Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee

JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT

Bill No.:

SB-898

Title:

AN ACT CONCERNING PROFESSIONAL DOCTORAL DEGREE PROGRAMS.

Vote Date:

3/24/2015

Vote Action:

Joint Favorable Substitute

PH Date:

3/12/2015

File No.:

SPONSORS OF BILL:

The Board of Regents for Higher Education

REASONS FOR BILL:

The bill would allow the Board of Regents to approve certain doctoral degree programs offered by the Connecticut State University System.

RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:

Susan Pease, Dean of the Ammon College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, Central Connecticut State University:

Ms. Pease testified in support of S.B 898, citing the new requirement that the Council on Accreditation (COA) of Nurse Anesthesia Education has enacted. Accordingly, by 2025, all entry-level nurse anesthetists must have a doctoral degree. Therefore, by January 1, 2022, any student accepted into entry-level anesthesia programs will have to graduate with a doctoral degree. In order to meet this new requirement, Ms. Pease believes “we must immediately begin awarding doctoral degrees to nurse anesthetists in order to ensure a critical number of qualified personnel to serve as faculty and program directors in the profession.” If this requirement is not met, the ability for CCSU – the only public university in the northeast to offer a program in nurse anesthesia – to supply hospitals and healthcare facilities with qualified practitioners would cease to exist. In order for students to be able to pursue nurse anesthesiology through an affordable, public institution, Ms. Pease urges the committee to support passage of this bill.

Mary A. Papazian, President, Southern Connecticut State University:

President Papazian testified in support of H.B 6118, citing that current state law lets the 4 CSC's offer “education doctoral degree programs, including an education doctoral degree program in nurse education.” According to President Papazian, the ability to grant these doctoral degree programs has been sufficient enough, up until now, in benefitting the states' surrounding communities. However, standards regarding educational requirements for other professions – specifically within health and human services – have become higher. Subsequently, “the usefulness of offering certain master's degrees has decreased, in some cases forcing institutions to discontinue a program offering in which they have developed specialties, devoted resources, and filled an important role in ensuring a strong pipeline in development of a diverse workforce.” This consequence would limit both job opportunities and degree options for college students.

President Papazian goes on to discuss the importance of professional doctoral degrees, in a world where “advanced clinical doctoral preparation in applied fields is already evident in the workplace where … several disciplines already have made the move to the professional doctorate as the entry level credential to the field.” She goes on to note the ever-increasing standards required within degrees of specialization, if one wants “to advance into more practitioner and clinical administrator roles within organizations.”

Sandra Bulmer, Interim Dean for the School of Health and Human Services, Southern Connecticut State University:

Ms. Bulmer testified in support of S.B 898, hoping for the ability to offer doctoral degree programs, specifically one dealing with social work. According to her, a doctoral degree program in social work would “help to raise standards of practice in fields such as child welfare, education, and aging.” Furthermore, “stakeholders in health and mental services are demanding higher levels of competency, accountability, and evidence of the cost-effectiveness of services.” By passing this legislation, Ms. Bulmer argues that doctoral programs would be offered within an “afford and accessible” manner to Connecticut state residents, who are trying to further their education in a way that provides them with more opportunities.

Dr. Merle Harris, Member, Board of Regents:

Dr. Harris testified in support of S.B 898, focusing her attention on the ever-evolving purpose of the state schools. Subsequently, “[a]s employment and accreditation standards reflect increasing specialization in careers,” she believes it is time to adapt once more. If S.B 898 is passed, Dr. Harris claims “the Board will move in a very considered, deliberate fashion in establishing any Doctoral degree programs … [with no intention] to open the flood gates, or establish programs with the sole goal of competing with programs already established in this state.”

NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:

Terri Williams, Assistant Program Director, Nurse Anesthesia Program of Hartford:

Ms. Williams spoke in favor of S.B 898, citing the progression of the anesthesiology program within Central Connecticut State University (CCSU), which started as a certificate program and evolved into a Master's degree option. According to Ms. Williams, “[t]he objective of a doctoral in nurse anesthesia practice program is to improve patient outcomes … The ability for CCSU to continue to educate nurse anesthetists and to offer a practice doctorate (Doctor of Nurse Anesthesia Practice) will provide well-educated, qualified anesthesia providers to serve the patients of Connecticut.”

Christopher Bartels, Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist & Advanced Practice Registered Nurse, Connecticut Association of Nurse Anesthetists:

Mr. Bartels testified in support of S.B 898, citing the ability of CSU institutions to, as of now, only offer an educational doctorate for nursing education. By passing the bill, CSU institutions would be able to offer practice doctorate degrees as well. Currently, Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) works with three hospital schools of nurse anesthesia in order “to offer a Master of Science (MS) in Biological Sciences: Anesthesia.” Each of the three school's programs accreditation is sustained through the Council of Accreditation (COA) of Nurse Anesthesia Education. However, the COA now requires entry-level nurse anesthetists to have a doctoral degree by 2025. Therefore, CCSU must offer the Doctorate of Nurse Anesthesia Practice (DNAP), or else lose the ability to offer the MS in Anesthesia. According to Mr. Bartels, “[t]he DNAP will not only be available to prospective new students but also to practicing CRNAs who would like to advance their education and obtain this post master's degree.” Without the ability to offer this doctoral program, he is confident that state institutions would be at “a distinct competitive disadvantage” when trying to attract students. Furthermore, “[a] loss of these programs would cause a decrease in practitioners and an increase in the cost of training at private institutions.”

Joan Dobbins, Program Director of the Nurse Anesthesia Program, Central Connecticut State University and Hartford Hospital:

Ms. Dobbins testified in support of S.B 898, stating the health care industry is becoming more and more complex, with more people in need of health services. By allowing for the option of awarding a doctoral program, she believes it will make healthcare practitioners more effective and allow them to better meet the needs of patients.

Dr. Mary Jane M. Williams, Chair Government Relations, Connecticut Nurses Association:

Dr. Williams testified in support of S.B 898, discussing the increased need for nurses within a society where the elderly population will begin to grow larger. By failing to provide programs intended to educate and create a more qualified field of nurses, “[i]t would force closure of fully accredited vital programs that have been educating nurses in a variety of specialty areas for many years.” However, by requiring a doctoral degree, the healthcare environment would be ensuring “that nurses serving in specialty positions have the highest level of scientific knowledge and practice expertise as possible.” Dr. Williams cites the multiple reasons for why a graduate education is becoming a requirement within the field of nursing including: “the rapid expansion of knowledge underlying practice; increased complexity of patient care; national concerns about the quality of care and patient safety; shortages of nursing personnel which demands a higher level of preparation for leaders who can design and assess care; shortages of doctorally prepared nursing faculty, and increasing educational expectations for the preparation of other health professionals.” Overall, Dr. Williams strongly supports S.B 898, in order to meet the higher standards for education of Advanced Practice Nurse Practitioners and to also meet the needs for more nurses within the workforce.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:

None expressed.

Reported by:   Max Macelis, Assistant Clerk

March 30, 2015