'm frankly scared to start the program now. I am an out-of-state student that will be in a LOT of debt when I graduate. I was aware of all these issues while applying to the program, but I figured the job market would improve by the time I completed the program. Then again, the market seems to be flooded with RN's right now.
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    To clarify, you will not be able to begin your master's NP clinical work until you have RN experience if you are in the acute care specialty track. The GEP program only admits people from non nursing backgrounds so no previous RN experience is expected or required for those clinical placements. I do not know if this will help your decision but I have heard from others in the college of nursing that they are considering redoing the GEP program to be more similar to Rush's and DePaul's Generalist Masters...which would be wonderful for all of you! It will be much easier to get jobs when you finish the pre-licensure coursework and allow you all to be working as RNs while you continue on for your NP. However there is one point to consider, and that is if becoming an NP is your ultimate goal...most universities are doing away with their master's APN programs and now pushing students to continue on to their Doctorate in Nursing Practice (also known as a DNP) within your chosen specialty. To obtain a DNP it is additional coursework (hopefully with clinical hours) and would cause you to be in school longer. I say this because if you want the quickest route to be a mid level provider (aka an NP or Physicians Assistant) perhaps PA school might be a better fit. One final thought...you mention the job market being flooded with RNs and that is very true and I am not quite sure that it will improve any time soon. Nursing school enrollment is at record highs, schools are opening everywhere, and nurses that normally would have retired are not due to the economy. For all of our sakes I hope it will change Also please be encouraged that moving into nursing has been one of the best decisions I have made and I am very happy with the career choice and I am sure you will be as well!


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