NAU outlines plans for health program expansion | Education

At the last meeting of the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR) Academic Affairs and Level of Study Committee, Northern Arizona University (NAU) presented five-year plans to expand several of its health programs.

The university is adding nine program sites and growing enrollment by more than 1,600 students per year (a total growth of 181%) through 2027, according to a presentation by the executive vice president and vice-president Karen Pugliesi.

More than 1,500 additional students have enrolled in NAU health programs since 2012, she said, with the number of nursing graduates in the past five years (2017-21) being 765% higher than those awarded between 2002 and 2006. His comparison of those same five-year periods showed an 880% increase in graduate degrees.

The Rounds Consulting Group had presented the state’s Allied Health Needs at the committee’s last meeting on March 24. Four program areas were examined that were underrepresented in Arizona in 2020 compared to national standards. Of these, physical therapy had the largest job shortage in Arizona (1,028), followed by occupational therapy (537), physician assistant (217), and audiology (147).

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Many NAU plans involve expanding programs to new sites statewide as well as expanding at existing sites when possible.

The most important goal is the expansion of the university’s nursing programs. NAU plans to add three new accelerated program sites — which produce graduates ready to licensure in 12 months — across the state (North Valley, Tucson, and Prescott Valley) and move the Fort Defiance program to Tuba City .

In addition to expanding its accelerated nursing program in Flagstaff, the NAU plans to expand the family nurse practitioner program there and add programs for psychiatric nurse practitioners and a master’s degree in nursing leadership, quality and patient safety. patients.

The Speech-Language Pathology Program (SLP) will expand to Flagstaff and a new location will open in Yuma this summer, both including culturally relevant practice in the training.

It will also expand online RN to BSN programs and concurrent enrollment programs, with the overall plan to increase the number of “clinical graduates eligible for initial licensure” by 231% by 2027.

According to Pugliesi’s presentation, NAU is currently the only public university in Arizona to offer a master’s program in physician assistant studies. The program will be added to the school’s Flagstaff and Yuma locations, increasing enrollment capacity by 250% through 2027.

She also said the NAU is considering adding an online doctoral program to the field.

“Physician assistants are important in the combination of health professionals and community practice, [and they] improve the impact of primary care physicians, which are very scarce in Arizona, she said. Thus, the capstone program “would meet a growing demand for updated references for practitioners in this field and help us generate revenue to support the expansion of the clinical program. in physician assistant studies.”

Other master’s and doctoral degrees that Pugliesi mentioned adding or expanding include clinical psychology, counseling (clinical, clinical and school mental health), and social work.

NAU plans to increase occupational therapy enrollment capacity by 167% by adding a hybrid option to the Phoenix Bioscience Core facility. Likewise, it plans to increase enrollment in its physical therapy program by 250% by adding a “hybrid platform” and a new program site at its Yuma campus.

The NAU’s FY2023 proposal for its New Economy Initiative (NEI) funds includes $10 million for nursing and $9 million for allied and behavioral health. According to the presentation, some 106,000 jobs and $102.2 billion in economic output are expected from the move among its impacts.

Other considerations for achieving the goals include specialty accreditation and requirements for adding sites or registration that each program would need, as well as staffing, facilities, and clinical placements.

One solution mentioned by Pugliesi was the development of simulation facilities – which would reduce the number of clinical hours needed and pressure on placement capacity while supporting continuing education. Healthcare partnerships are also “core to our expansion strategy,” she said.

Asked about accreditation, which had been a limiting factor in the past, Pugliesi said the university used “a bit of strategy and timing.”

NAU chooses to focus on programs at different paces, based on their varying requirements (for example, Pugliesi described nursing program requirements as “less restrictive”) and to add different program sites, rather than expanding cohorts in existing programs (another area that takes longer because it has more restrictive requirements).

The university is also looking at these longer-term accreditation processes, she said in response to a question.

“The lift involved in obtaining accreditation for a new site is a heavier lift, which means there is more documentation and process required, but there is not the same type of constraint on how often you can do it and how long you have to wait afterwards,” she says.

Items she mentioned as having specific timelines include the SLP program in Yuma (expected to begin this summer), the hybrid occupational therapy program (“next year”), and the expansion of the nursing program ( assuming the hiring goes well “over this coming year.”.

The full committee meeting, including Pugliesi’s presentation, is available on ABOR’s YouTube.

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