Nursing introduces doctoral program

Jill Brower

The College of Nursing recently announced the addition of a doctoral program after gaining final approval from the University Board of Trustees last April. This program not only responds to the national nursing shortage, but is also a natural step for the University.

“A doctoral program is the result of the natural evolution of a developing professional school,” M. Louise Fitzpatrick, dean of the College of Nursing, said. “Once a school reaches success at the master’s level, a doctoral program becomes a reasonable consideration.”

Fitzpatrick said she has been entertaining the idea of a doctoral program for 20 of her past 25 years as dean. In addition, the College of Nursing, which has now been in existence for 50 years, has received requests from both alumni and the community to go forward with the program.

“The issue was put on the back burner until we reached a point of readiness,” Fitzpatrick said. “We felt that we were ready, poised and had the resources with our very capable faculty.”

The program is different from many others in that it incorporates both traditional and non-traditional teaching methods. “What is unique about the program is that a good portion of the course work will be able to be taken online so that an individual who cannot come to campus everyday can still participate,” Fitzpatrick said.

Courses will begin in June, with an on-site summer session preceding the fall and spring semesters, where distance learning will be offered. On average, students will take 51 credits to complete the program, but this is dependent on factors such as previous education and experience. The program will be administered under Assistant Dean Marguerite Schlag and Nancy Sharts-Hopko, future program director.

The goal of the program is to make students aware of opportunities in the nursing profession beyond clinical roles. “This program helps emphasize that nurses fulfill many roles and that a career option to set sights on is becoming a faculty member,” Fitzpatrick said.

Due to the current nationwide nursing shortage, the demand has risen for nurses in every field, especially education. “There is a greater concern about the shortage of faculty members which will really evidence itself most dramatically in the next eight to 10 years as the majority of nurses begin to retire and we need to replace them,” Fitzpatrick said.

Fitzpatrick attributed the shortage to a number of factors.

In addition to being subject to the economy, the nursing field has also been affected by the women’s movement 25 years ago, “which encouraged young women to move into fields where women are not traditionally present.”

The College of Nursing has experienced positive responses to its announcement. “The nursing community has responded very enthusiastically and we’re ready to take on this venture,” Fitzpatrick said.

“If this program is anything like the undergraduate program, it will produce prepared teachers that hopefully stay at Villanova as an addition to the already great staff,” sophomore Colleen Cook, an undergraduate nursing student, said.

Not only are there more career options for today’s nurses, but Fitzpatrick also notes that nurses now have more responsibilities on the whole.

“We’re expecting a lot more of nurses now,” she added. “It’s not just general hospital anymore.”