Ninety years after the Sisters of Mercy founded a two-year college for women in their Cedar Rapids community, Mount Mercy University is expanding its offerings — again — by adding its first-ever doctoral programs.
The now four-year, co-educational Catholic liberal arts university that enrolls 1,800-plus students a year will start offering a Doctor of Nursing Practice and a Doctor of Marriage and Family Therapy in fall 2018.
The programs will become the first-ever doctorates offered at a campus based in Cedar Rapids — which also boasts Coe College, a private four-year liberal arts college that awards bachelor degrees of arts, music and science in nursing.
Excluding the upcoming doctorate additions, Mount Mercy offers more than 45 undergraduate programs, online learning options and six master’s degrees, which it began offering in 2008.
Student and industry demand are behind the new programming, as Associate Provost Tom Castle said more traditional and non-traditional students are seeking careers in those fields.
“Faculty from both programs consulted with members of the professional community and alumni to determine potential demand,” Castle said in an email to The Gazette. “In both programs, national demand supports growth in these fields.”
Many prospective students and alumni already have expressed interest in applying to the programs, which have been accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
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“We already received our first application for the (nursing) program just this week,” Castle said. “But we have waited for accreditation approval before we started recruiting.”
Both programs have an application deadline of June 1 for this first cohort.
Castle expects first cohorts of up to 15 students for its doctor of Nursing Practice program and five to 10 for its Marriage and Family Therapy doctorate.
The Doctor of Nursing Practice program aims to meet worker demand and fill a workforce need — a nursing shortage continues to affect the health care industry locally and nationally.
Mount Mercy’s Doctor of Marriage and Family Therapy program, however, fills a unique niche, in that it becomes one of just two in Iowa and will be the only “practice-oriented” program in the state, using an apprenticeship model and building on the school’s master’s level Marriage and Family Therapy program.
Mount Mercy has set tuition at $800 per credit for its Doctor of Nursing Practice program — which requires students to earn 30 to 81 credits, taking 1.5 to 3.5 years, depending on a person’s previous education.
It has set rates at $650 per credit for its Doctor of Marriage and Family Therapy program — requiring 60 credit hours, or about four years.
Both of those rates are above Mount Mercy’s master’s degree rates — including its online Master of Business Administration program, which comes closest at $630 per credit hour.
Mount Mercy believes itself particularly well-suited to offer doctoral programming in the nursing and family therapy fields, Castle said, as its faculty have experience providing doctoral education and have been preparing for the new programs for years.
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As for new costs to the university, Castle said, Mount Mercy has an infrastructure for graduate education — meaning primary new costs will be in faculty salaries. The family therapy program will require one new faculty member, adding to the three full-time faculty teaching in the master’s program.
The nursing program will start with two new faculty members, supplementing others already on campus.
Doctor of Nursing Practice
Curricula for Mount Mercy’s face-to-face nursing doctorate focuses on primary health care, including in rural settings. It also offers experiences in innovation and develops entrepreneurial skills, according to Mount Mercy officials.
Workforce demand is demonstrated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which projects overall employment of nurse practitioners to grow 36 percent between 2016 and 2026 — faster than the average for all jobs. Demand for advance practice registered nurses is expected to be even higher — especially in underserved areas such as rural communities, representing one of Iowa’s greatest needs.
Mount Mercy will admit students for its nursing doctorate program via three tracks. One is specific to nurse practitioners with master’s degrees; a second for nurses with master’s degrees but no nurse practitioner license who want a doctorate and to prepare for family nurse practitioner certification; and a third for students who have earned bachelor’s degrees in nursing and want a master’s degree with the option to complete their doctorate and prepare for certification.
The program would be offered one class at a time, in five-week blocks, one day a week. The in-person instruction would include time in the lab, team projects, and clinicals in primary and specialty care settings.
For more information, visit mtmercy.edu/dnp.
Doctor of Marriage and Family Therapy
Mount Mercy’s program would employ an apprenticeship model, allowing students to work alongside faculty in a “collaborate, personalized environment.” That makes the Mount Mercy doctorate unique, according to Randall R. Lyle, the Gerald and Audrey Olson endowed chair for marriage and family therapy.
“This enables students to use existing knowledge and skills in more integrative ways, as well as model systems of cooperation that extend the understanding of therapy beyond the specific therapy setting,” Lyle said in a statement.
The program — which combines face-to-face and online instruction with residential experiences — offers specializations in advanced couples therapy, leadership and business, and neuroscience and psychology.
For more information, visit mtmercy.edu/dmft.
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