UArizona College of Nursing recruiting almost doubled in past four years

April 12, 2024

The University of Arizona College of Nursing has nearly doubled the number of pre-licensure students it has onboarded over the last four years, an impressive response to the state and national nursing shortage. In fiscal 2020, the College enrolled 283 new pre-licensure students and is projected to enroll close to 550 this year.  This unprecedented growth is just the beginning as the college plans to surpass 1,000 enrollees by fiscal year 2030.

The increase stems from the strategic plan to aggressively grow pre-licensure programs in both Gilbert and Tucson. The college launched the Bachelor of Science in Nursing-Integrative Health at the Gilbert campus in 2019 with the capacity for 24 students per semester. The program now enrolls about 216 students per year. At the same time, the college’s Master of Science in Nursing – Entry to the Profession of Nursing program has grown from about 130 students a year in 2019 to 288 students in 2024.


Quote from Dean Ahn

In 2023, the college received a $9.2 million grant from the Arizona Department of Health Services to go towards addressing the state’s nursing shortage. With those funds, the college created 158 scholarships to cover the cost of tuition and fees for students completing the college’s MS-MEPN program.

“Master's level education strengthens the workforce by enabling nurses to lead health-care teams to improve patient and population health outcomes in the state of Arizona,” said Connie Miller, DNP, RNC-OB, CNE, a clinical professor and the principal investigator for the ADHS grant. “These nurse-leaders will provide excellent, evidence-based nursing care and potentially use their graduate education as future faculty members to teach the next generation of nurses.”

Historically, the College of Nursing has received far more applications than the number of new student openings. However, with the significant growth of the nursing programs, the college is now more actively recruiting students to keep the pipeline of new nurses flowing into the expanded program capacity.

“We work very hard to proactively recruit new students to fill the larger cohorts,” said Jill Hagaman, director of student and academic affairs at the College of Nursing. “A very popular new program we have launched to recruit nursing students is a guaranteed admission for UArizona graduates with bachelor’s degrees in health sciences fields if they meet GPA requirements.”

Hagaman estimates that about 60% of the college’s enrollment growth has been in Gilbert with the remaining 40% in Tucson. She said they have also increased enrollment in the Tucson BSN program by about 20 students a year.


Nursing programs rise in US News & World Report rankings

April 10, 2024

The College of Nursing makes major leaps in the U.S. News & World Report’s latest list of Best Graduate Schools.

TUCSON, Arizona — Two University of Arizona College of Nursing graduate programs significantly improved their rankings in the U.S. News & World Report’s 2024 Best Graduate Schools list, released April 9.

The Doctor of Nursing Practice program made a major leap in the Best Nursing Schools: Doctor of Nursing Practice rankings. The program ranked No. 10 among public universities and No. 19 overall, improving from No. 31 in 2023.

“We are thrilled to see the accomplishments of our growing DNP program recognized in the rankings. Our seven clinical specialties of the DNP program are helping to provide the country with more inpatient and outpatient advanced practice registered nurses, health care leaders, and nursing scholars and educators,” said Lindsay Bouchard, DNP, associate clinical professor and interim vice chair and DNP program director.

The Master of Science – Entry to the Profession of Nursing program jumped 11 spots in the Best Nursing School: Master’s rankings to check in at No. 30 overall and No. 19 among public universities.

“We take tremendous pride in the quality of education we provide to our graduate students, and these rankings are a clear indicator that the University of Arizona College of Nursing is one of the top destinations for nursing education in the country,” said Brian Ahn, PhD, dean of the UArizona College of Nursing. “We expect this upward trajectory to continue as we expand our education portfolio to prepare the next generation of compassionate and highly skilled nurses to positively impact health care outcomes and enhance the well-being of individuals, families and communities.”

The Doctor of Nursing Practice program allows students to obtain doctorates in as little as 2.5 years of full-time study. The hybrid program utilizes online didactic coursework, on-campus intensives and practicums, and clinical placements.

“The hybrid format of our program suits the needs and promotes the professional goals of a wide variety of students, supported by our team of expert clinician faculty who deploy innovative and supportive teaching strategies. Our graduates go on to become high-performing clinicians, effective leaders, and members of nursing faculty teams,” Bouchard said. “We look forward to seeing what is on the horizon as we continue to transform the DNP program by deploying additional teaching innovations and utilizing student feedback to expand our program’s strengths and potential.”

