Medical School considers online doctoral nursing program

GW’s Medical School has plans to launch an online program aimed at increasing the number of nurses after a study found a nationwide shortage of faculty teaching nursing courses.

The program will give students a doctorate in Nursing Practice through online courses and will allow graduates to teach nursing. The program will be voted on in February by the Board of Trustees and in the fall, if approved, it will be only the fourth of its kind in the country, said Ellen Dawson, the chair of the nursing department.

“(Medicine) is so complicated that we need clinicians who are well-versed. They need more knowledge,” she said. “We are hoping this will provide stronger patient care that is based in evidence.”

If approved, the school will begin recruiting students this spring and Dawson said they plan to enroll 15 to 20 students in the first year of the program.

The development of the program is largely a response to a ruling by the American Association of College Nursing that said that by 2015, the DNP will be required for nurse practitioners. Dawson said there are currently 24 DNP programs in the U.S. and more are being developed.

According to a survey by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, nursing schools rejected more than 41,000 qualified applicants in 2005, compared to 18,000 in 2003. Three out of four schools reported the increased rejections were due to shortages of faculty members.

Dawson said graduates of the doctoral program will be able to teach nursing and help alleviate the shortages of nurses.

In July 2005, the Department of Nursing began offering online masters programs in nursing including Nursing Leadership and Management, Clinical Research Administration for Nurses, End-of-Life Care Nursing and Adult and Family Nurse Practitioner. Dawson said the program enrolled 100 students this year, twice the number of students it started with. Students who enter the program must have a Bachelor in Science of Nursing and a registered nurse license.

Despite the expansion of the school’s nursing programs, James Scott, the dean of the school of medicine and health sciences, said GW has no plans to build a nursing school.

“There just aren’t a lot of American young people choosing nursing,” he said. “I don’t think there is a big demand for nursing schools.”

The classes in the masters programs involve Blackboard discussions, telephone meetings and three visits to campus for clinical practice. Dawson said DNP students will need to come to campus five times.

“This is definitely the way of the future,” she said about taking courses online.

She said the online course, which is tailored for Thursday to Monday sessions each week, is beneficial for nurses trying to juggle work, family and school. Dawson said the average age of students in the masters programs is 40.

Dawson said the program targets students in rural locations where they may be the only health care provider in there area.

“Our faculty does not believe that geography should stand in the way of students attending a good graduate nursing program,” she said.

Scott said the master’s programs in nursing gives an opportunity to advance one’s careers in a profession that traditionally did not have a “next step.” Scott said the doctorate program will allow nurses to engage in research and produce new literature about the profession.

GW does not offer any undergraduate programs in nursing. Dawson said interested undergraduates should contact her for information about nursing programs.

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