Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi is one step closer to offering a Doctor of Nursing Practice Degree (DNP). The Texas A&M System Board of Regents met on Thursday, Oct. 31, and approved a new online DNP degree for the University. The proposal now goes before the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

“Qualified medical professionals are desperately needed in under-served and rural areas of Texas,” said Dr. Flavius Killebrew, President/CEO of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. “We will be proud to fill this need by offering the highest advanced degree available for nursing practice.”

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the United States is short 20,000 doctors short now, and is expected to face even larger shortages as nearly half of the nation's physicians near retirement.

“Qualified DNP nurse practitioners could help ease some of the load, serving as primary care providers in rural areas that may not have a doctor,” said Dr. Mary Jane Hamilton, Dean of the School of Nursing and Health Sciences (CONHS).

South Texas has the highest incidence in Texas of several preventable diseases like diabetes and infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, listeriosis, and dengue fever. 

To make matters worse, of all South Texas counties, 16 have a shortage of primary care clinicians, while others have areas that are medically underserved.  The need in South Texas is especially prevalent due to a lack of programs.

 “The absence of nurse clinicians and administrators with appropriate doctoral education prevents the region’s healthcare workforce from effectively addressing health issues in the region,” Hamilton said.

Dr. Eve Layman, Associate Dean of CONHS, says this degree would be an affordable alternative to many of the other programs currently available and calls it an investment in the community.  Students would do the majority of their course work online, but would also have to complete 1,000 hours of clinical work.

“They would be dealing with and solving problems in their own communities,” said Layman.  “This makes them more likely to stay in the community where they are already making a difference.”   

The Island University has been a statewide leader in nursing education for decades, distinctions of the CONHS include grants and recognition from the White House for its outreach to veterans. The College was also recently awarded the 2013 Excellence and Innovation in Teaching Award by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

“With its long history of serving South Texas and its track record of teaching future nurses using the latest technology, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi is uniquely positioned to serve South Texas by offering a DNP,” said Layman. “This degree will contain online coursework, personal faculty contact, and hands-on learning.” 

If approved by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, the Island University DNP will be the only one south of San Antonio and the only the second one in the Texas A&M System.