The Master of Science – Entry to the Profession of Nursing is a 15-month program offered in both Gilbert and Tucson, Arizona. Students are trained to demonstrate professional responsibility and accountability for nursing practice, apply clinically appropriate information technology to promote patient safety and health care quality, and provide, coordinate and manage health and illness care for patients.

“Master’s-level education empowers nurses to become dynamic leaders, guiding health care teams toward enhanced patient and population health outcomes,” said Connie Miller, DNP, clinical professor and chair of the Nursing and Health Education Division at the College of Nursing. “Embracing the complexities of modern health care, our Master’s Entry to the Profession Program equips nurses with the knowledge, skills and compassion needed to drive positive change in the ever-evolving landscape of health care. Graduates are not only prepared to excel in their clinical roles, but also poised to inspire and educate future generations of nurses as esteemed faculty members, bridging the gap between practice and academia with their invaluable expertise.”

U.S. News & World Report ranks colleges and universities based on 16 measures of academic quality. The measures considered for national universities include graduation and retention rates, assessment by peers and counselors, faculty resources (such as class size, benefits and salaries), student selectivity, financial resources for students, alumni giving, and graduation rate performance, which is the difference between actual and predicted graduation rates.

Aleeca Bell, PhD, RN, CNM: Pioneering Midwifery and Research for Maternal and Infant Well-being

March 19, 2024

In a remarkable blend of personal experience and professional dedication, Dr. Bell embodies the essence of midwifery's transformative power in healthcare. Her journey from experiencing the profound joy and pain of childbirth under the care of a midwife, to becoming a beacon of research and education in the field, is a testament to her commitment to enhancing maternal and infant health.

A Personal Journey into Midwifery

For Dr. Bell, the decision to enter the field of midwifery was deeply personal. The birth of her son at home, attended by a midwife, was a pivotal moment that inspired her to pursue a career focused on providing nurturing, respectful, and informed care to women during childbirth. This experience ignited her desire to offer the same level of wise and compassionate support to other women, especially those seeking to trust their bodies in childbirth after previous disappointing or traumatic experiences. Dr. Bell’s advocacy for out-of-hospital births, attended by qualified professionals, stems from her belief in its benefits for most low-risk women, a stance supported by data on health outcomes.

Research Passion: The Well-being of Mothers and Infants

Dr. Bell's passion has extended beyond one-on-one care into the realm of research, where she explores the multifaceted aspects of maternal and infant health. Her work focuses on the benefits of physiological childbirth, the epigenetic influences of life experiences on pregnancy and postpartum outcomes, and the promotion of mother-baby synchrony. Her current NIH-funded R01 randomized clinical trial examines the impact of a multisensory infant massage in mother-baby dyads where the mother has a history of childhood adversity/trauma, aiming to enhance mother-baby engagement (synchrony) and investigate the epigenetic regulation of the oxytocin system. This groundbreaking research holds the promise of improving the lives of vulnerable populations by fostering parental-child synchrony through the modulation of oxytocin regulation.

Support from the University of Arizona College of Nursing

The University of Arizona College of Nursing has been instrumental in fostering Dr. Bell's research excellence. By providing an environment that supports her ambitious projects, such as the affectionately named Mothers and Babies Project, the College has enabled her to thrive. The welcoming community, coupled with the collaboration of brilliant faculty, dedicated staff, and skilled students, underscores the College's commitment to advancing nursing research and education.

A Lifelong Commitment to Midwifery

Dr. Bell’s association with the American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM) spans over 26 years, reflecting her longstanding commitment to the profession. Her upcoming induction as a Fellow at ACNM not only marks a personal achievement but also symbolizes the evolution of midwifery in the U.S. From her early days when home birth midwives were marginalized, to her current role as a respected perinatal researcher, Dr. Bell’s journey through midwifery illustrates the profound impact dedicated professionals can have on healthcare.

