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May 16, 2007
Three graduate students will be the first to complete a new program this May. Nicki Aaker, Debra Benson and Marena Works are on their way to graduation with a dual master's degree in Nursing and Public Health.
"By integrating these two fields of study, the students are trained in both areas to better respond to the health needs in our community," said Paul Devereux, graduate program director for the school of public health.
The dual degree program was developed as a response to nurses with a desire to advance and broaden their careers.
"The nurse practitioner students were asking for a broader knowledge base," said Alice Running, graduate program coordinator for the Orvis School of Nursing. "Nurses have always been involved in the practice of public health. It was a natural fit."
"I started off taking one class as a graduate special, thinking I wanted a degree in public health," Works said. "As I was taking the class, I felt I was missing the nursing component. I heard of the dual program at about the same time and decided it was a better fit for my needs."
Along with the career opportunities the program presents, it has also created a unique educational experience.
"The balance of attending two different schools actually kept my interest," Works said. "It is also an exciting challenge to be part of a path-finding group."
Running said the students were able to express their own individual interests in their culminating projects. Their topics include selecting a skilled nursing facility, meeting goals to improve the nation's health, and the effects of the flu vaccine in a real work environment.
"Two of our students have taken on a clinical nurse specialist program and the other is focusing on nurse education," Running said.
According to Running, the program can be completed by a full-time student in as little as three years. But because most students also work full-time, it is not uncommon for the program to take four-five years.
"All three graduating students are married with children and full-time jobs," Running said. "We're really proud of them. They are extremely busy and still managed to complete a very rigorous program of study."
Devereux and Running both feel that this program will be very beneficial to both the students and the Nevada community. The program currently has two other students. Both plan to graduate in the next year.
"We really look forward to seeing this program grow," Devereux said. "People need to have passion to help improve the health of other people and these students have that passion."
Both Devereux and Running said they are very excited about the programs first set of graduates.
"These students are going to be able to make a difference," Devereux said. "They are going to be put in a position to increase the health of Nevada and take a proactive approach to community health."