Nevada System of Higher Education
Health Sciences System Newsletter 
December 2012
The Health Sciences System (HSS) was established by the Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) Board of Regents in 2006. Its purpose is to address Nevada's community health issues through a system-wide effort to integrate and expand the education of health professionals and to foster collaborative research in health and health care.  Through collaboration among the NSHE institutions and a broad range of external partners, the HSS intends to be a catalyst for improvement in the health and wellness of Nevada.  Visit us at:
Nevada universities' collaborative Doctor of Nursing Practice degree accredited

In the fall of 2010, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and the University of Nevada, Reno joined forces to begin offering a collaborative Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree to meet a growing need for nursing professionals equipped to assume leadership roles in the state. The innovative program has been extremely successful, and a few weeks ago, the universities were notified that it has been accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.


The process to earn accreditation was a long and arduous one, beginning almost two years ago when the program began a required extensive self-study that addressed the accreditation standards set forth by the Commission. Those standards include program quality, in terms of mission and governance, institutional commitment and resources, and curriculum and teaching-learning practices; and program effectiveness, as evidenced by aggregate student and faculty outcomes. After the self-study was complete, accreditation reviewers made site visits March 5-8 to both campuses to further assess the program.


Although official notification of the accreditation was just received last month, the accreditation is effective retroactively to the first date the Commission representatives visited the program in March this year.


"That is great news, because it means that the program's first 20 graduates who received their degrees in May have graduated from a CCNE-accredited program," Patsy Ruchala, director of the University of Nevada, Reno Orvis School of Nursing, explained. "It really speaks to the quality of the program that it has been accredited for our very first graduating class." 


"This program is in response to a critical need for advanced practice nurses and executives prepared at the doctoral level to help meet these needs in our state, as well as across the country, and to serve as leaders in much needed health-care reform," Carolyn Yucha, dean of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas School of Nursing, said.


Click here to read the full announcement


William N. Pennington Foundation donates $300,000 to TMCC for Dental Hygiene and Dental Assisting programs

The William N. Pennington Foundation has recently made a gift of $300,000 to fund the renovation and upgrade of instructional spaces for TMCC's dental hygiene and dental assisting programs. The Pennington Foundation was formed by the late William N. Pennington, a gaming industry pioneer and philanthropist, whose legacy of extreme generosity continues to support our Northern Nevada community today.

"TMCC's dental assisting and dental hygiene programs both boast extraordinary job placement rates for our graduates seeking employment," said Dr. Maria Sheehan, President of TMCC. "This critical investment from the William N. Pennington Foundation will upgrade the instructional space with the most modern technologies and ensure TMCC's high educational standards will be met for decades to come. We are deeply grateful to the Pennington Foundation for their commitment to educating northern Nevada's students in these important workforce development areas."

TMCC's Dental Hygiene program is ranked in the top 5 programs out of 364 programs nationwide based on the graduates' scores on the required national exam. In 2012, 100% of Dental Hygiene students passed their certification exams. TMCC's Dental Assisting program is the only program of its kind in northern Nevada, and is accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation. In 2011, 100% of Dental Assistant students passed the certification exam (data not yet available for 2012). TMCC's Dental Assisting and Dental Hygiene programs are in their 25th and 13th years, respectively.

The significant renovations funded by the William N. Pennington Foundation will upgrade the facilities to state-of-the-art instructional laboratories and hands-on teaching clinics. In the Dental Clinic area, the funds will provide for radiology equipment, electronic teaching station with camera system, and additional dental chair stations. In TMCC's Dental Materials Lab, improvements will include new Smart classroom technology and critical wet-room improvements and furnishings.  
New WNC "Wintermester" class provides accelerated learning  


WNC offers a 'Wintermester' class on weekends during the winter break. Dr. Steve Carman, a WNC biophysical sciences professor, is devoting his weekends to teach Biology 251, a four-credit class that covers bacteria, viruses, fungi and disease-causing microbes, as well as lab instruction. It meets Dec. 15-16, 22-23 and 29-30, Jan. 5-6 and 12-13.

Carman said the offering fits with WNC's commitment to think outside the box with teaching ideas that will benefit students.

"I like looking for different ways of improving student learning, and moving students along at the speed of life," Carman said. The class is a prerequisite for nursing students at WNC, as well as those transferring into other nursing programs in Nevada.

Carman said immersing students with a large amount of information in a short period of time has been proven effective. "Statistically, students in accelerated courses show no difference in final course grade; however, some student grades are much higher, as is the course completion rate."

He said WNC's biology faculty has placed an emphasis on reducing the number of students who must repeat classes. This class format should help students expedite the learning process and pass a required course.

"I hear from students that taking an accelerated courses is as close as they can get to the intensity and workload they get in nursing school without actually being in nursing school," Carman said.


Nevada State College nurse residency program celebrates second year of success at Sunrise Hospital & Medical Center  

NSC Nurse Residency Program  




















Graduates of the nurse residency program pose with President Bart Patterson and NSC faculty during the program's December graduation.
Marking the end of the program's second year, 28 nurses graduated from the Nevada State College (NSC) and Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center (SHMC) nurse residency program on Monday, Dec. 10. Brought to the hospital in late 2010, the collaborative program promotes retention as well as ongoing education for first-year nurses.


"We're proud to say that the retention rate of the 2012 class is over 90%," said NSC Assistant Dean of Nursing, Ruby Wertz. "On a national level, first-year nurses who do not participate in residency programs have a retention rate closer to 75%."


All graduates of the year-long program are currently employed throughout the hospital in areas such as med/surg and the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). The 25 nurses from the 2011 program cohort have also continued working at the hospital and will be moving into their third year of employment. "If nurses work at the hospital bedside for their first year, it is likely they will stay for their entire career," added Leslie Hunter-Johnson, the SHMC nurse resident coordinator and palliative care coordinator.


In addition to retention, the residency program encourages nurses to be leaders and change agents throughout their careers. During the program, the nurses participated in evidence-based group research projects on topics such as improving Hospital Consumer Assessment of Health Plans Survey (HCAHPS) scores, updating hospital policies and procedures on tube feeding, and the encouragement of kangaroo care. Topics were selected by the groups based on the needs of their individual units.


Six groups presented their projects during the December celebration sharing details on their research, personal experiences, and next steps for the projects such as implementation strategies or follow up research that can be taken over by future cohorts.


A new group of nurses was welcomed into the residency program in November and a second group will start later in December.

The celebration concluded with each nurse being recognized by Minta Albietz, CNO at SHMC and Sherrilyn Coffman, dean of the college's school of nursing. Each nurse received a certificate of completion as well as a pin.


The curriculum utilized in the program is adapted from the UHC/American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) Nurse Residency Program. The NSC/SHMC nurse residency program is the first in the state to use this curriculum and the first to be initiated by a college or university, rather than a hospital.


The program is open to Bachelor of Science in nursing graduates from any college. The recent cohort included seven NSC alumni as well as others from the University of Nevada Las Vegas, Touro University, and Roseman University.


For more information on the program, please email

Did you know: 
The Nevada System of Higher Education has 150 distinct Health Sciences programs throughout eight institutions with an estimated total of 18,000 enrolled students.
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