In a time of health care reform and aging baby boomers, the UNC School of Nursing is educating students to meet the increased demand for nurses.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of registered nurses is expected to grow by 26 percent between 2010 and 2020. The projected average growth rate for all occupations is 14 percent.
The School of Nursing began offering a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree this academic year. Fourteen students who already hold a Master of Science in Nursing degree are currently enrolled in this program.
“(The program) will help these advanced practice nurses be more successful in the roles that they find themselves in,” said Debra Barksdale, director of the Doctor of Nursing Practice program.
Barksdale said the DNP degree helps its students to become stronger leaders and to better work as a team with other professionals. She said she and other faculty members started making plans for the program in 2004.
The School of Nursing has suffered under budget cuts in recent years, peaking when the school had to cut enrollment by 25 percent in 2011. Enrollment has since risen slightly.
Kristen Swanson, dean of the School of Nursing, said in an email that the school plans to reallocate funds from the MSN program to the DNP program. She said she expects the MSN program to decrease in size and the DNP program to increase.
Megan Williams, president of the North Carolina Nurses Association and an assistant professor in the School of Nursing, said the profession of registered nurse is the largest in the North Carolina health workforce, with about 120,000 licensed RNs in the state.
She said professional development is important for all nurses, even those who are not undergoing formal education after they have been licensed.