- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 3, 2015

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) - Classes have started this week at Pittsburg State University for the school’s first group of students working toward a doctorate degree in nursing practice.

The coursework comes amid a need for highly educated nurse practitioners in the southeast Kansas area, largely because of a recent growth of rural health clinics, said Mary Carol Pomatto, director of the Irene Ransom Bradley School of Nursing at the university.

Around 16 students are in the program, and Pomatto said the goal was to admit 12, The Joplin Globe (http://bit.ly/1IgYRfP ) reported.

“We had a wonderful response from both our nurses and their employers,” she said. “Some employers are even helping to fund their educations because they believe in it that fully.”

Sonja Albright is a nurse practitioner in Nevada, Missouri, who specializes in family practice and urgent care at a clinic owned by the Nevada Hospital. She said she picked the program at Pittsburg State because she could complete much of the coursework online and would only have to drive to the university just one Tuesday a month.

Trina Larery of Carl Junction, Missouri, is a nurse practitioner specializing in family practice and rural health at Barton County Hospital in Lamar, Missouri. She said the program would enable her to do research and lobby for changes in medical practices.

Both Albright and Larery said the program would offer them a competitive edge and to provide the highest level of care for patients. Larery said having a “‘Dr.’ in front of our name opens much more doors.”

Pomatto said the students should finish their degree in December 2016.

“We’re breaking ground here, and I think it’s quite an honor,” she said. “That this university and our stakeholders have that much trust in us, we don’t take it lightly.”

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Information from: The Joplin (Mo.) Globe, http://www.joplinglobe.com

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