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March 13, 2013

Contact Barb Gayle, vice president for academic affairs, at 608-796-3080 or bmgayle@viterbo.edu or Bonnie Nesbitt, assistant dean, graduate nursing program, at 608-796-3688 or bjnesbitt@viterbo.edu 

VITERBO GRANTED APPROVAL TO OFFER FIRST DOCTORATE PROGRAM: DOCTOR OF NURSING PRACTICE 

LA CROSSE, Wis. – The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges (HLC) has granted Viterbo University approval to offer a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree beginning this fall.

Full accreditation followed a two-day campus visit last November by an HLC team, which subsequently filed a report recommending approval to begin the doctorate program.

The DNP is a clinical doctorate structured to provide evidence-based care to meet regional health care needs.

“The accreditation visiting team that visited was very positive and recommended approval without any conditions,” said Rick Artman, president of Viterbo University. “The team’s members were highly impressed with our new state-of-the-art nursing center and simulation labs, our research capabilities, the curriculum, the quality of faculty who will be delivering this program and the support from our board of trustees and regional health care providers.”

According to Silvana Richardson, dean of the School of Nursing, the four-year doctoral program will enroll students in its first class this fall, with anticipation that the total number will eventually grow to 50.

“Prior to the official approval, the university wasn’t permitted to publicize or recruit for the DNP but word that Viterbo was seeking approval for the DNP prompted inquiries timely enough to assure fall enrollment,” said Bonnie Nesbitt, assistant dean and director of the graduate program.

For Viterbo, the DNP allows the university to expand its academic portfolio in nursing from the bachelor’s degree to the clinical doctorate thus solidifying its role as a regional leader in this important health care profession. Demand for the nurse practitioner with the advanced level of clinical expertise is expected to grow significantly in the coming decades as the population ages and the need to manage chronic health conditions as well as emphasize health promotion and disease prevention increases.

“The program will be selective, Richardson said, “and designed to attract highly qualified nurses interested in becoming leaders with enhanced organizational skills to improve health outcomes as members of inter-professional health care teams.”

The DNP is addressing the reality of today’s health care environment, which is increasingly complex, requiring more nurses who are educated at the highest professional level, Richardson said. The DNP graduates will find employment in clinical and academic settings utilizing the latest evidence-based practices.

Viterbo currently graduates more bachelor level nurses than any other private college in Wisconsin. In all, nearly 780 students are enrolled in nursing programs at the undergraduate and graduate level on the Viterbo campus or at other sites throughout Wisconsin.

Richardson indicated the initiation of the DNP symbolized the university’s commitment to providing aspiring nurses a complete range of professional nursing programs from the bachelor to the doctoral level.

For Barb Gayle, vice president for academic affairs, the announcement represents a historic step in the evolution of the university. “Twenty-five years ago, Viterbo began offering its first graduate programs. Now, in addition to our five master’s level programs, we have taken a huge step, offering a doctorate to those who seek the highest level of educational training.

“This achievement deserves to be celebrated because it represents a great deal of hard work and preparation on the part of many people,” Gayle added.

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