Nebraska Methodist College in Omaha will begin offering its first-ever doctoral degree next fall.
The college will offer a degree in nursing practice online to working nurses who have bachelor's degrees and want to advance, according to Nebraska Methodist College President Dennis Joslin. The college, which first began offering the bachelor's degrees in 1989, has been preparing for this step for several years, Joslin said.
“We started as a diploma program and moved to undergraduate degrees, then graduate degrees,” Joslin said. “Doctoral programming was the last step along that progression.”
The nursing practice program will train working nurses to become nurse practitioners through a combination of online courses and clinical hours, coordinated through the college. It will take about three years to complete.
Nurse practitioners, who must pass national certification, can do physical exams, write prescriptions and make diagnoses.
While the core program will focus on working in a family practice, Joslin hopes to roll out several specialty tracks in the coming years for obstetrics and mental health, among others. College leaders believe their will be demand for the courses at the college, which has about 1,000 students in allied health majors.
Since nurse practitioners can focus on prevention more affordably than physicians, health care reform will likely increase the demand for the practice, said Danielle Dubuc-Pedersen, vice president of business development and communications at Nebraska Methodist.
“The foundation of health care is nursing, and we know that 50 percent of our nurses will retire in the next 10 years,” Dubuc-Pedersen said.
Though nurses need a master's degree to work as nurse practitioners, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing has recommended a doctorate-level preparation for the profession. More employers are already demanding the higher degree, Joslin said, and programs like Nebraska Methodist's will better position nurses for employment — especially in greater Nebraska, where need is high.
The college plans to accept 15 students in its first class, starting in fall 2014.