$1 million gift helps university launch graduate program in nursing

At a ceremony Wednesday, April 23, Salve Regina officials were joined by U.S. Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) and university trustee/benefactor Thomas A. Rodgers III in announcing the establishment of the university’s new graduate program in nursing, as well as a $1 million gift from the Rodgers Family Foundation to help launch it.

Enrollment for the 78-credit, practice-based program resulting in the terminal degree in the field, the doctor of nursing practice (DNP), is underway for classes beginning in fall 2014.

“We are proud to continue our longstanding tradition of educating nursing professionals to be exceptional caregivers and leaders in their field – hallmarks of the Salve Regina nursing graduate,” said President Jane Gerety, RSM.

Established in 1948, Salve Regina’s baccalaureate degree nursing program is the oldest in Rhode Island. The new DNP curriculum builds on the baccalaureate program by providing clinical preparation as an advance practice nurse, education in evidence-based practice, quality improvement, and systems thinking among other key areas. DNP graduates will likely seek practice leadership roles such as advanced practice nurses, managers of quality initiatives, executives in healthcare organizations, directors of clinical programs, and faculty responsible for clinical program delivery and clinical teaching.

“The health care industry is facing challenges due to the cost of high quality health care and the limited number of health care providers,” said Dr. Eileen Gray, assistant professor and chairwoman of the university’s nursing department. “The program will produce clinicians who are able to navigate complex and evolving health care systems while providing high quality care in an interdisciplinary and evidenced-based environment.”

The DNP program will admit nurses prepared with bachelor of science degrees in nursing (BSN). The first 48 credits of the program (BSN to MS/FNP) will allow students to earn a master of science degree in nursing and prepare them to sit for the family nurse practitioner certification examination. The second 30 credits of the program (Post-Masters to DNP) will allow students to proceed to the terminal DNP degree.

Offered at Salve Regina’s Center for Adult Education in Warwick, hybrid courses ranging from Pharmacologic Principles for Advanced Practice Nursing to the Business and Legal Aspects of Advanced Practice Nursing are specifically designed for nurses seeking to balance their professional careers and academic pursuits.

Part-time graduate students can complete the DNP program in five years, including summer instruction. The opportunity to take coursework on a full-time basis may be offered to students, as the program builds and the university offers the courses needs to support full-time enrollment.

“This flexible, part-time program will offer nursing students and busy professionals the opportunity to advance from a bachelor of science degree to a Doctor of Nursing Practice,” said Dr. Traci Warrington, dean of professional studies. “Students enrolled in the program can earn their master’s degree in 33 months of part-time study, which includes preparation for the family nurse practitioner certification exam. The DNP can then be completed in an additional 21 months.”

Career opportunities for DNP graduates abound in various practice leadership roles, from advanced practice nurses and managers of quality initiatives to executive positions in health care organizations, directors of clinical programs, and faculty responsible for clinical program delivery and teaching.

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) highlights a growing pressure to balance quality and cost, causing health planners to rely increasingly on nurse practitioners as the providers of choice for a range of front-line health services.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that by 2025, the number of nurse practitioners (NP) is expected to increase by 57 percent. Overall, the projected job growth for nurses is faster than average among all U.S. occupations. HealtheCareers.com reports that family medicine NP job postings for nurse practitioners top the list of job openings in the first quarter of 2013.

Salve Regina’s baccalaureate nursing program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). CCNE is the accrediting body of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing and represents the highest level of nursing accreditation possible for baccalaureate nursing programs. Salve Regina’s nursing department anticipates seeking CCNE review and accreditation for its new DNP program in 2015, after the program has been in existence for one full year .