Advice for Aspiring Midwives

Dr. Bell emphasizes the urgent need for midwives in the U.S. to address severe maternal morbidity and mortality rates. She encourages those aspiring to become Certified Nurse Midwives to explore the diverse possibilities within the profession. Her career path, which has included roles as a researcher, instructor, home birth care provider, and clinic reproductive care provider, highlights the versatile opportunities available to CNMs, from hospital practice to community health services.

Dr. Bell's journey is a beacon of inspiration, demonstrating how personal experiences can fuel a lifelong mission to improve healthcare. Her dedication to midwifery, coupled with her pioneering research, continues to contribute significantly to the well-being of mothers and infants, setting a gold standard for care and compassion in the field.

Dr. Bell’s illustrious career has reached a new pinnacle with her forthcoming induction as a Fellow at the American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM). This honorable distinction, set for May 6th, 2024, recognizes her substantial contributions to the field of midwifery and her unwavering commitment to improving maternal and infant health.

UArizona College of Nursing Ranks 13th among Public Institutions in NIH Funding Recipients

Feb. 19, 2024

In 2023, the University of Arizona College of Nursing achieved significant recognition, securing the 13th position among public universities and the 19th position overall among nursing schools in National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding, as reported by the Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research (BRIMR). The College of Nursing obtained approximately $5.02 million in funding during the fiscal year 2023, marking a notable increase from $3.73 million in the fiscal year 2022. This signifies a $1.28 million increase in grants compared to the previous year, reflecting a remarkable growth of 34%.

“I extend my sincere gratitude to the faculty and staff whose dedication and efforts have led to this significant accomplishment for our college. I would like to express special appreciation for the invaluable contributions of Dr. Judith Gordon, serving as the Associate Dean for Research, and Dr. Terry Badger, in her capacity as the Director of Research Initiatives. Alongside the NIH grants, our faculty have also been successful in securing numerous non-NIH research and educational grants during the fiscal year 2023.” said Dean Hyochol Brian Ahn, PhD, APRN, ANP-BC, FAAN.

NIH awarded College of Nursing professors, including Dean Brian Ahn, PhD, APRN, ANP-BC, FAAN, Judith Gordon, PhD, Terry Badger, PhD, RN, PMHCNS-BC, FAPOS, FAAN, Kathleen C. Insel, PhD, RN, Elise Erickson, CNM, FACNM, Thaddeus Pace, PhD, Rina Fox, PhD, MPH, and Aleeca Bell, PhD, RN, CNM.

The recent rankings underscore the remarkable productivity of our faculty and highlight the significance of their research and scholarship in advancing health and well-being nationwide. Faculty members at the College of Nursing are engaged in pioneering interdisciplinary research and scholarship endeavors aimed at elevating healthcare delivery, enhancing health outcomes, tackling health equity issues, and addressing the nursing shortage.

Below are brief synopses of the projects and researchers that received NIH funding in 2023:

PI Grant # Project Title
Hyochol Ahn R01NR019051 Combination Therapy of Home-based Trans-cranial Direct Current Stimulation and Mindfulness-based Meditation for Self-management of Clinical Pain and Symptoms in Older Adults With Knee Osteoarthritis
Judith Gordon R01AT011500 Testing the Efficacy of A Scalable, Telephone-Delivered, Guided Imagery Tobacco Cessation Intervention
Terry Badger R01CA263714 Adaptive Symptom Self-Management to Reduce Psychological Distress and Improve Symptom Management for Survivors on Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors
Kathleen Insel R01NR020261 Digital Technology to Support Adherence to Hypertension Medications for Older Adults with Mild Cognitive Impairment
Elise Erickson R00NR019596 The Clock is Ticking: Epigenetic Age Acceleration as a Biomarker of Uterine Function in Pregnancy
Elise Erickson R01HD111125 Oxytocin sensitivity and postpartum hemorrhage: testing genetic and epigenetic biomarkers for improving maternal morbidity
Thaddeus Pace R01CA264047 Leveraging social connection by including informal caregivers in an internet video conference-based compassion meditation intervention to reduce psychological distress in breast cancer survivors
Thaddeus Pace R21OH012386 Reducing Psychological Distress in Fire Fighters with an Asynchronous App-based Meditation Intervention
Rina Fox K08CA247973 Improving sleep in gynecologic cancer survivors
Aleeca Bell R01NR018828 A Randomized Controlled Trial to Improve Mother-Infant Synchrony Among Women with Childhood Adversity

About the PARTO Study

Jan. 31, 2024

Most people giving birth receive a medication called oxytocin either during labor or after birth. Oxytocin causes the uterus to contract. We are studying why oxytocin may work better for some people than others, leading to easier labor or less bleeding postpartum.

