Nurse practitioners improve clinical skills through UTPA program
Posted: 06/29/2001
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Practicing nurse practitioners in the Rio Grande Valley and students in the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program at The University of Texas-Pan American now have the opportunity to improve their clinical skills through a new course, "Special Topics: Advanced Clinical Skills for Nurse Practitioners."

The three-hour course is the first of its kind in the MSN program and is available only during the summer. It is designed to offer nurse practitioners both didactic and hands-on components to increase their marketability in the field.

Students in the "Special Topics: Advanced Clinical Skills for Nurse Practitioners" course in the UTPA Master of Science in Nursing program practice their suturing technique on a pig's skin. The course is open to nurse practitioners in the Rio Grande Valley and students in the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program at UTPA.

"Offering this course allows students and graduates to gain skills that they might not have had the opportunity to learn," said Dr. Barbara Tucker, UTPA MSN coordinator. "It also saves them money and time because they don't have to go to numerous workshops to learn only one or two skills."

In the course, students will learn how to suture, perform a diabetic foot exam, remove and treat various dermatological lesions, perform biopsies, insert intrauterine devices (IUDs) in pelvic models, remove ingrown toenails, and other clinical applications and office procedures.

Thelma Fitzgerald, a recent program graduate, said this course was a blessing because she is not spending her own money to attend various seminars and learn techniques.

"Thank God for this course because we are learning some good basic procedures, and our instructor is getting experts from all different fields to guide us," Fitzgerald said.

Frank Piña, the first male ever to graduate from the MSN program, returned to the University to improve his clinical and office skills. He said he wants to provide patients with quick solutions to their medical problems during their visits.

"If we are on our own in a clinic, a patient may come in with a gash on their arm and we would have to refer them somewhere else like an emergency room because we are not skilled in suturing," said Piña, who graduated last spring. "Now, we will be able to help them because of what we have learned here."

Tucker said many Valley nurse practitioners will end up working alone in rural clinics with no physicians on the premises, and that is why taking the course is important.

Texas has more than 3,600 nurse practitioners, Tucker said, and major metropolitan areas have adequate nurse practitioners to meet the demand. However, the Valley only has 2.7 percent of the state's total.

The new course is funded through the Advanced Nurse Education Program Grant, which was donated by the Division of Nursing of the Bureau of Health Professions in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Betty Bautista, M.N., C.S., F.N.P., instructor, believes students enrolled in this course will be more assertive on the job whether they are recent MSN graduates or veteran nurse practitioners in the community.

"The bottom line is that they will help more people and save doctors a lot of money," Bautista said. "They will be more confident and credible nurse practitioners."

An elective, the special topics class is Monday and Tuesday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. The next course will be offered for the second summer session and begins July 16.

For more information, interested applicants should contact the Master of Science in Nursing Program at 956/316-7082 or by e-mail at