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Meeting the medical demand

Cal State Long Beach, which draws a large number of O.C. students, has added 2 new doctoral programs in healthcare.

By Elaine MurphyPublished: December 01, 2012

Cal State Long Beach
Cal State University Long Beach has added two new doctoral programs this year in nursing practice and physical therapy, both of which were established to meet a growing demand for professionals in these areas.
   
As baby boomers age and require more care, the need for physical therapists in Southern California is expected to increase by 35.6 percent by 2020 – a demand that CSULB’s three-year doctorate of physical therapy (DPT) program aims to meet. The entry-level doctorate program – different from a Ph.D. in that it is not a research-based degree – requires students to have a bachelor’s degree, but not a master’s.
   
“To practice physical therapy, one must graduate from an accredited program,” says Dr. Kay Cerny, CSULB physical therapy department chair. “Beginning in 2015, only DPT programs will be accredited. If we are not accredited, we will not have any students coming to our program, since it would not lead to practice as a physical therapist.”
   
Transitioning the school’s current master’s program to a doctorate required changing a 1960’s state law that prohibited CSU schools from offering doctoral degrees. However, a recent bill, supported by the CSU system and the California chapter of the American Physical Therapy Association – approved the DPT program at five CSU campuses.
   
CSULB’s new doctorate of nursing practice (DNP) program also had legal issues: When a separate statewide bill sought to allow CSUs to offer the degree, the UC system, viewing the CSU system as a competitor, fought to limit the program’s scope. As a result, the nursing program is offered as a consortium in three regions of the state, with campuses offering courses jointly for a five-year trial period.
   
The Orange County region’s program is offered at Cal State Long Beach, Cal State Fullerton and Cal State Los Angeles. While Dr. Lucy Huckabay, director of CSULB’s school of nursing, says the approach is working for now, she describes the consortium as an administrative nightmare. She strongly believes that the program is viable and valuable, and that CSULB will prove the program’s worth to the state and will eventually be able to offer the degree independently.
   
The 2 1/2-year post-master’s program, which focuses on nursing practice and administration, is the first public program of its kind in the region. By applying a practical, evidence-based approach (determining what method of treatment is best based on previous case evidence), nursing graduates will leave CSULB more prepared to administer care, conduct research and teach.
   
One of the primary obstacles to accepting more nursing students is a lack of prepared faculty. By preparing top-notch students to teach undergraduate courses, CSULB will work to fill that gap.
   
Students will pay the entire tuition cost in order to avoid taking money from the state and worsening the education-funding crisis that the university’s under-
graduate division faces.
   
“There will be no additional cost to California. In fact, the cost will decrease as the student will be financing his own education,” Cerny says.