Why is this study being done?

Some individuals giving birth have longer or more difficult labors than others or will have severe bleeding after birth, called postpartum hemorrhage. The goal of this study is to understand why oxytocin, a medication used to cause uterine contractions, works better in some people than others.

What does oxytocin do?

Oxytocin helps to speed up labor and to prevent hemorrhage after birth, but it does not work equally well in all people. With this research, we hope to better predict who will experience more complicated births than others and find new ways of preventing or treating these problems.

Who is conducting this study?

Dr. Elise Erickson, PhD is a researcher, Certified Nurse-Midwife and Assistant Professor at the University of Arizona College of Nursing. She has been a nurse-midwife since 2005 and researching oxytocin use in labor since 2014. She has observed in prior studies that genetic and epigenetic differences were related to how much oxytocin was needed during labor and how much postpartum bleeding people experienced.

How long does the study take?

The study activities should take 20-30 minutes after enrollment.

What are the participants asked to do?

Dr. Erickson is asking pregnant participants to contribute a cheek swab and single sample of saliva between 38-41 weeks of pregnancy that will be used to study genetic and epigenetic information. Participants will also be asked to complete a survey about their current pregnancy, feelings about their health and environment including feelings about stress. Women planning a C-section are asked to provide a small bit of tissue from the incision after delivery. This is to study how oxytocin affects the uterus (womb) directly.

Is there any compensation?

Participants will receive a $25 gift card, with an additional $25 if donating a tissue sample.

What is genetic information?

Genetic information is stored in the body as DNA code. DNA tells the body to make certain features like height, blood type or eye color. This code is hereditary, or passed on from parents to children. The DNA code that tells the body to how to use oxytocin is slightly different from person to person. We are studying if these differences are related to better oxytocin responses during childbirth.

What is "epigenetics"?

Epigenetics are differences in how easily DNA can be used or how it is stored in the cell. Some epigenetic changes make it harder for the body to use a specific gene/DNA code. For example, if less DNA is available for letting oxytocin work, it might affect how well the body responds to the medication.

Additional Information

An informational video can be accessed here. The self-referral contact form can be found here.

An Institutional Review Board responsible for human subjects research at The University of Arizona reviewed this research project and found it to be acceptable, according to applicable state and federal regulations and University policies designed to protect the rights and welfare of participants in research.


Dr. Elise Erickson, PhD, CNM
College of Nursing & College of Pharmacy
The University of Arizona

Sobre el Estudio PARTO

Jan. 31, 2024

La mayoría de las personas que dan a luz reciben un medicamento llamado oxitocina, ya sea durante el trabajo de parto / después del nacimiento. La oxitocina hace que el útero se contraiga. Estamos estudiando por qué la oxitocina podría funcionar mejor en algunas personas que en otras y facilitar el trabajo de parto o reducir el sangrado posparto.

¿POR QUÉ se hace este estudio?

Algunas personas que dan a luz podrían tener trabajos de parto más prolongados o más difíciles que otras, o tendrán sangrado intenso después de dar a luz, lo que se denomina hemorragia posparto. El objetivo de este estudio es comprender por qué la oxitocina, un medicamento utilizado para provocar contracciones uterinas, funciona mejor en algunas personas que en otras.

¿QUÉ hace la oxitocina?

La oxitocina ayuda a acelerar el trabajo de parto y a prevenir hemorragias después de dar a luz, pero no funciona igual de bien en todas las personas. Con esta investigación, esperamos predecir mejor qué personas podrán experimentar partos más complicados que otras y encontrar nuevas formas de prevenir o tratar estos problemas.

¿QUIÉN realiza el estudio?

