The UNLV School of Nursing recently graduated its first class of doctoral candidates in the nursing practice program, which was created to address the rising needs in the state’s health care system.
The program was established as part of a national effort to improve the quality of patient care by creating advanced degrees in nursing.
“The increasing complexities of the health care system creates a need for nurses who are doctorally prepared and who have the skills necessary to identify and implement change,” said Tish Smyer, associate dean for academic affairs at the nursing school. “These are the nurse practitioners who can get in and really make things happen.”
Many of UNLV’s graduates are already working in the health care field, poised to work as specialists in advanced practice clinical roles, as nursing faculty, healthcare executives, or program and policy analysts.
Growth in doctoral nursing programs has grown exponentially over the last decade. In 2003, only 70 students at 20 schools nationwide were pursuing their doctorate in nursing practice. In 2011, more than 9,000 students were studying at 182 institutions, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN).
The program is a collaboration of UNLV and the University of Nevada, Reno that allows students to learn from experienced and expert faculty from both institutions. It is also offered completely online, creating flexibility for busy professionals.
UNLV student Dana Lunde, a neonatal nurse at Sunrise Hospital in Las Vegas, will graduate this weekend. She already implemented her doctoral research within her hospital unit by working to create new nutrition policies and procedures for premature infants.
“As a nursing practitioner you become a champion to take on a project,” she said. “You create a multidisciplinary team of nurses, doctors, therapists and more to come up with a plan of action so that patients receive the latest standards of care and technological advances. It’s exciting to be leading the way in this new field.”
UNLV is a doctoral-degree-granting institution of more than 27,000 students and 2,900 faculty and staff. Founded in 1957, the university offers more than 220 undergraduate, master's and doctoral degree programs. UNLV is located on a 332-acre campus in dynamic Southern Nevada and is classified in the category of Research Universities (high research activity) by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.