A new program at Mesa State College could have a big impact on the future of health care in Western Colorado.
The Colorado Commission on Higher Education has approved Mesa State to begin two new graduate programs. Mesa State's first doctorate level program will be a Doctorate of Nursing Practice.
"That program will allow us to prepare nurse practitioners for our area," MSC Health Science's Department HeadKristy Ruess explains.
After graduation, nurse practitioners are trained totake care of many patient needs.
"Many nurse practitioners are employed in physician offices or practices,"Ruess says.
Having more nurse practitioners could ease the burden on Western Colorado's very busy doctors.
"We think it will help to take care of some of that need. We also need more family physicians in our area. But, I think this will really help contribute to the solution," Ruess explains.
Another new program, Masters of Science and Nursing, will prepare nurses for leadership or teaching positions.
"We have a number of nurses in our community who are getting closer to retirement age, many of whom are in leadership positions. We want to prepare the next generation," Ruess says.
Mesa State will be the only college in Western Colorado to offer both the masters and doctoral degree. The first classes start next spring.
"We know that we've got a looming shortage so we will jump start and admit fifteen next year and then fifteen as early as the following spring," Ruess says.
Students used to travel to the front range for these programs. Now, they and their dollars will stay in the Grand Valley.
"You don't find many institutions of higher learning that range from a nine month certificate to an associates degree to a bachelors degree to a masters and now to a doctorate," MSC Spokeswoman Dana Nunn says.
Mesa State still needs to get approval for these programs from the Higher Learning Commission. The approval process may take up to nine months.
Another program coming to Mesa State is designed to support one of the Grand Valley's other major industries.
"We're also adding a bachelors of applied science in hospitality management. As you know, this is a very recreational, tourist area and there's demand for folks with those skills," Nunn says.
A fourth new program will be a bachelors in Mechanical Engineering Technology. It will supplement an existing program that is a cooperative effort with the University of Colorado at Boulder.