Press Release for Thursday, March 29, 2007

UNF Prescribes Two New Health Care Doctoral Programs

Contact: Joanna Norris, Assistant Director
Department of Media Relations and Events
(904) 620-2102

The Florida Board of Governors today approved the University of North Florida adding two new doctoral programs in health care to its graduate course offerings. The doctorate in Nursing Practice and the doctorate in Physical Therapy are two critical areas in patient care that consistently suffer from shortages of qualified practitioners nationwide.

“The creation of two new doctoral programs at UNF all but guarantees a future steady stream of well-qualified health care professionals for Jacksonville area hospitals, surgical centers and medical clinics,” said UNF President John A. Delaney.

The University anticipates enrolling 20 candidates in the Nursing Practice doctoral program this fall and as many as 36 candidates in the Physical Therapy doctoral program.

“This is a huge step forward for UNF to be in a position where we have the resources and programs in place to offer doctoral education,” said Dr. Pam Chally, dean of the Brooks College of Health. “It’s also a great statement for the importance of health in our community. Health care is a major economic player, and we are committed to meeting the health care needs of the region and beyond.”

The doctorate in Nursing Practice will build on the current master’s degree in nursing and will advance the School of Nursing’s flagship program in community nursing to the next level. UNF is designating several key academic flagship programs that are destined to achieve national stature, and community nursing was the first to be named a flagship. This new doctoral program will prepare advanced practice nurses by giving them the cutting-edge skills and education necessary to remain in clinical practice, enter health care administration or teach nursing students.

The doctorate in Physical Therapy will enable graduates to provide critical patient care as well as keep the program on track to meet changing national standards.

“The physical therapy profession has grown and now has a higher level of responsibility in health care,” said Dr. Russell Smith, chair for the Physical Therapy Program. “No longer are we just trainers. We now have responsibility for patients. A physical therapist may be the first health care provider that a patient sees. Therefore, the level of education is skyrocketing, both because of increased responsibility but also because of growing health care knowledge.”

Having these two new doctoral programs also means UNF will be able to produce graduates qualified to teach in university graduate programs across the country, carrying UNF’s reputation for quality with them. Currently, a shortage of nursing educators limits the numbers of nursing students colleges and universities can enroll.

“There’s not enough qualified faculty to teach increasing numbers of nursing candidates. Once a school of nursing has a doctoral program, it’s better able to attract faculty,” said Dr. Li Loriz, School of Nursing director.

Starting in the fall, UNF will offer a total of three doctoral degrees, including an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership, the University’s first doctoral program. Approximately 11 doctoral degrees are handed out each academic year and that number is expected to triple over the next five years.

Currently, UNF has 24 master’s degrees in 88 areas of concentration and 52 bachelor’s degrees in 116 areas of concentration. UNF, which opened in 1972 as a 2-year, upper-division-only university, enrolled 16,084 students in the fall, including more than 1,600 seeking graduate degrees.