Viterbo University in La Crosse will begin offering its first doctorate program in nursing this fall, as Wisconsin schools look to offer continuing education in high-demand fields.
A Doctor of Nursing Practice is the highest degree a nurse practitioner can receive.
Viterbo University Vice President for Academic Affairs Barb Gayle says the degree allows nurses to make more decisions by themselves.
"Nurses are working in conjunction with, of course, hospital teams — inter-professional teams — but they'll also have a great deal of leeway then to help patients, and to do that without as much supervision as they would normally have from a doctor."
Gayle says most students will come from within 100 miles of the La Crosse area. This would impact La Crosse's two major medical facilities, Gundersen Health System and Mayo Clinic, as well as regional hospitals.
Gundersen Lutheran Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer Mary Lu Gerke says most health care professionals, like physical therapists and pharmacists, are pursuing doctoral degrees. Now, she says, more and more nurses are also seeking higher education: "The next generation coming up is much more acclimated to lifelong learning than we were as baby boomers."
According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, six other Wisconsin schools offer a Doctor of Nursing Practice program, including Concordia University, Marquette University, and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.