UC Davis announced last week that it will offer master’s degrees for nurse practitioners and physician assistants starting with classes enrolling this summer.
A growing population of older adults, a shortage of providers and the estimated 6 million Californians who will begin received healthcare under federal reforms have combined to create a need for such expertise.
Of the 1,000 nurse practitioners and physicians assistants the UCD School of Medicine’s family and community medicine department has graduated during the past 40 years, 67 percent have gone on to work in underserved areas. Seventy percent have focussed on primary care.
“We needed to find a way to continue that and sustain the program. It was clear the program needed to provide its graduates master’s degrees,” said Klea Bertakis, department chair, in a news release.
UCD offers graduate certificates to both the family nurse practitioner and physician assistant track, but master’s degrees require a nurse practitioner license. Currently, students earn their licenses as part of an agreement with Sacramento State University, but it that requires them to apply and pay fees to both universities.
Bertakis said that the length of the program, the only one of its kind in the UC system, will not change greatly. The curriculum will change dramatically to teach the additional skills students will need, however.
Enrollment is expected to increase from 60 students per year to 80 by 2017.
The program, which originated in 1970 in UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health, will move to UCD’s Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing. Associate Vice Chancellor and Dean Heather Young said that will allow the program to be part of the nursing science and healthcare leadership graduate degree program led by more than 40 faculty from nursing, medicine, nutrition, statistics, pharmacy and public health.
The physician assistant program is the only one of its kind in the UC system.