La Dra. Elise Erickson, PhD, es investigadora, enfermera partera certificada y profesora auxiliar en la Facultad de Enfermería de la University of Arizona. Ha sido enfermera partera desde 2005 y ha investigado el uso de oxitocina en el trabajo de parto desde 2014. En estudios anteriores, observó que las diferencias genéticas y epigenéticas estaban relacionadas con la cantidad de oxitocina que se necesitaba durante el trabajo de parto y la cantidad de sangrado posparto que experimentaban las personas.

¿CUÁNTO TIEMPO dura el estudio?

Las actividades del estudio deberían durar entre 20 y 30 minutos después de la inscripción.

¿Hay alguna compensación?

Las participantes recibirán una tarjeta de regalo de $25, con $25 adicionales si donan una muestra de tejido.

¿QUÉ se les pide a los participantes que hagan?

La Dra. Erickson pide a las participantes embarazadas que contribuyan con un hisopado bucal y una muestra única de saliva entre las semanas 38 y 41 de embarazo que se usarán para estudiar la información genética y epigenética. También se les pedirá a las participantes que completen una encuesta sobre su embarazo actual, sus sentimientos sobre su salud y su entorno, incluidos los sentimientos en relación con el estrés. A las mujeres que planean recibir una cesárea se les pide que proporcionen un poco de tejido de la incisión después del parto. Esto es para estudiar cómo la oxitocina afecta el útero (matriz) directamente.

¿QUÉ es la información genética?

La información genética se almacena en cada célula del cuerpo en forma de un código llamado ADN, y el ADN le indica al cuerpo que genere ciertas características, como la altura, el tipo de sangre o el color de los ojos. Este código es hereditario, es decir, se transmite de padres a hijos.El código de ADN que le indica al cuerpo cómo usar la oxitocina es ligeramente diferente de una persona a otra.Estamos estudiando si estas diferencias se relacionan con mejores respuestas a la administración de oxitocina durante el parto.

¿QUÉ es la “epigenética”?

La epigenética abarca el estudio de los factores externos que pueden modificar el ADN sin cambiar su secuencia. Algunos cambios epigenéticos pueden resultar en dificultad del organismo para procesar correctamente una secuencia específica de algún código genético o de algún gen. Por ejemplo, la falta de ADN disponible para que la oxitocina trabaje correctamente puede resultar en una respuesta corporal inusual hacia el medicamento.

Información Adicional

Se puede acceder a un vídeo informativo aquí. El formulario de contacto para el enlace de auto-referencia se puede encontrar aquí.

Una junta de revisión institucional responsable de la investigación con sujetos humanos en la University of Arizona revisó este proyecto de investigación y lo encontró aceptable, de acuerdo con las reglamentaciones estatales y federales aplicables y las políticas de la universidad diseñadas para proteger los derechos y el bienestar de los participantes en la investigación.


Dra. Elise Erickson, PhD, CNM
College of Nursing & College of Pharmacy
The University of Arizona

UArizona College of Nursing MEPN program in Gilbert is uniquely educational, recent graduate says

Jan. 24, 2024

In December 2021, the University of Arizona College of Nursing Master of Science – Entry to the Profession of Nursing (MS-MEPN) program opened in Downtown Gilbert, Arizona.

The MEPN program is intended for those who hold a degree in a different field and are interested in becoming registered nurses. MEPN is an accelerated 15-month program that prepares its students to become a registered nurse in for the Front of Health Care. Prior to the opening of the program in Gilbert, the program was only offered in Tucson; however, with the current nursing staff shortage across the nation, the MEPN program is aimed to help fill the need of nearly 1 million nurses projected by 2030.

Recent graduate of the MEPN program, Niko Ramos who is a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Student, recently accepted a position with the College of Nursing for the MEPN Gilbert program as a part-time core faculty member focusing on the Psychiatric-Mental Health Block Level 3

Niko explained, since MEPN is an accelerated program, students at the Gilbert campus can gain valuable and uniquely educational experiences from hands-on clinical education and training to building gratifying friendships with cohorts in a short period of time.

