Shepherd University’s first doctoral degree, the doctor of nursing practice (D.N.P.), was given final approval by the Institutional Actions Council of the Higher Learning Commission. Shepherd is currently accepting applications for the program, which will be housed at the Martinsburg Center and will admit 15 students in the fall 2015 semester.
“This is excellent news and historic news for Shepherd as we begin our very first doctoral program,” said Dr. Scott Beard, associate vice president for academic affairs and dean of graduate studies. “This is a program that we’re really excited about; it’s something that we’ve been planning for over the last four years as we looked at how we can provide educational programs that meet the needs of the profession and also the critical needs of the region.”
The D.N.P. program will offer three concentrations: nursing leadership-education, nursing leadership-administration, and nurse practitioner-family nurse practitioner. Dr. Sharon Mailey, director/chair of the department of nursing education, said the program was created to address real needs in the community.
“We have a shortage of primary care providers in the region and therefore patients have limited access to care,” Mailey said. ” We’ll train family nurse practitioners and within three years we’ll have our first graduates to infuse into the area and to hopefully help improve health care in the region.”
Mailey said nurse practitioners provide access to entry-level health care and will deliver care to a complex patient population. She said the concentrations in education and administration will also help fill a community void.
“The region also needs greater access to nursing faculty,” she said. “We have a shortage of nursing faculty nationwide. And these nurses will help fill that void.”
Mailey said education and administration students will be better prepared to become leaders in places like hospitals, nursing organizations, nonprofit organizations, and in academia.
The program will require students to have a minimum of 1,000 hours of hands-on experience working in the community with health care professionals, educators, and administrators throughout the region. Admission criteria include having a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 for a baccalaureate degree and for all work beyond the baccalaureate level, a current unencumbered R.N. license in the state of West Virginia, a letter describing how the student envisions using the D.N.P. degree, and two professional references. Prospective students can submit their applications through the Nursing Centralized Application Service website at www.nursingcas.org, which is operated by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.
Nursing is one of the largest undergraduate programs at Shepherd with 454 pre-nursing and nursing majors. The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education accredits the program.
“Final approval for Shepherd to offer the D.N.P. is the highest recognition for our excellent nursing program,” Dr. Suzanne Shipley, Shepherd president, said. “Shepherd is now able to respond to the increasing requests from our area for highly skilled nursing professionals. We are honored to expand our role of preparing qualified leaders in nursing with the addition of the doctor of nursing practice.”
The Higher Learning Commission accredits degree-granting post-secondary educational institutions in 19 states, including West Virginia.