A Q&A about the Doctor of Nursing Practice Program at UIW

The Ila Faye Miller School of Nursing and Health Professions at UIW offers the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program to nursing students. We spoke with Dr. Diana Beckmann-Mendez, BSN-DNP track coordinator/FNP concentration leader, about this program at UIW.

UIW: Tell me more about the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program.

Beckmann-Mendez: The DNP is a terminal professional degree in nursing practice, an alternative to the research focused doctoral degree. The curriculum for the DNP degree builds on traditional master’s programs by providing education in evidence-based practice, quality improvement, and systems leadership.

The DNP program at the Ila Faye Miller School of Nursing and Health Professions began in 2011 with the MSN to DNP track.  Initially, the program was for students who already had a master’s degree in nursing and were recognized by the State of Texas as an Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRN).  (APRNs are registered nurses educated at either a masters or doctoral level and in a specific role/patient population. APRNs are prepared by education and certification to assess, diagnose/treat patient problems, order tests, and prescribe medications. Types of APRNs include Nurse Practitioners (NP), as well as Certified Nurse Midwives (CNM), Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA), and Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS)).

In 2014, the school opened the BSN to DNP track within the DNP program that prepares registered nurses who have a bachelor’s degree and are seeking to advance their education by earning a doctorate in nursing.  Moreover, this track prepares students to become APRNs who are then eligible to sit for the board certification exam depending on their concentration (Family Nurse Practitioner or Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner).

The outcomes of both tracks within the DNP program are to develop expert practitioners to improve patient outcomes and health.

UIW: Can you explain more about the two fields of study in the DNP program?

Beckmann-Mendez: As was described above, there are two different tracks within the DNP program.  However, within the BSN to DNP track, students can choose which concentration they would like to prepares themselves in for their future role as an APRN.  The Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) is a registered nurse with specialized educational and clinical training in family practice. FNPs are trained to work with both children and adults, most often in the context of a family practice or clinical setting. FNPs work with patients on maintaining health and wellness over the long term with a particular focus on preventative care. Many FNPs serve as the patient’s primary care provider since their scope of practice is very broad and they can treat patients of all ages.

Similar to the FNP, the other concentration that students may choose is that of a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP).  PMHNPs are advanced practice registered nurses who are trained to provide a wide range of mental health services to patients an their families in a variety of settings. PMHNPs work with patients with patients across the lifespan who have mental health issues requiring treatment.

UIW: How can this program be beneficial to current nurses?

Beckmann-Mendez: Completing a doctoral degree in nursing will help nurses advance their career on the clinical side.  Different from the PhD in nursing that focuses on research, the DNP degree will prepare the student for a leadership role in nursing while maintaining an emphasis on clinical practice.  There is a growing need for highly-trained nurses and enrolling in a DNP program will make the student more marketable to future employers.  Furthermore, with advanced education, nurses prepared at a doctoral level can positive impact their local community, improve patient care/treatment, and affect patients’ healthcare outcomes.

UIW: What type of person is best suited for this program?

Beckmann-Mendez: This program is best suited for highly motivated and dedicated nurses who would like to advance their careers.  The BSN to DNP program is an extremely rigorous program offered on a full-time basis only and takes 3 years to complete.

A Q&A about Cyber Security at UIW

UIW’s School of Media & Design offers a specialization in Cyber Security Systems through the Computer Information Systems program. We sat down with the coordinator, Phil Youngblood, to talk more about this area of study at UIW.

UIW: Why is cyber security an important field right now?

Youngblood: Cyber security has always been an important field, however, it’s been more in the news lately because we’re more connected. October was Cyber Security Awareness Month, and there was a national campaign to “Stop.Think.Connect.” Items connected to a network that you can reach with a device, whether it’s a closed circuit television, a baby monitor, refrigerator, a car, whatever, it goes out over the network. We don’t control the network. With the internet, everything you do could be going who knows where, literally one little part could be going to San Francisco or to London, because it all goes pretty much at the speed of light, and it all goes out, little pieces of it and then comes back together, so there’s no control over where it goes. Those devices are not as secure. In the future, with all the wireless technology and such, we need to have people who understand networks, hardware, software, websites and all of the vulnerabilities there are because one tiny percent, like a percentage of a percent, are people who don’t play by the rules and can cause harm.

UIW: Can you explain the cyber security systems specialization of the CIS program here at UIW?

Youngblood: There are two degrees available in the program: a B.S. in Cyber Security Systems and a B.S. in Computer Information Systems (CIS). When we created this program, I looked at all the stuff the NSA said, what Homeland Security said, all the bigger programs around the United States, and what I found was that there were a couple of ways of looking at it.

What universities generally do is look at it from a business standpoint, protecting business data, customer information, supplier information, employee information, etc. Businesses are looking for education, policies and controls. So CIS is about understanding the hardware, software, networks, how it all connects and works. The students need to know how to secure networks. On top of that, cyber security is that extra layer. You take a lot of the stuff that you already need to know for the CIS degree, and you learn how to secure networks, and systems, you learn how to build a secure design with encryption. Building layers of defense to control access. The bottom line of cyber security is controlled access, who you want to have access to the equipment and the data.

This has been an interest in San Antonio for quite some time. San Antonio has the highest concentration of cyber security experts outside of Washington, D.C. because of the confluence of military, business, high tech and all of the universities coming together.  Our CIS and Cyber Security Systems degrees are overlapping and supplementary programs. We take the tech approach with a little bit of business on the side. We want to provide our students with information that makes them as smart as the people that are hacking into places. And not just hacking in, but if our students go to work in a company, they can suggest what password to use, help make the place more secure, help to guard against vulnerability.

UIW: What kind of individual is well suited for this program?

Youngblood: It is a science degree, so it needs to be someone who is analytical, likes details, is trustworthy and cares about the company they’re in. That’s why they go to UIW. We have certain values, integrity, trustworthiness and responsibility.

UIW: Why should someone choose this program over similar programs at other universities?

Youngblood: There are some fine programs out there, but if you look, we are the only main campus, dedicated B.S. in cyber security systems in San Antonio. Other programs may have online programs but not a dedicated main campus program. We are also trying to help and support students left hanging by the closure of ITT Tech integrate into our program and be able to complete their studies. We have a proven successful program, we have the facilities, we have the experts and we have the only main campus program. The other programs are all concentrations of degrees. We worked with and talked with the NSA and Homeland Security to really understand what they were looking for and what needs to be done.

UIW: What types of courses can one expect?

Youngblood: In addition to the courses in a very robust IT degree, you also have courses that deal in three areas: 1) secure design, what can you do to make systems more impervious to unauthorized access in addition to understanding how to secure a network, 2) cryptography, understanding where data resides on the cloud, and 3) risk management, securing the organization itself, understanding the risk and vulnerabilities and applying the resources to one or the other.

UIW: What types of careers can one obtain with this degree?

Youngblood: You can get any kind of IT job. Everything from medical centers, military, to anybody that does anything with networking like Rackspace, oil companies, H-E-B, etc. But the cyber security degree has added value because safeguarding your computers, data and equipment is an integral and routine part of IT because we are so connected.

We have to understand where our data is going and where we are vulnerable. You can replace equipment, but you can’t replace information. From a business standpoint, if you lose the data, you could inadvertently give access and information to someone you don’t want to have it and suddenly the business and its reputation are damaged.