Nevada universities’ Doctor of Nursing Practice degree receives federal grant

University of Nevada, Las Vegas and University of Nevada, Reno collaboration serves as national model

8/4/2011 - By: Claudene Wharton
Patsy Ruchala Patsy Ruchala, director of the University of Nevada, Reno Orvis School of Nursing

Last fall, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and the University of Nevada, Reno joined the ranks of other prominent universities, such as Purdue, Duke and Johns Hopkins, when they began offering a new advanced degree for nurses, the Doctor of Nursing Practice degree (DNP). This month, the University of Nevada, Reno was awarded a $269,157 grant to support and augment the collaborative program.

The funds came from the Health Resources and Services Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. And, as long as the program continues to be successful and funds are available, similar funding support may be awarded in 2012 and 2013, resulting in a total of $685,618 in federal support for the program over three years.

In order to accommodate working professionals’ schedules, the program is offered almost entirely online, with students only being required to visit campus a few times during the two-year program. Students can apply and be admitted to either University, and faculty members at each University share teaching responsibilities.

The unique collaboration of the nursing schools at the state’s two universities is designed to serve as a model for other states, and the grant was awarded, in part, to continue to strengthen that collaboration. It will also help the schools refine the curriculum, recruit and graduate culturally diverse and well-qualified applicants, and evaluate the program.

“We are well on our way to serving as a model for the rest of the country on how to collaborate to offer quality programs that meet state and national needs,” said Patsy Ruchala, director of the University of Nevada, Reno Orvis School of Nursing. “At this time of economic crisis, this program maximizes use of limited economic resources within the Nevada System of Higher Education to provide Nevada and the country with nursing professional equipped to assume leadership roles in practice, administration, teaching and research.”

Carolyn Yucha, dean of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas School of Nursing, is pleased with the “win-win” arrangement, stating, “This program allows both of our state’s universities to stay competitive with our peer institutions and help meet the increasing demand for DNP-prepared nurses. It’s the Nevada System of Higher Education working at its best.”

The first group of students began the program last fall, with 22 completing their first year. This fall, 18 new students will enter the program. Christine Aramburu-Alegria, project director of the newly awarded grant for the program, says the program is working very well.

“We have had very positive feedback from the students,” she said, “and they are working on some very impressive projects.”

Part of the program requires that during their first year students develop and present to faculty proposals for projects, which they then implement during their second year.

“For example, one student is evaluating the efficacy of an interdisciplinary hospital-based weight-loss program,” Aramburu-Alegria explained. “Another is comparing issues related to two approaches to treating sleep apnea. Another is exploring more efficient ways to look at quality of life at the end of life.”

Aramburu-Alegria says she expects the demand for the program to continue to increase.

“We are increasingly challenged to meet the demands for health care in urban and frontier areas of Nevada,” she said. “This program is in response to a critical need for advanced practice nurses and executives prepared at the doctorate level to help meet these needs in our state, as well as across the country, and to serve as leaders in much needed health-care reform.”

Now entering its second year, the program is already attracting the attention of more out-of-state applicants.

“This suggests that word of the quality and convenience of our mostly online program is spreading, and that there is a demand and need for it, not just in Nevada, but in other states too,” Aramburu-Alegria said.

For more information on Nevada’s Doctor of Nursing Practice degree, contact Sarah Keating at the University of Nevada, Reno, (775) 682-7163 or sarahk@unr.edu; or, Tish Smyer at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, (702) 895-5952 or Tish.Smyer@unlv.edu.


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