SJSU in the News: SJSU and Fresno State to Offer Joint Doctor of Nursing Practice Program

San Jose State University launches pilot doctoral nursing program

(Editor’s Note: This program is pending final campus approval by the provost and president, and our accrediting agency, WASC, as well as the CSU Trustees.)

Originally published in the Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal Oct. 14, 2011.

By David Goll

California’s public universities are about to launch their first pilot program for a doctoral degree in nursing, and San Jose State University will be one of the schools to offer it in fall 2012.

In Northern California, San Jose State will share the Doctor of Nursing Practice program with California State University, Fresno. It will admit up to 47 students in the initial class for both online and face-to-face instruction. Other campuses with the five-semester doctoral program will be a consortium of the Los Angeles, Long Beach and Fullerton campuses, and a stand alone program at San Diego State University.

This first-ever doctoral program at San Jose State is expected to better prepare working nurses for the increasing complexity of health care in hospitals and provide much needed nursing faculty for CSU campuses.

Health care professionals say there is a real need for this new program. Only 1 percent of nurses nationwide have earned doctorates in the practice, according to Jayne Cohen, director of The Valley Foundation School of Nursing at San Jose State.

“In this era of health reform, a master’s degree is not enough preparation. We need advanced clinical people to take care of patients at the highest level of care. We need nurses who can lead the teams of doctors, nurses and other specialists who increasingly will be working in teams in health care facilities.”

Lori Rodriguez, associate professor of nursing who is serving as director of the new program at San Jose State, said urban California, notably the Bay Area and Los Angeles — where the average annual pay for nurses is about $80,000 and $75,000 respectively — has no nursing shortages. But shortages are more acute in rural and less-affluent areas. The other concern is that a large percentage of nurses are approaching retirement age and are leaving the workforce. The U.S. Bureau of Health Professions projects a deficit of 100,000 nurses statewide within 10 years.

Trudy Johnson, chief nursing officer at the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, said the Institute of Medicine, the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences, issued a recent report on the nursing profession that called for a doubling of nurses with doctoral degrees by 2020.

“We have a greater need for leadership, innovation, research and education today in our profession,” Johnson said. “Health care reform is bringing changes to health care delivery and there is increasing complexity in every part of this industry. It’s very important we have more doctorally trained nurses ready to come in to take leadership roles.”

Johnson said nurses will play a bigger role in some of the new-format health care centers called for under reform proposals adopted by Congress last year. Some will be primarily run by nurses, she said.

Valley Medical Center, she said, will offer partial tuition reimbursements for nurses who decide to enroll in any public or private doctoral course of study.

Startup details

The CSU Board of Trustees is expected to give final approval to the program in January. The only other such programs in the Bay Area are offered at two private schools: the University of San Francisco and Samuel Merritt University    in Oakland. The CSU system is the nation’s largest system of higher education with 433,000 students.

The San Jose State program is getting an initial infusion of $200,000 from the university to establish the program, but it will eventually have to become self-supporting through student tuition. Rodriguez said tuition will be $6,500 per semester, or half the cost of the private schools. She said seven San Jose State nursing professors will work as instructors for the doctoral students.

Building up faculty

Cohen said another benefit of the doctoral program will be to replenish the ranks of CSU nursing faculty. She has a staff of 53 tenure-track professors and lecturers, but will have two openings next year.

“We will be lucky to get two qualified candidates for each opening,” Cohen said. “In other academic programs, you might get 400 candidates for a single opening.”

Cohen said doctorates are required for tenure-track teaching positions at San Jose State, so the small number of nurses who earn doctoral degrees makes for a small pool of applicants.

Rodriguez said the looming hospital shortages and nursing faculty deficits have helped the program come together very quickly.

“We just started working on this program just last spring,” Rodriguez said. “This has moved at lightning speed.”

David Goll can be reached at 408.299.1853 or

David Goll covers commercial real estate, retail, economic development and transportation at the Business Journal.