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My Nevada 5: Milestones in Nursing

UNLV nursing professors share their list of milestones that have affected nurses and improved health care in our state.
Business & Community  |  Mar 21, 2014  |  By UNLV News Center

UNLV students use the Nursing Skills Simulation lab at the Shadow Lane Campus (R. Marsh Starks / UNLV Photo Services)

Editor's Note: 

This piece comes from professors in the UNLV School of Nursing.


Nurses have always played a key role in the delivery of quality health care, and their experiences, dedication and leadership continue to reshape and enhance that care in Nevada. Here are five milestones that contributed to the nursing profession and the betterment of the state

1. Schools of Nursing

Formal nursing education began in 1956 at the University of Nevada, Reno and in 1965 at University of Nevada, Las Vegas. The initial programs offered associate of arts and baccalaureate programs that prepared nurses for work in local hospitals and clinics and helped bolster the ranks of care providers among the state's growing population. Both schools enhanced their curriculums and offered more intensive programs to position nurses in leadership roles within care centers. Today, UNR and UNLV offer undergraduate and graduate programs, and collaboratively offer a Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree that trains and educates nurses to become leaders of change. DNP graduates are serving in executive roles within state-appointed boards, medical centers, and regional and national organizations.

2. Clinical Simulation Center Las Vegas

The Clinical Simulation Center of Las Vegas provides high-fidelity health care simulation training to students at UNLV, Nevada State College, and the University of Nevada School of Medicine.

Educational institutions across the country have been integrating simulation, which features animatronic manikins and actors who serve as patients, into curriculums because of its unique learning opportunities.

This training enables students to treat emergent and critical scenarios in a safe learning environment and fosters inter-professional teamwork. Nursing students, medical students, and medical residents are educated together to promote greater collaboration among future health care providers.

The 31,000-square-foot facility opened in August 2009 at the Nevada System of Higher Education Las Vegas Shadow Lane Campus. It has helped more than 2,000 students and community members learn the multitude of skills and has attracted educators from across the country and around the globe. Las Vegas is one of the few cities in the West that has a dedicated simulation center.

3. Dedicated Education Units

A Dedicated Education Unit (DEU) is a first-of-its-kind innovation in nursing education within Nevada, partnering the UNLV School of Nursing with a hospital to offer hands-on training from staff nurses in selected units.

The school's faculty teaches the nurses in the designated units the principles of adult learning. These clinicians then assume a teaching role during the students' clinical rotation component, during which the students work a full shift caring for all patients assigned to that nurse.

These education-trained clinical staff nurses, called clinical dedicated instructors, closely monitor and supervise students, provide a teaching environment that supports a culture of safety, and produces self-directed, critical-thinking, competent student nurses who are able to render care in a variety of acute health care settings.

DEUs enable student nurses to receive a level of hands-on education not easily obtained outside an actual clinical setting, and forge strong ties between the school and hosting facility. The UNLV School of Nursing has DEU relationships with two hospitals in Southern Nevada.

4. Ph.D. Nursing Program

The need for nurse educators is as urgent as the need for frontline nurses. Without experienced, qualified instructors, the next generations of nursing students may not receive the level of education and guidance they need to be successful practitioners.

UNLV offers the only Ph.D. in nursing program in the state. Those who graduate are prepared as nurse scholars and educators, which Nevada and the nation urgently need. Nursing research and scholarship are critical not only to improving patient care outcomes, but also to promoting the health of the community. Nurse scientists search for solutions to both persistent and emerging health care issues that confront the patients and communities they serve. They then translate their findings to improve patient care and promote health.

5. Passage of AB 170

Nevada Assembly Bill 170 enables advanced practice registered nurses (APRN) to practice to the full extent of their education and training without formal collaborative physician oversight for practice, and grants APRNs a license to practice as advanced practice registered nurses.

APRNs are licensed, expert clinicians with advanced education (most have master's and many have doctoral degrees) and are able to provide primary, acute, and specialty health care services. As a part of providing a full range of services, APRNs work as partners with their patients, guiding them to make educated health care decisions and healthy lifestyle choices.

The bill expands access to quality health care for thousands of Nevada residents. APRNs often offer more preventive health care, which, in turn, reduces serious illnesses and reduces time away from work or extended stays in hospitals. Nevada is one of 25 states and the District of Columbia to pass this legislation.

About the Authors

Pat Alpert is chair of the School of Nursing's physiological department. Her research is concentrated in obesity and the alternative exercise effects on balance, memory, and mood in older adults. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners and a certified pediatric and family nurse practitioner.

Michele Clark is a licensed marriage and family therapist, and the Ph.D. coordinator for the School of Nursing. Her research interests includes Aaron Beck's diathesis-stress model, caregiver depression, and active learning strategies. She has reviewed manuscripts for multiple nursing journals and, serves on the board for the Alzheimer's Association Desert Southwest Chapter, Southern Nevada Region.

Susan VanBeuge works with graduate students in the School of Nursing as chair and membership of capstone committees during their studies in the Family Nurse Practitioner and Doctor of Nursing Practice programs. She was instrumental in the drafting of Nevada AB170, and is working on a National Geriatric Education Consortium grant to enhance care for geriatric patients with type 2 diabetes.