"I think Gilbert has a very strong ability of controlling the environment that the nursing students are within. I have educated other schools and precepted other students in the hospital [setting]. And I have found that since U of A [University of Arizona] is, I don’t want to say isolated, but within its own little area and Gilbert, you find that the students all are aiming for the same thing. They're all going towards the same goal. So, there's not a lot of distractions, you end up finding like-minded people, you end up studying the same thing, you project each other forward because everyone is going in the same direction. I think Gilbert is very unique in that way. So, a lot of the times that people are transplants from other states or other cities, so they are only there to study. And I think that really helps to fuel. What I found enjoyable was a very tight knit community of people that all wanted to find the same goal. So why did I guess why did I like it rather than choose it was because I became very good friends with my classmates, I still talk with them."

Prior to Niko’s decision to go into nursing, he was deciding whether he wanted to go to medschool, but after he spoke with fellow classmates, he realized nursing was what he envisioned himself doing long-term.

"I got to shadow a nurse practitioner, and she was a lot more of what I envisioned, I wanted to be. And when talking to her, she just brought up ‘you know, you can do nursing, and if you ever wanted to go back, you can be a nurse practitioner.’ So, and then take what you've learned as a nurse into being a provider. So that's kind of the whole highlight of where I'm at now – is I really believe the things that I learned in MEPN. And the rigor of the program helped me not only to succeed as a nurse, but also to help me to understand the importance of bedside manners, therapeutic communication, and taught me a lot of discipline that I still will take into being a nurse practitioner"

The fast-paced program allows students the opportunity to discover where they envision themselves in health care, whether that is staying in school to advance their education or go straight into a hospital, clinic, or physician’s office.

"I like nursing, because there's also a variety of different things that you can do with it. Point this back to MEPN, I think MEPN is uniquely capable of educating and through the rigor of the program, developing nurses that I feel are ready for advanced – either advanced careers, advanced jobs, doing leadership within the hospital taking on higher roles than I've seen other people and I have seen that with my classmates and I've seen that with the kids that I have interacted with just they just seem more mature."

Not only are MEPN students studying and preparing to become nurses, but the environment students are in – gives them a chance to grow and mature from the day a student starts to the day they graduate, Niko explained.

"Everyone in the same path, having those same conversations having that same minus, I think, really develops, or accelerates the maturity of those kids, I always tell them from the first day they walk in to the third, till the day they graduate, they're going to be an entirely different person. Just because of how much you have to mature through that program, that's when it's accelerated when all of that pressure is under you, on top of you, it really does help to develop that person into being a stronger version of themselves. And I do think it prepares them for being an actual nurse and the trials that come with it."

While nursing can come with its difficulties, between interceding with fellow staff to the family of a patient, Niko added, that the MEPN program offers mental health resources to its students to help navigate those experiences.

"I’ll speak for the Gilbert program, I'm really happy with because they seem to be the only program that cares about the mental health of their students, and has assignments or has requirements, that focus on them developing their own skills and coping skills so that when they face those, not as fun situations in nursing, they can handle them so that we have their attention and they can continue to develop. And I think that also ends up resulting in the students being put into leadership, these students being asked to do more, because they've shown that they are more resilient and better educated than other colleges."

With the program being advanced, students will start the first month with classes and rigorous studying, Niko explained, after that, students will go on to the clinicals and experience the clinical education portion of the program – allowing the students to structure their day with ease.

"If I were to tell new grads or new students – would be your first block is going to be your hardest ever. Because you don't understand what you're doing yet. It's kind of like starting a new job. And everyone's just throwing stuff at you. Yeah. So, and you don't know you don't know the shortcuts. You don't understand what the study you don't understand. But my biggest suggestion would be hold on until that clinical block is done. And then you can breathe. Because for that first part, you're sprinting as fast as you can, through that block. After that, when you start going to clinicals it is 100 times easier because you can actually space out your days."

Whether a student is an undergraduate seeking their Bachelor of Science in Nursing or going into the MEPN program, the nursing field offers schedule flexibility from working three days on to three days off or to become a travel nurse, Niko explained, there’s an option for everyone interested in the field.

"Have fun with it. There's so many different things that you can do with it. There's so many different avenues. Just because you don't like one thing doesn't mean that you can't do another thing. Travel? [I] mean there's just so many different avenues. You can just do a nine to five you can do three days a week. You can travel the world and get paid to do it."

Niko is currently serving as a nurse, and in May 2024, Niko will receive his degree in Doctor of Nursing Practice. He will move on to become a psychiatric nurse practitioner in clinics or private practices.

