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Pediatric nurse practitioner program approved (5/14/97)

The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio's School of Nursing will offer a pediatric nurse practitioner (PNP) master's degree major starting this fall. The school offers master's and doctoral degrees in several areas of nursing.

The new major received full and final approval April 17 from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. The school's proposal for the program was approved last year by The University of Texas System Board of Regents.

"We are targeting the admission of a minimum of six students in the fall to the PNP major and an additional six in the spring," said Judith Fullerton, PhD, associate dean for graduate nursing programs in the School of Nursing. Slots in the PNP major may increase later depending on faculty and program resources, she said.

The 1997 application deadline for the PNP major only is July 1. Applications and supporting materials must be received by the registrar by that date.

The PNP major will prepare nurse practitioners in the care of newborns, young children and young adolescents. "A particularly unique feature of our new program and one not available in the majority of PNP programs nationally is a special curriculum for the care of the obstetrical and reproductive health care needs of the adolescent," Dr. Fullerton said.

Students will complete a master of science degree in nursing with a pediatric nurse practitioner clinical major. Graduates will be eligible to sit for a national certification examination and to be recognized as advanced practice nurses (nurse practitioners) by the Texas Board of Nurse Examiners.

Nurse practitioners have advanced education to handle a wide range of basic health problems. They conduct physical exams, take medical histories, assess and treat common minor illness and injuries, order and perform lab tests, and counsel and educate patients.

The Health Science Center's pediatric nurse practitioner program is the seventh established statewide. "This program was approved by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board based on documentation of demonstrated community need and expressed interest from a random sample of nurses, pediatric providers and community health provider agencies," Dr. Fullerton said.

Several studies demonstrated the need for more PNPs, including the Texas Kids Count Project, a county-by-county fact book produced by the Center for Public Policy Priorities in 1994, and a community-wide needs assessment conducted in Bexar County by the UT Houston Health Science Center's School of Public Health in 1994. "We went through the needs assessment process two and a half years ago, and started the curriculum planning process about two years ago," Dr. Fullerton said.

The PNP program could be supported by a federal grant from the U.S. Bureau of Health Professions (BHP). Dr. Fullerton said she hopes to hear in May regarding the "BHP Nurse Practitioner and Nurse Midwifery Training Funds" grant.

The pediatric nurse practitioner major is one of four clinical tracks in the graduate program along with the family nurse practitioner major, the acute nursing care of the adult major and the community and cealth care systems in nursing major. The family nurse practitioner major was initiated in fall 1994 and the acute nursing care track in fall 1996. The community and health care systems in nursing major, previously approved, begins this fall.

"The four new majors are the new profile that has emerged from our process of reconsideration of graduate program offerings," Dr. Fullerton said. "We believe they reflect the profile of the emerging contemporary health care system and the appropriate utilization of nurse professionals within that system."

PNPs will treat young patients in physicians' offices, community clinics, hospitals and other settings. The PNP and other graduate majors are designed to help alleviate primary health care needs of communities, particularly in medically underserved areas.

"Our students will serve a broad variety of patients in a broad diversity of settings, both urban and rural, where primary health care is urgently needed," Dr. Fullerton said.

Contact: Will Sansom (210) 567-2570