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Doctoral Programs Prepare Nurses to Lead Systemic Changes in Health Care Arena
By Teri Speece
A church community eating healthier, exercising and working to lower the blood pressures of its members. A care model for better communication with and engagement of dementia patients. A solution to the chronic lack of treatment of rural children with asthma.
These are just some examples of the impact that is possible when nurses advance their skills by obtaining a doctoral degree at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.
“There is a great need for doctorally educated nurses because of the increasing complexity of health care systems,” said Sara Gill, Ph.D., RN, IBCLC, FAAN, associate dean of graduate studies for the School of Nursing. “Our doctoral programs offer opportunities for nurses to improve these health care systems by earning a terminal degree that is either research-based or practice-based.”
The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Nursing program is a research-based degree that prepares students for careers as nurse scientists and faculty. “The point of the program is to improve health through clinical science research,” Dr. Gill said. “It’s crucial to have a body of qualified nurse scientists who use research methods to discover ways to advance patient care.”
The Ph.D. program, which began in 1992, has graduated 46 nurses since 2003 and continues to build a pipeline of academic nurse scientists to research systemic health issues and teach future generations.
The Doctor of Nursing Practice (D.N.P.) program is designed to prepare nurses to become specialized, advanced leaders in one of three areas: advanced practice nursing, executive administration or public health. “I describe the D.N.P. as using quality-improvement techniques to make system-level changes in complex health care systems so that we provide effective, efficient, patient-centered care,” Dr. Gill said. The D.N.P. program has produced 32 graduates since it was launched in 2011.
Gill stresses that the D.N.P. is an excellent alternative for nurses who want to advance their education but stay in clinical practice. “With the D.N.P. option, your terminal degree does not have to be research-based,” she said.
Read related stories in this online Tribute magazine for examples of transformative health care changes explored within the doctoral dissertations of three recent Ph.D. and D.N.P. graduates who represent the next generation of change agents in health care.