Innovative Practice

Nursing Students Showing Interest In JMU Doctorate Program Launching In 2014

Posted: February 2, 2013

James Madison University nursing students practice hooking up an IV and other skills in a lab at Burruss Hall on Friday. (Photos by Holly Marcus / Special to the DN-R)
Nursing student Becca Clark practices preparing an injection in a skills lab in Burruss Hall.
JMU nursing student Alexandra Hahn practices checking for a pulse during a lab in Burruss Hall on Friday.
JMU nursing student Kirsten Greeley checks a heart defibrillator Friday.
HARRISONBURG — After new medical techniques are discovered, it takes an average of 17 years before being put into widespread practice in the United States, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
The lag in starting effective treatments is a known weakness in the medical field that James Madison University and other schools are trying to fix through a new program of study.
A new doctor of nursing practice program now accepting applicants at JMU will encourage students to help develop fixes for health problems that are clinical-based. The program’s aim is to prepare students to influence policies and become leaders in health care innovation.
The online program, which will launch in 2014, already has drawn interest from prospective students, some of whom have submitted applications, said Linda Hulton, a JMU professor of nursing.
“We just haven’t had this role in nursing before,” said Hulton, who  is coordinator of the new doctorate program. “It’s based on clinical scholarship and evidence-based practice.”
The cost of launching the program was unavailable Friday.
In 2004, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing proposed that a doctor of nursing practice degree become the standard requirement for people entering nursing practice by 2015, rather than a master’s degree. The more intensive doctoral program, the AACN said, would line up nursing with other health care professional degree requirements and provide graduates with leadership skills in clinical practice, clinical teaching and policy development.
JMU started developing its program in 2007.
Twelve students will enter the program in spring 2014 on either a four- or six-semester track toward earning the 40 to 44 necessary credits.
The new doctoral program is one of several changes taking place in the Department of Nursing according to Julie Sanford, who heads the department.
In June, the JMU board of visitors designated an additional $1.3 million toward expanding the department. That money helped increase the number of nursing students the department could accommodate and hired new faculty to keep the faculty-to-student ratio close to 1:8.
Sanford said the department was able to increase the number of undergraduate nursing students it accepted per semester by half. In January, 90 students were accepted into the program rather than 60, the previous cap.
Still, the department had plenty more qualified applicants, said Sanford, who noted that 135 students who met the program qualifications had applied.
“[Administrators] have known for a while they needed to expand the nursing program,” said Sanford.
“The fact that JMU hands out the resources and the state is supporting [nursing] as well, really helps meet the demand,” she said, referring to Gov. Bob McDonnell’s push for more science, technology, engineering, math and health graduates. “We are expanding almost at all levels.”
In fall 2011, the department started a new master’s program to train students to be clinical nurse leaders, and the program that helps registered nurses obtain bachelor’s degrees is moving online, Sanford said.
“It’s really a great and exciting time,” she said.
Contact Emily Sharrer at 574-6286 or

NDN Video News