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CSULB To Offer Doctorates In Physical Therapy, Nursing Practice

Published: February 15, 2011

CSULB has been granted permission by the CSU Board of Trustees to begin planning for the addition of two new doctoral pilot programs – the doctor of physical therapy (DPT) degree and the doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree – with the DPT program launching as early as summer 2012 and the DNP program in fall 2012.

At its Jan. 25-26 meeting, the Board of Trustees approved the beginning process for three DNP programs, including two that will be offered jointly by multiple CSU campuses. CSULB will team up with Cal State Fullerton and Cal State L.A. to offer a joint program in the southern part of the state, and Fresno State and San Jose State will offer a joint program in the north. San Diego State was recommended for a stand-alone program.

As for the DPT degree, CSULB was one of five campuses given the go-ahead to begin planning for a pilot program. The others were Fresno State, Cal State Northridge, Sacramento State and San Diego State.

In September, then-California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into legislation two key measures granting the CSU permission to offer the two doctorate degrees, which previously had been strictly in the purview of the University of California system as directed by state’s Master Plan for Higher Education.

“History should never dictate the educational needs of today,” said CSULB President F. King Alexander. “When these two bills were passed and signed, the governor and the state legislature gave permission for the CSU system to go beyond the California Master Plan to offer vital doctorate degrees that will have a significant impact on the future healthcare needs of this state.”

AB 2382 gave the CSU permission to offer the doctorate of physical therapy degree. Five CSU campuses offer physical therapy (PT) programs, and together, they already produce one-third of the state’s PT graduates. Still, there is a shortage of physical therapy professionals in California, but with the new doctoral programs, CSU campuses will be able to help address those needs.

The DPT is particularly relevant to accreditation in CSU physical therapy programs. Physical therapists practicing in California must have graduated from an accredited physical therapy program as well as passed national and state examinations. Beginning in 2015, the National Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education will only grant accreditation to programs awarding doctorates.

“The approval of the doctorate in physical therapy at the CSU was critical to us being in compliance with the accrediting and licensure standards of the profession,” noted Kenneth Millar, CSULB’s dean for the College of Health and Human Services, where, if approved, both doctorates would be housed. “With the doctorate in place, the CSU will maintain its leadership role in preparing the workforce for professional physical therapists.”

Assembly Bill (AB) 867 allows the CSU to confer the DNP degree. The CSU already confers 65 percent of the state’s bachelor’s degrees in nursing, but the campuses are facing some serious challenges in their efforts to meet the urgent need for additional nursing professionals in workforce.

The U.S. Bureau of Health Professionals projects California will have a shortfall of more than 100,000 nurses in 10 years. A key challenge to closing this projected shortfall has been a limited number of slots available in California nursing programs, which is tied to a limited number of individuals qualified to serve as nursing faculty.

“The doctor of nursing practice degree has a particular focus on preparing future nurse educators,” Millar pointed out. “A significant contributor to the acute nursing shortage in California and, indeed, in the entire nation is that institutions of higher education do not have sufficient numbers of doctoral-trained faculty to meet the student demand in schools of nursing. This doctorate is an important step in addressing this shortage.”

It is estimated that the shortage of nursing faculty is keeping hundreds of qualified applicants out of nursing programs at CSU and California community college (CCC) campuses. Now that the CSU can offer the DNP degree, though, campuses can begin to prepare nursing faculty for their own programs and for CCC nursing programs as well. This will also lead to training more registered nurses to help address the state’s nursing shortage.

Both the DNP and DPT programs are subject to the chancellor’s approval and determination of need and feasibility, and must demonstrate that qualified faculty, financial support, facilities, and information resources are sufficient to establish and maintain the programs. Prior to chancellor approval, programs will seek professional and regional accreditation, as well as the recommendation of the California Postsecondary Education Commission.

–Rick Gloady