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JU and UTHSC share ENP program success stories

Nurses prepare to deliver emergency care

Monday May 5, 2014
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Leigh Hart,RN
(Photo courtesy of Jacksonville University)
Treating emergency patients requires a special skill set, something universities with emergency nurse practitioner programs offer aspiring advanced practice nurses who want to work on the busy units.

“I thought [nurse practitioners] could meet a need in the emergency room; we just needed the right program,” said Leigh Hart, ARNP-BC, PhD, professor at Jacksonville (Fla.) University. In 2007, she and her colleagues began a program at the university, where she has worked since 1997.

The JU ENP program is built on the foundation of a family nurse practitioner program that prepares students to care for patients across the lifespan, and includes mental and women’s health courses. In addition, ENP students take adult and pediatric emergency courses and complete a capstone project.

JU requires applicants have a year of ED experience. About six to 10 students enroll annually, and about 30 have graduated since the program began. They can complete the capstone program in their local facilities.

Emergency physicians teach ENP courses along with an NP faculty member. “We need to collaborate with physicians in practice, so this is a good learning experience for them,” Hart said. “It teaches NP students how to work with physicians professionally at the nurse practitioner level, and it shows the physicians what the nurse practitioner education entails.”

JU offers ENP to DNP

Jacksonville University offers a seamless progression from the ENP/FNP program to a DNP degree. Next year, JU will offer a BSN-to-DNP program, which would offer nurse practitioner licensure after completion of the doctoral program.

“The DNP gives them additional skills in research, leadership and in our program, advanced diagnostics and treatment and epidemiology,” Hart said. “It also opens the door for them to teach.”


Elda G. Ramirez, RN
UTHSC ENP program

The University of Texas Health Sciences Center at Houston School of Nursing offers an ENP program in conjunction with an FNP and as a post-master’s program.

Elda G. Ramirez, RN, PhD, FNP-C, FAANP, associate professor of nursing at UTHSC, began the program in 1994 after working for years as an ED RN and then as an FNP in an ED.

For NPs, the program broke down barriers including the lack of specialized preparation for treating patients in the emergency setting and resistance of group emergency medicine practices in hiring NPs to work in the ED, according to Ramirez.

UTHSC sets a maximum of 26 ENP students, who gain clinical experience at 15 sites. They also take additional adult and pediatric classes. About 340 ENPs have graduated. "Every single student who wants an ER job gets one," Ramirez said. “There are not enough providers in emergency departments to give care.”


Kara Hill, RN
JU ENP grad shares her experience

Kara Hill, RN-BC, MSN, NP-C, CEN, works at EmCare in Jacksonville, after completing the Jacksonville University ENP program in 2012.

“I felt very prepared when I got out,” said Hill, who had worked as an RN in the emergency setting. “I had fantastic preceptors, and it made a huge difference.”
Hill found the interdisciplinary teaching valuable in that it taught her how to work with attending physicians, when to seek their advice and when to ask them to immediately evaluate a patient.

“I love the pace, the adrenaline, the mix [of patients], all of the stuff that comes with the ER,” Hill said. Now, “I can care for a patient from start to finish.”

ENPs establish new professional organization

Ramirez and fellow ENPs established the American Academy of Emergency Nurse Practitioners in October 2013. The organization plans to establish standards for ENPs and educational programs.

“Our organization, we are hoping, is the one physician groups and boards of nursing will come to,” Ramierez said.

Ramirez estimates the organization’s website (AAENP-NATL.org) will be live in August 2014. For more information, call the AAENP at 713-375-2748.


Debra Anscombe Wood, RN, is a freelance writer. Post a comment below or email editorSouth@nurse.com.