New Nursing Doctorate Program Set To Start
Forty-one nurses representing a diverse group of students in myriad nursing fields soon will be on campus as the inaugural class earning a California State University Doctor of Nursing Practice degree.
Among the skills they will learn are how to acquire, evaluate and use health care records in order to improve patient care, said Penny C. Weismuller, associate professor and coordinator of Cal State Fullerton’s nursing graduate programs.
“Their doctoral education will help them improve the health care system,” Weismuller said. “They will be given the leadership, advocacy and management skills needed to effect system change. They will use research in an applied way to answer such questions as ‘How can we better serve patients?’ and ‘How do we use data, such as health trends and statistics, to make things better?’”
Gaining such an education sets the Southern California CSU D.N.P. Consortium apart, said Weismuller, the consortium’s director. It also is one of the reasons the program, which is being offered jointly in the fall by Cal State Fullerton, Cal State Long Beach and Cal State Los Angeles, already has been accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
Cheryl D. Pearce, a midwife who has been teaching nursing courses at Cal State Fullerton for the past seven years, can’t wait to start studying for her Doctorate in Nursing in the fall. The degree, Pearce said, will give her the expertise she needs to become a leader in health care.
“This is an exciting time, being part of the first D.N.P. cohort,” she said. “This degree will take me to the next level in the workplace and in the political arena. I’m looking forward to participating in the nation’s discussions on health care expenditures and how our health care dollars will be utilized.”
Cindy Smith Greenberg, professor and director of Cal State Fullerton’s School of Nursing, said the doctorate is the professional-practice degree that qualifies those who earn it to work in advance-practice fields and in higher education, thus helping to address the shortage of nursing faculty members and nurses nationwide. The nation’s nursing shortage is projected to reach 800,000 by 2020. In California, which ranks in the bottom five states for registered nurses per capita, the shortage is estimated to be as high as 50,000 by 2015.
“Preparing nurses at this level meets a community need, and we’re very excited about it,” Greenberg said. “The program also helps achieve the recommendations of the 2010 Institute of Medicine Report on the future of nursing, which calls for increasing the education of nurses and doubling the number of nurses with doctoral degrees by 2020.”
“We are ready to start the program,” said Shari G. McMahan, dean of the College of Health and Human Development, adding that two Fullerton lecturers — Nicholas P. Gorman and Katherine Tong — will move into tenure-track positions in the fall as assistant professors of nursing. Their assignments will include teaching and advising in the D.N.P. program.
Cal State Fullerton’s nursing program is one of the largest in the CSU system. Enrollment grew by more than 1,200 percent between 1998 (69 nursing majors) and 2009 (857 majors). Today, about 800 nursing majors are enrolled.
“In this age of expanding health care knowledge, the D.N.P. prepares nurses for work in increasingly complex health care systems,” Greenberg said. “To improve health care outcomes, the evidence generated by research must be translated into clinical practice. The D.N.P. prepares practitioners to evaluate the available scientific evidence and use it in clinical practice to provide best-practice interventions, ultimately improving the quality and safety of health care.”
The D.N.P. demonstrates CSUF’s commitment to meeting the need for a highly educated nursing workforce, a need addressed by the Cal State Fullerton Philanthropic Foundation. Nursing is one of the foundation’s top fundraising priorities over the next few years. Ultimately, more than $10 million will be sought to supplement the cost of educating nursing students; pay for administrative, faculty and development costs; upgrade technology; and endow funds to help support scholarships, a professorship and chair.
The first 41 D.N.P. students were chosen from nearly 100 applicants, Weismuller said. They will complete their first year at Fullerton and their second year at Fullerton, Long Beach or Los Angeles, and will be expected to complete 36 units of course work in two years.