Education - Page 6 - Advanced practice programs in health care

- Page 6
Advanced practice programs in health care
By Emily Parks, Contributing Writer

When Savannah Reedy of Annapolis graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park last December with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology with specialization in cell biology and genetics, she knew she wanted a career in a laboratory and to eventually go to graduate school. She landed a position as a laboratory technician at Atlantic Test Lab in Annapolis, which conducts full panel testing on behalf of the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission for contaminants and potency to ensure cannabis products are deemed safe and able to be sold to patients in registered dispensaries.

When she learned about the new Master of Science in medical cannabis science and therapeutics at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy in Baltimore, it was a perfect fit.

Launched this fall, the two-year program looks to bolster knowledge and skills in the medical cannabis field within the science, therapeutics and policy realms. Based at the Universities at Shady Grove in Rockville, Maryland, the program combines online learning with face-to-face experiences. It is also the only degree program of its kind in the nation.

“I’m interested in the analytical, chemistry side of (the science),” Reedy says. “I look forward to taking part in research as there will be a lot of research opportunities opening up within the next couple of years.”

Leah Sera, PharmD, M.A., BCPS, program director and assistant professor of pharmacy practice and science at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy, notes the degree program will provide the knowledge and the skills needed to respond to the expected growth of the medical cannabis industry. She notes a number of published surveys in the fields of medicine, nursing and pharmacy show that these health professionals lack formalized training on science and therapeutics of medical cannabis.“The degree program was developed to address this knowledge gap related to medical cannabis, to address and close that knowledge gap with formalized education on the science, therapeutics and policies regarding medical cannabis,” she says.

Other graduate programs in the area of health care have also launched within the past few years in an effort to meet the growing demand for leadership positions. Frostburg State’s online Masters in Business Administration offers a concentration in health care management. Launched in 2018, along with core MBA courses, students enroll in an additional four courses studying health care management and finance, health care policy law ethics, principles of population health management, and health care information technology (IT) systems.

Heather Gable, D.N.P., R.N., LNHA, department of nursing chair and a teacher in the program, notes the creation of the online concentration serves to align with the student’s desired career paths. “Within the health and medical services industry, there is strong anticipated job growth,” she says. “In addition to meeting the student’s needs, the program drives forward the school’s mission of meeting workforce needs as well.” The program is tailored to the professional, adult learner with online courses that still allows a lot of one-on-one attention with professors. The school boasts full accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate School of Business International, which speaks to the quality of the coursework and leaves graduates fully prepared to further their career.

“The graduate will earn an M.B.A. but by adding on the health care concentration, it allows them to take what they’ve learned at the graduate level and specialize that degree to lead in a growing health care industry,” she says.

The Doctor of Nursing Practice at Salisbury University provides leadership skills as it addresses the shortage of Advance Practice Nurses and nurse educators by providing themwith the critical skills needed to educate the next generation of health professionals. The DNP program has two entry options: a post-master’s to D.N.P. for professionals with an M.S.N. and a post-bachelor’s to D.N.P. (F.N.P.) for professionals with a B.S.N. who wish to complete a D.N.P. and become family nurse practitioners. Within the post-master’s to D.N.P. option, students can choose between two concentrations: post-master’s to D.N.P.-leadership and post-master’s to D.N.P.-family nurse practitioner.

Dorothea Winter, Ph.D. R.N., professor and graduate program chair, finds the leadership track is a strong draw for students who wish to further their teaching careers without going into research. All courses are offered online, but the program provides an intimate feel due to the personalized attention students receive from their academic advisors. Advisors are required to meet with their students at their worksite during the semester. The advisors themselves are tapped into the health systems in the area and can connect students with future career opportunities. The school also boasts a 100% first-time pass rate for the family nurse practitioner certification, ensuring graduates will be well-prepared for career growth.

As part of the coursework, students complete a comprehensive D.N.P. project. These are evidencebased projects where students review the literature in order to implement changes in practice based on the evidence from the literature. Winter describes how a student would study the literature to find support for education or a tool to improve a health outcome. As a result, a D.N.P. project might entail implementing a screening tool for possible addictions for patients in a primary care office. “It is truly impactful to see how students use the information available in the literature and how they implement that information in their local, regional setting to improve health outcomes,” she says.

A May 2019 graduate of the post-bachelor’s to D.N.P. program, Christine Durham-Pressley, D.N.P.,CRNP, FNP-BC, appreciated the high quality of the program, as it is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, which is important for licensing. She also noted that the small staff to student ratio made for an intimate setting where the professors were always available, and she was able to develop close friendships with her classmates.

As most of the classroom portion was online she was able to continue to work full time. As the program also requires 1,000 clinical hours, she was able to obtain local health care experience in her community. She credits the degree program with gaining experience in adult family practice, pediatrics, women’s health and palliative care all on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

She is currently a family nurse practitioner at a local Federally Qualified Health Center and has also started teaching undergraduate nursing students at Salisbury University. “As a longtime resident of the Eastern Shore of Maryland, I feel so fortunate for the opportunity to do my part to improve the health of our unique population,” she says. “Having a doctorate has also prepared me to pass on my knowledge and love of nursing to the future healthcare providers in a teaching role.”