Dean Brian Ahn | The First Six Months at the College of Nursing

Dec. 21, 2023

Dean Ahn it’s been just over six months since you became Dean of the College of Nursing, you relocated to Tucson from across the country. Please describe your experience at the College and in Tucson so far?

Over the past six months, I have been deeply impressed by the unwavering commitment and tireless efforts demonstrated by our esteemed faculty, dedicated staff, invaluable community and hospital partners, as well as our diligent students. It has become abundantly clear to me why The University of Arizona College of Nursing has earned its distinguished reputation as a national institution renowned for its excellence in nursing programs and cutting-edge research.

My time residing in Tucson, Arizona, has been truly enjoyable. The defining feature of Tucson is its abundant sunshine, making it an attractive destination for those who savor a constant, sun-filled ambiance.

Having spent nearly two decades in both Florida and Texas, I found myself longing for the majestic presence of mountains, a longing that Tucson has admirably fulfilled.

Moreover, the presence of my wife, who is a dedicated bedside nurse tirelessly caring for patients, has further enriched our experience. Considering her demanding schedule, we frequently opt to dine out, and I have come to appreciate Tucson's diverse culinary landscape. The city, UNESCO designated the city of gastronomy, offers an eclectic fusion of Mexican, Southwestern, and international cuisine, making dining a truly gratifying experience.

In sum, my tenure at The University of Arizona College of Nursing and my life in Tucson have been marked by profound appreciation for the institution's unwavering dedication and the city's vibrant and diverse offerings. The convergence of academic excellence, natural beauty, and cultural richness has made this experience truly memorable.

Describe what a typical day is like for you?

My daily routines can exhibit some variation depending on specific circumstances and priorities, but I'm pleased to provide a comprehensive overview of what a typical day in my role as Dean of the College of Nursing at the University of Arizona might entail.

My day usually starts early, allowing me some personal time for preparation and planning. As part of my daily schedule, I rise at around 4 AM and set aside time for physical well-being, engaging in a one-hour workout at the gym. Afterward, I allocate 30 minutes for meditation, ensuring mental clarity and focus. Following that, I dive into my emails and correspondence, an essential step to stay informed about any urgent matters or developments that demand immediate attention.

Throughout the day, I engage in regular meetings with the College of Nursing's leadership team, including our esteemed faculty and staff. In these interactions, we delve into a multitude of subjects, including ongoing initiatives, administrative intricacies, and strategic planning. Collaboratively, we explore strategies aimed at elevating the academic quality and reputation of the College. This encompasses the identification of opportunities for growth, the inception of research endeavors, and the pursuit of innovation within the realm of nursing education and practice. Additionally, we engage in discussions concerning budgetary allocations, prudent resource management, and comprehensive financial planning.

My role entails expanding and nurturing relationships with our valuable community and hospital partners. These connections are instrumental in fostering collaborative projects and spearheading fundraising endeavors that bolster the college's initiatives.

A vital aspect of my responsibilities includes active participation in external events, conferences, and meetings that are germane to the domains of nursing education and healthcare leadership. Furthermore, as a national advisory council member for the American Academy of Nursing's Edge Runners program, I work closely with other distinguished national leaders. Together, we champion pioneering ideas that engender transformative shifts in the healthcare landscape, underscore the pivotal role of nurses, and epitomize leadership, innovation, and unwavering determination within the nursing profession.

My engagement extends beyond the college, encompassing participation in university-level administrative meetings and dialogues with senior university officials. These interactions are essential for alignment with broader university strategies and objectives.

I find immense fulfillment in a dynamic deanship role that necessitates a delicate equilibrium between the college's strategic vision and the day-to-day operational and administrative demands. The success of our endeavors is profoundly enriched by our collaboration with our exceptional faculty, dedicated staff, talented students, invaluable hospital and community partners, and cherished alumni. Together, we endeavor to elevate the College of Nursing to new heights of excellence.

You have a significant background with both computer engineering and nursing science, and you see the potentials for direct impact to patient health through combining computer technology with nursing science. What is your vision with integrating nursing and engineering to?

