URI College of Nursing launches new doctorate of nursing practice

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KINGSTON, R.I. – February 22, 2011 – Nurses who seek an advanced degree to enhance their clinical and leadership skills for their work in hospitals, clinics and health care agencies are now able to pursue the doctor of nursing practice degree at the University of Rhode Island.

The new degree is the highest level of education for nurses in a clinical setting, according to the American Association of College of Nursing.

The program is designed to have an immediate impact on the quality of patient care and it is the only one of its kind in Rhode Island.

URI’s College of Nursing has enrolled three students already and three are completing the application process now. Candidates must have earned their bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing to apply.

“We’d like to have eight to 10 students enrolled per year for the 43-credit program,” said URI Nursing Professor Patricia Burbank, director of the new doctoral program.

“Our program is for advanced practice nurses, such as nurse-practitioners and clinical nurse specialists,” Burbank said. “We are looking for nurses who can become leaders in their fields, hospitals and agencies.

“The new nursing professional practice degree is a response to an identified need by the Institute of Medicine to prepare nurses with practice doctorates to work with doctorally prepared pharmacists, physical therapists and other health professionals,” Burbank said.

It differs from the nursing college’s doctor of philosophy degree, which educates nurses for academic careers.

One of the unique features of the doctor of nursing practice degree is that students will take four courses in concert with students seeking the Ph.D. in nursing—philosophical foundations of health care, foundations of nursing science, qualitative research and quantitative research. Qualitative research deals with data collection and different points of view while quantitative research deals with survey research, experimental design and polling.

“We believe that this shared curriculum will benefit both groups of students,” Burbank said. “For instance, if one of our nursing practice students encountered a problem with infections on a hospital unit, the Ph.D. nursing students could work with them to develop a study to find out why it’s happening. Once the study is complete and findings point to a solution, the doctor of nursing practice student could implement it in the hospital wing to resolve the problem.”

In addition to the coursework, nursing practice doctoral students are required to complete 500 clinical hours under the supervision of a URI nursing faculty member. They must also complete a capstone project that would address clinical issues that affect patient care.

“For their capstone projects, students could work on issues related to in-patient or out-patient care, such as making changes in health care organizations to better meet patient needs, or designing programs to help older adults take their medications as directed or to increase their physical activity,” said Burbank, who heads the state Department of Health’s Fall Injury Prevention Committee.

“One thing we want to emphasize is the program is designed to accommodate working nurses so there is flexibility for the students when they arrange their clinical experiences.”

Joslin Leasca, of South Kingstown, who earned her master’s degree with a certificate as a family nurse practitioner from URI in 1999, is one of the first students to enroll in the program. She said it’s perfect program for her.

“Unlike master’s degree programs, which are highly structured, the doctor of nursing practice is tailored to what my interests are or what other students’ interests are,” said Leasca, whose two daughters represent five generations of family members who have graduated from URI.

Leasca’s schedule is a perfect illustration of the flexibility of the program. She works as a nurse practitioner at South County Primary Care and Walk-in in Narragansett, teaches at the Community College of Rhode Island and is president of the Rhode Island Board of Nursing.

The new degree is already shaping the way she works with her students at CCRI. “One of the goals of my work with them at Atria Harborhill Seniors for Living in East Greenwich is to expose them to new models of caring for the elderly.”

As part of her doctoral work, she is working on an independent study project with URI Nursing Professor Marlene Dufault on legislation relating to nursing and nurse practitioners.

“I am learning about leadership and policy change,” Leasca said. “In September, I am going to be doing an internship with a legislator, which I expect will lead to legislation relating to nurse practitioners.

“Whatever an individual wants to focus on, the program allows you to follow your own path, and URI gives you lots of support. I have never asked a question that hasn’t resulted in a bombardment of answers.

“From the very first course I took, I changed the way I practiced. I now have a deeper understanding of the other person’s position. It has changed the way I look at pharmacotherapeutics, how I work with cancer patients. I am asking better questions. It’s had an immediate positive effect.”

For the fall of 2011, application deadline is Arpil 15. For further information contact Professor Burbank at 401-874-5314 or pburbank@uri.edu or you can go online at http://www.uri.edu/nursing/graduate/dnp.html.

The College of Nursing enrolls about 900 undergraduate students, about 100 master’s degree students and 40 doctoral students. In addition to the two doctoral programs, the college offers the master of science degree in administration, clinical nurse leadership, nursing education, clinical specialty in gerontology, clinical specialty in psychiatric/mental health nursing, family nurse practitioner, gerontological nurse practitioner and acute care nurse practitioner.

Pictured above

DILIGENCE IN HEALTH CARE: Joslin Leasca, of South Kingstown, (in white lab coat) who earned her master’s degree with a certificate as a family nurse practitioner from URI in 1999, works with Community College of Rhode Island students at Atria Harborhill Seniors for Living in East Greenwich. Leasca, an instructor at CCRI, said her work as one of the first enrollees in URI’s doctor of nursing practice degree has already helped her become a better instructor. CCRI nursing students from left are Sarah Williams, Lynda Trafford-Couto and Leo Alexander. URI Photo By Michael Salerno Photography.