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Leading the Way
More Growth on the Horizon Through Nursing Ph.D., Expansions

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After 30 years of growth and success, the College of Nursing continues to look toward the future with plans for new graduate level tracks, building expansion and the first doctoral program for UT Tyler.

Dr. Linda Klotz, College of Nursing and Health Sciences dean, said the university is working not only to solve the growing pains on campus, but also to help meet the national need for nurses and nursing faculty.

Doctorate Program
She said the staff has been working on developing a Ph.D. in nursing for UT Tyler for two years. “If all goes according to plan, we hope to get on the agenda for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board this fall for final approval and begin coursework in 2008.”

Dr. Klotz said nursing programs at universities across the nation have been forced to restrict enrollment because there are not enough faculty members. That leads to fewer nursing graduates. But through the doctoral program, UT Tyler would have a greater role in providing educators and researchers to help meet the state and national nursing shortage.

“Our region would benefit from extra teachers and researchers in the area,” Dr. Klotz said.

And because of the doctorate program, Dr. Klotz said even more students will be interested in taking prerequisite work at UT Tyler, hoping to move into the doctorate program.

Dr. Klotz also said the doctoral program, which would be one of only seven in the state, would move the university into a different category as an education provider.

“It will be the first Ph.D. for the university, making the university more eligible for different funding federally and from foundations. We will also be more eligible for grants,” she said. “The Ph.D. is a research-based program so we anticipate increased research as doctoral students work with the College of Nursing faculty and supporting disciplines across the campus.”

The doctoral program coursework will be offered completely online and prepare students for careers in teaching and research.

“It will give recognition to the university as being one of the most progressive programs in the country because of our distance education outreach,” Dr. Klotz said. “A student in the program could live anywhere in the world. They will only need to come on campus for orientation during the first semester after acceptance and maybe once after that for research presentations. We will be able to choose from the best students locally, nationally and internationally.”

Dr. Klotz said the proposed program is already gaining a lot of interest. “We planned on admitting 15 into the program the first semester and 10 every semester after that. We already have 20 applications and we haven’t even advertised yet.”

The appeal of the doctoral program is twofold, Dr. Klotz said. First, the online accessibility – the only one in the state – makes the degree easier to pursue for participants who work and have families. Also, candidates are saying they like the focus of the program – public health and community outreach internationally.

Room for Growth
The doctoral program is not the only plan under way for the UT Tyler nursing program. Undergraduate and graduate students will soon see some new options to make their education pursuit more accessible. Right now, space is at a premium.

Dr. Pam Martin, associate dean for undergraduate programs, said, “We’ve already outgrown our current facility. We have dramatically increased our enrollment, but are geographically bound. Classes can only hold so many and we’ve maxed out on space.”

With more than 500 applications every semester for the undergraduate program and space for only about 150 new students each time, the College of Nursing must turn away hundreds.

Nursing faculty members are dreaming of facility expansion opportunities.

“The university has purchased the Tyler Area Senior Citizens Association building about a mile from campus,” Dr. Klotz said. “The facility will give nursing programs an opportunity to expand clinical application and research. We are also working to create clinical labs that would be open to other programs. This is a way to share our resources with other teaching institutions that don’t have access to hospital facilities and increase clinical educational opportunities.”

As part of the faculty’s commitment to career mobility and educational access, the College of Nursing also offers accelerated options for LVN and RN students. The LVN to BSN and the RN to BSN degree options support licensed students’ advancement to the baccalaureate degree. The RN-MSN degree option allows students to achieve both the BSN and MSN degree at the same time, and is a totally Web-based program designed to meet the advanced educational needs of the registered workforce in the East Texas region.

“With only about 300 nurses holding master’s degrees in nursing, the explosion of knowledge and rapid technological advances have illustrated a tremendous need for opportunities to receive advanced education,” said Dr. Susan Yarbrough, associate dean for graduate programs.

The fast track program allows students to go through the undergraduate bachelor of science in nursing completion phase directly into the graduate program. The student receives both bachelor and master of science in nursing degrees simultaneously upon successful completion of the program.

Online graduate programs also give nurses an opportunity to pursue teaching while maintaining their jobs and families.

Tara Patton, a 2005 BSN graduate, is currently enrolled in the nursing education master’s program. She lives in Palestine. “All my coursework so far has been online,” she said. “The College of Nursing was such a tremendous experience and wonderful mentorship that I realized the shortage of nursing faculty was an amazing opportunity to give back.”

Dr. Klotz said, “Many of our students in the nursing program have come back for their master’s and want to come back for their doctorate degrees. And a majority of our students remain in East Texas. It is nice to see working RNs in a hospital setting, serving as mentors. It is fun to see how they’ve grown.”

Patton said, “I never even imagined that I would pursue graduate studies until I was in the bachelor’s program. But I realized that was my calling. It’s been a wonderful experience for me.”

Patton and other students like her are the future of the nursing profession. She said without innovative programs and technology like the satellite campuses and online coursework, she would never have been able to pursue her dreams – and help others in need.

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