Edinboro welcomes its first doctoral program

Category:  News
Wednesday, February 7th, 2018 at 6:26 PM
Edinboro welcomes its first doctoral program by Hannah McDonald
Photo: EU Communications Department

In the complex and ever-changing field of health care, one can never know too much. In this spirit, Edinboro University has launched its first doctorate program, a Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP), in a partnership with Clarion University. 

The new program is led by directors Dr. Meg Larson, Dr. Jill Rodgers and Dr. Colleen Barrett. Both Barrett and Larson graduated from Edinboro in 1997 with their bachelor’s degrees in nursing and, after master’s degrees, ended up again at the same university, Robert Morris, getting their DNP. Now, they’re back in ‘Boro as directors of their alma mater’s own DNP program.

Rodgers was unavailable for comment, but Barrett and Larson spoke about the addition to Edinboro in interviews last week. 

“The Doctorate of Nursing Practice degree came from nurses looking to expand their clinical practice with a terminal degree,” Barrett said. Those who work in this field take research done in the academic setting and bring it to clinical practice.

“As it (health care) becomes more complicated, we have to prepare to function in the more complex system,” Larson said. Continuing, she explained that this degree was designed to build bridges, allowing for better communication and improvement in the quality and safety across the health care system. 

Edinboro recently received a five-year accreditation for the program. The accreditation is retroactive, meaning it covers the program’s first graduating class and the ones to come. 

When one works as a nurse practitioner or graduates with their DNP, they are trained as a primary care provider, explained Barrett in an interview. “They are trained to diagnose, treat and provide all functions that a family doctor would perform,” she continued.

The DNP program isn’t just for current nurse practitioners either. Anyone with a master’s degree and a nursing degree can enroll. “We take people with a lot of diversity of backgrounds even though they’re all nurses. And it works out well because it’s a collaborative degree,” Larson said.

In a report by The Institute of Medicine about the future of nursing, one of the recommendations was to push for higher education in the nursing fields, relayed Larson.

“Nurses are the backbone of the health care system, and so the more well prepared they are, the better the health care system will do,” Larson explained. 

The program is aimed to further educate already fully-employed health care professionals. To make this possible for the greatest amount of people, the program is offered online to students, nationwide. The DNP program, the first of its kind for Edinboro, is a 27 credit program that takes two years to complete. To host the program, professors use the Desire 2 Learn system (D2L) with Clarion. Additionally, they utilize tools such as Zoom Meeting — a video conferencing tool — and Telehealth. 

As explained by the Center for Connected Health Policy (CCHP), “Telehealth is a collection of means or methods for enhancing health care, public health and health education delivery and support using telecommunication technologies.” 

This platform in particular is being used, said Larson, as there is a large push happening in the health care field right now for Telehealth. Experience like this adds to the theme of real-world work that students enrolled in the DNP perform.

In the DNP program, students do not only write papers and conduct research, but work on projects that affect everyday people and patients in the health care world. The degree is designed for students who are currently 100 percent employed in their field, so not only do the projects they complete earn grades towards their degrees, they aim to improve the workplace and health care system even before graduating.

The projects students complete while in school tackle a diverse range of health care challenges. Some completed by the program’s first graduating class — who completed their studies this past May and graduated at Clarion University, with other members of the program — were projects about getting better diabetic care for veterans in Erie and creating programs to educate parents of athletes who may have suffered from concussions. 

“The students are wonderful with each other; it’s so collaborative! I mean they’re working across, not just nursing, but they’re working with physicians, psychologists, psychiatrists — all kinds of different people in their projects,” Larson said. 

“It’s all real-world. It’s nothing that isn’t actually something you might use. I cannot stress enough how very pragmatic this is. That it’s actually all real-world and everybody...is actually in the trenches of health care, and understands it,” she continued. “It’s actually really been a lot more fun than I would have ever expected.”  

Those who graduate with a DNP may find work in many different fields, ranging from leadership and management to clinical work and even academia, said Barrett.

This past December, Edinboro graduated one DNP student. Kelly Martin walked the stage at commencement as the first student to ever graduate from Edinboro University with a doctorate. 

“We do hope that [this] will set a precedent for offering more terminal degrees and putting Edinboro on the map for that,” said Barrett about the future of the university. 

Hannah McDonald can be reached at eupnews.spectator@gmail.com.

Tags: nursing

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