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Loyola's School of Nursing to offer state's first Doctor of Nursing Practice program

Loyola press release - August 17, 2009

Since the initial enrollment of nursing students at Loyola University New Orleans in 1979, the School of Nursing has mounted innovative programs in nursing, keeping pace with dramatic changes in nursing education. That tradition of excellence continues with the transition of its curriculum for nurse practitioners from the master’s level to the doctoral level. Loyola is positioned to be the first university in Louisiana and among the first 90 in the country to offer the Doctor of Nursing Practice degree program.

In May, Loyola’s board of trustees unanimously approved the addition of the D.N.P. degree program to the curriculum for the School of Nursing, which is housed within the College of Social Sciences. Pending final approval by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the school will enroll its first cohort of 25 post-master’s degree students in summer 2010. The program will be delivered exclusively online to meet the enrollment demands of nurses nationally, regionally and locally.

Rapid growth in the complexity of health care delivery requires nurses to be prepared with the highest level of scientific knowledge and practice expertise to assure the health of the public. Graduate nursing education has responded by instituting the D.N.P. degree, joining other health professions offering the practice doctorate. The D.N.P. is similar in stature to terminal practice degrees in medicine, pharmacy, physical therapy and audiology.

According to Director of the School of Nursing Ann Cary, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.N., A-CCC, a unique approach in Loyola’s D.N.P. program will be an emphasis on the rapid translation of science and research findings to patient care and health care systems innovation.

“The application of informatics, organizational analysis and implementation science is critical to health care effectiveness,” Cary said. “We intend to incorporate the use of integrated behavioral health approaches in primary care practices as a method to address effective health care delivery.”

“This is particularly important in New Orleans and other areas of the country where mental health resources are scarce,” added Gwen George, D.N.P., F.N.P.-B.C., coordinator of Loyola’s D.N.P. program.

The program will admit nurses who hold a master’s degree as a family/adult, women’s health, pediatric or gerontology nurse practitioner. Nurse practitioners who wish to pursue the D.N.P. degree may begin applying now, at www.css.loyno.edu/nursing. All applications must be completed by Jan. 15, 2010, or by Nov. 1, 2009, for early decision. Cary expects the program to be fully mounted in five years, with 125 students enrolled at any one time.

Currently, the United States is experiencing a severe shortage of primary care providers. The need for these providers is particularly vital in New Orleans and Louisiana. Four years after Hurricane Katrina, rebuilding is slow and the health care system remains overwhelmed, Cary said, adding that primary care, specialty care and health care services remain inadequate to the needs of both the poor and the insured.

“The increasing gap between an adequate supply and the demand for primary care practitioners contributes to a widening health disparity among populations and locations,” Cary said. “Nurse practitioners need the highest level of education available to more effectively meet these challenges. A D.N.P. degree at Loyola will produce highly qualified health care providers ready to offer primary care to individuals, families and communities.”

While nursing shortages plague hospitals across the country, Loyola continues to produce highly skilled nurses with advanced degrees. The School of Nursing annually enrolls more than 650 students. It has graduated nearly 1,200 Registered Nurses with baccalaureate degrees, and more than 500 Advanced Nursing Practice providers with master’s degrees.

According to Cary, these nursing graduates are educated in the Jesuit tradition of social justice, critical thinking, and service to the community, which makes them even more marketable to the medical community.

“Sixty-three of 64 Louisiana parishes are designated as having shortages in one or more health professions. Producing more knowledgeable primary care providers is a logical extension of the university’s mission of social justice, and to our commitment to health care for the state and the nation,” Cary said.

To learn more about the D.N.P. program or to apply, visit the School of Nursing website at www.css.loyno.edu/nursing and select doctoral program. You may also call Ann Cary, director of the School of Nursing, at 504-865-2579.