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Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Academics & Research

College of Nursing doctoral program accepting applicants


Nursing degree applicants Juana Garcia/The Cougar

Juana Garcia/The Cougar

The College of Nursing’s new Doctor of Nursing Practice degree program is accepting applications and looking to start classes in the fall of 2021.

This is thanks to the approval of a unanimous vote from the Texas Higher Education Board. The post-master’s program will still need to achieve approval from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, which the College expects to earn by June. 

The DNP program at the University is designed for nurses who hold a master’s in nursing science and are being certified as family nurse practitioners or nurse administrators.

“As a tier one institution, we want to make sure that our alumni have the opportunity to obtain this degree,” said founding dean and professor Kathryn Tart.

“It makes us nationally competitive; it’s part of the process of what universities are supposed to be doing for the academics of the professions.” Tart added.

The program goes beyond the master’s level for those who want to reach the highest level of educational preparation available for the practice level. The program offers two paths for prospective students: the FNP to DNP track and the administration DNP track. 

The program is full- and part-time, and will use a hybrid class-delivery method with face-to-face experiences in clinical settings.

Accepting applications will last until Apr. 1, with student admissions finalized following approval of the program from the SACSCOC.

The College is beginning to seek accreditation from the Commission of Collegiate Nursing Education either 90 days before or after the degree is offered.

An on-site evaluation is required to complete the accreditation process. The evaluation can only occur once a degree program has had students enrolled for one year.

The degree allows FNPs and nurse administrators to address shortages of primary care providers, among other professional opportunities. FNPs work alongside physicians, pharmacists, physical therapists and other medical professionals through what is known as interprofessional care, expanding and supporting care networks.

The continuation of nursing education to the doctoral level gives nurses better resources and preparation to manage patient care, and offers improved patient outcomes from a systemic level as opposed to a master’s education alone. 

“I want a DNP … Because as passionate as I am about patient care, I am equally interested in quality improvement projects and systems leadership, both areas of healthcare that are underrepresented by nurses,” said DNP applicant Kate Lagus.

With a DNP, an advanced-practice registered nurse is eligible for higher-ranking leadership positions in patient care and administration.

Hospitals look for nurses who hold a DNP for chief nurse positions or to run a large operation room. The degree also opens educator opportunities for future DNP students.

There are components of the program’s education which demand doctorly prepared faculty, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. 

Lagus, who wants to serve patient populations who are underserved or uninsured women and children, said earning a DNP degree after the completion of her master’s will give her the opportunity to influence change for these groups. 

“It is difficult to directly affect positive changes for these folks as communities as a BSN-educated nurse. I feel like I will be best equipped to not only care for, but also advocate for, all patients and quality healthcare systems if I am doctorly prepared,” Lagus said. 

As the program is centered on evidence-based practice, quality improvement and systems leadership, the program’s track for both administration DNP and FNP DNP requires 1,000 hours of clinical practice.

 Clinical hours accumulate through both master’s education and DNP education, with the two adding to 1,000.

In 2020, the College’s NCLEX-RN pass rates for first time test takers were 100 percent, placing in the top five percent of the nation.

All of the College’s nurse practitioner master’s graduates passed their certification exams on the first try, according to Tart.

Lagus said these pass rates are because of the dedication from both students and faculty.

“I do not think I understood when I applied what having a 100 percent pass rate means for the FNP national certification exam – it means grueling work on the part of the professor and the student,” Lagus said. 

Because of the importance of high-quality nursing programs to both healthcare systems and patients, and the anticipated shortage of nurses in Texas by 2030, Tart said faculty fiercely dedicate themselves to educating the next generation of nurses, from undergraduates to doctoral students. 

“If you want to make the commitment, this college has made a commitment to the profession and to educate our students from the very beginning all the way through the highest level of nursing that you can get,” Tart said.

“We’re doing it because there’s a huge need out there, and we can see that need coming down the road.”

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