Nursing program partners with Texas hospitals for innovative curriculum

Lori Muhr found her farm on Facebook was not doing as well since beginning the new master’s program in the Harris College of Nursing & Health Sciences.

The farm Muhr referred to was a virtual one featured in an application designed for members to care for farm animals.

Muhr is one of the six inaugural students in Harris College’s clinical nurse leader program, which began in fall 2009. She works as an emergency nurse at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth and said the program was similar to having another full-time job.

“I work on homework over 30 hours a week, and work over 30 hours at the hospital,” Muhr said.

The university formed a partnership with Texas Health Resources, a system of 14 area hospitals, and Medical City Dallas Hospital to create the first clinical nurse leader master’s degree program in North Texas, said Penny Moore, program coordinator and assistant professor for Harris College.

Both Moore and Mary Robinson, vice president of Patient Care Services for Texas Health Harris Methodist Southwest Hospital, said the partnership was integral to the program.

Moore said the American Association of College of Nursing, which provided the accreditation for the program, required clinical nurse leader academic programs to align with practice partners, which are health care facilities that pair with schools to train the students.

Moore said the goal for those involved with the program is to create a generation of nurses who will more effectively coordinate care for groups of patients, both during and after their hospital stay.

“It’s not management, but clinical leadership,” Moore said. “This role is designated and very specifically intended for the nurse with a master’s degree to stay at the bedside.”

Moore said in the past, master’s degree-educated nurses left everyday practice in favor of administrative positions because there were fewer opportunities for advancement in clinical practice, but the clinical nurse leader role would revolutionize patient care by keeping a higher-educated nurse in direct contact with patients and hospital staff members.

Moore estimated that 15 students will join the program for summer 2010.

Cole Edmonson, vice president and chief nursing officer at Medical City Dallas, said he thought many members of the nursing community were excited by the clinical nurse leader role. He said it would provide an opportunity to improve patient care nationwide, increase job satisfaction for nurses and help drive health care reform.

“This is why we went into nursing,” Edmonson said.

Muhr said she decided to join the program at the university in order to be more directly involved in patient care. She said the extra work would be worth it if she and her peers completed the program and other health care professionals saw the difference clinical nurse leaders could make.

The university’s program is a two-year online program through the Harris College. Everything from homework to tests is administered online, Muhr said.

According to the Harris College Web site, applicants must have current CPR certification, a current nursing license and three letters of reference. Also listed are preferences including a cumulative 3.0 GPA and two years of full-time registered nursing experience or its equivalent. Applicants should visit the Harris College Web site to apply or to find a complete list of qualifications. Feb. 1. is the last day to apply.

For an application, visit