Nevada universities’ collaborative Doctor of Nursing Practice degree accredited

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

12/7/2012 - By: Claudene Wharton
Patsy Ruchala Patsy Ruchala, director of the University of Nevada, Reno Orvis School of Nursing, recently received news that the collaborative Doctor of Nursing Practice degree, offered in partnership with University of Nevada, Las Vegas School of Nursing, has been accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

In the fall of 2010, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and the University of Nevada, Reno joined forces to begin offering a collaborative Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree to meet a growing need for nursing professionals equipped to assume leadership roles in the state. The innovative program has been extremely successful, and a few weeks ago, the universities were notified that it has been accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

The process to earn accreditation was a long and arduous one, beginning almost two years ago when the program began a required extensive self-study that addressed the accreditation standards set forth by the Commission. Those standards include program quality, in terms of mission and governance, institutional commitment and resources, and curriculum and teaching-learning practices; and program effectiveness, as evidenced by aggregate student and faculty outcomes. After the self-study was complete, accreditation reviewers made site visits March 5-8 to both campuses to further assess the program.

Although official notification of the accreditation was just received last month, the accreditation is effective retroactively to the first date the Commission representatives visited the program in March this year.

"That is great news, because it means that the program's first 20 graduates who received their degrees in May have graduated from a CCNE-accredited program," Patsy Ruchala, director of the University of Nevada, Reno Orvis School of Nursing, explained. "It really speaks to the quality of the program that it has been accredited for our very first graduating class."

Eighteen more students were admitted to the program last fall, and another 21 were admitted this fall. In order to accommodate working professionals' schedules, the 39-credit program is offered almost entirely online, with students only being required to visit campus a few times. Students can apply and be admitted to either university, and faculty members at each university share teaching responsibilities, with 13 credits taught solely by each university, and 13 credits taught by both universities. The program began as a two-year program, but a three-year, part-time option was also added this year to meet student needs. Those enrolling in the program can choose the "Advanced Practice" or the "Nurse Executive" track, and only those holding a master's degree are eligible to apply for admission.

"This program is in response to a critical need for advanced practice nurses and executives prepared at the doctoral 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," Carolyn Yucha, dean of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas School of Nursing, said.

The unique collaboration of the nursing schools at the state's two universities is designed to serve as a model for other states. In July 2011, the Health Resources and Services Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, awarded the program a three-year grant of $685,000, in part, to continue to strengthen the successful collaboration. The funds will also help the schools refine the curriculum, recruit and graduate culturally diverse and well-qualified applicants, and evaluate the program.

"We have been successful in building a program that serves as a model for the rest of the state and country on how to collaborate to offer quality programs that meet state and national needs," Ruchala said. "This program maximizes use of limited economic resources within the state to provide Nevada with nursing professionals equipped to assume leadership roles in practice, administration, teaching and research."

"This program allows both of our state's universities to help meet the increasing demand for DNP-prepared nurses. It's the Nevada System of Higher Education working at its best," Yucha agreed.

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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