Nursing practice doctoral program looks to improve quality issues

To keep up with nationwide trends, TCU will launch a Doctorate of Nursing Practice to help improve the state’s health care system.This program will help students gain additional skills in leadership, information processing, innovation, translational research and health policy, said Paulette Burns, dean of the Harris College of Nursing and Health Sciences.

It is a new national program that is concerned with quality and safety issues, and is the first doctoral program in the Harris College of Nursing and Health Sciences, said Linda Harrington, director of the DNP.

“We’re waiting on all the final approvals,” Burns said. “We hope to complete those by the end of April. We’re hoping to accept students for the Fall 2007 semester.”

The curriculum is developed, and the nursing school is waiting for approval of the University Council on April 24, Burns said.

“The degree is designed to provide students with the additional skills which will help them to create change within the health care system,” Burns said.

There have been questions raised concerning a bevy of issues regarding safety and medication errors, Burns said.

Harrington said she has read that “the death rate from mistakes in health care is like a 747 crashing every day with no survivors.”

She said the United States would not tolerate that crash every day, so people then should not tolerate the errors in health care.

“Our health care system is not well and we expect this degree to help create some of those innovations that need to happen so that we improve it,” Burns said.

Burns said the American Association of College Nurses recommended that this degree be the degree for advanced nursing practice by 2015.

Harrington said health care is a complex and rapidly changing industry requiring that nurses have the highest level of scientific knowledge and practice.

“Nursing practice degrees terminating at the master’s level are insufficient to keep pace with the need,” Harrington said.

Burns said the program will take eight to 10 students to begin with, and the coursework will take two years to complete.

Natalie Waterman, a junior nursing major, said TCU’s nursing program does a lot to encourage students.

“It will give TCU a better reputation, and influence older nurses to change the way they think,” Waterman said. Students accepted into the program will already be advanced practice nurses who have a master’s degree in nursing and have completed a national certified exam in their area of practice, Burns said.

“They come to us with credentials already,” Burns said.

The current graduate faculty will be the faculty for this program, and there are not any extra costs the school has not managed into the budget, Burns said.

Burns said the University of Texas at Houston is the only other school with this program in Texas. She said an obstacle with the program would be the newness of the degree and helping nurses understand how the degree will be useful.

“This program really fits with the mission of TCU, which is ‘learning to change the world,’ and the mission of the college of nursing and health sciences is, ‘learning to make a difference in health care’ and that is exactly what the DNP is all about,” Harrington said.