I hold a Bachelor's and Master's degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering, with approximately six years of working experience in the field of computer engineering. With a unique blend of expertise in nursing, medicine, and computer engineering, I am dedicated to leveraging mobile and connected computer technology to optimize the delivery of home-based nonpharmacological interventions and enhance patient-centered outcomes within chronically ill and aging populations, particularly among underserved communities. Over the years, my research efforts have garnered continuous funding since 2011, including the prestigious NIH/NINR R01 award as a Principal Investigator (R01NR019051). Additionally, I have authored over 80 peer-reviewed publications and presented at more than 90 scientific conferences, focusing on healthcare technology, health equity, symptom science, and population health and wellness. I firmly believe that the fusion of computer technology with nursing science has the potential to significantly impact patient health across multiple domains. Below, I outline key areas where this integration can yield substantial benefits:

Wearable Health Devices: Collaboration between engineering and nursing can result in the development of wearable health devices, such as smartwatches and fitness trackers, capable of collecting and transmitting health data. Nurses can utilize this data for remote monitoring of vital signs, enabling them to provide timely interventions when necessary.

Robotics and Automation: Robotics and automation technologies can assist nurses in a myriad of tasks, including medication administration, patient transport, and repetitive procedures. This technological augmentation reduces the workload on nurses, minimizes the risk of errors, and enhances overall patient care.

Simulation and Training: Nursing education can benefit greatly from computer-based simulations and virtual reality training tools. These innovative tools offer nursing students the opportunity to practice various clinical scenarios within a controlled and safe environment, thereby enhancing their skills and bolstering their confidence.

Predictive Analytics: Leveraging computer technology for the analysis of extensive datasets allows for the prediction of patient outcomes, the identification of at-risk individuals, and the optimization of resource allocation. Nurses can utilize these insights to prioritize care and allocate resources in a more efficient and effective manner.

Electronic Health Records (EHRs): The integration of computer technology facilitates streamlined access and updates to patient records by nursing professionals. This ensures that healthcare providers possess precise and current patient information, thereby fostering well-informed decisions, error reduction, and enhanced patient safety.

Telehealth and Remote Monitoring: The convergence of nursing science with engineering empowers the development of telehealth solutions and remote monitoring devices. This technological synergy equips nurses to deliver care to individuals in remote or underserved regions, effectively monitor chronic conditions, and provide timely interventions. Consequently, this translates to improved health outcomes and reduced hospitalizations.

Decision Support Systems: Computer technology can serve as an invaluable resource in assisting nurses in their clinical decision-making process. Real-time data analysis and evidence-based recommendations can substantially enhance the precision of diagnoses, treatment plans, and medication administration.

Patient Education and Engagement: The integration of nursing and engineering paves the way for the creation of educational software, applications, and devices designed to empower patients with a comprehensive understanding of their conditions, treatment options, and medication regimens. This patient-centric approach fosters increased adherence to treatment plans and leads to improved overall health outcomes.

In line with this vision of integrating nursing and engineering, I propose the establishment of the Center for Health and Technology (CHaT) in collaboration with the College of Engineering. This collaborative endeavor seeks to harness the strengths of both disciplines to elevate patient care, streamline healthcare processes, and foster innovation in healthcare delivery. This partnership aims to bridge the gap between conventional healthcare practices and the rapidly evolving technological landscape. By synergizing the expertise of nurses and engineers, we aim to craft solutions that are patient-centric, evidence-based, and technologically advanced, ultimately leading to improved health outcomes and a more streamlined and efficient healthcare system.

You have talked about the national nursing shortage; how do you envision the UA College of Nursing playing an active role in addressing it?

The pressing issue of nursing shortages warrants our immediate attention. According to data from the American Nurses Association, the United States is projected to require an additional 1 million nurses by 2030, and Arizona ranks among the top 5 states facing a severe nursing shortage, with a need for approximately 200,000 new nurses within the same timeframe. Furthermore, there is a demand for about 300,000 advanced practice nurses nationwide by 2030. As the flagship institution in Arizona, the University of Arizona College of Nursing is committed to actively addressing this national shortage crisis in several strategic ways:

Increasing Enrollment: One of the foremost strategies in addressing the shortage is to increase the number of nursing students admitted. Presently, our college annually admits around 600 pre-licensure nursing students via Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), BSN-IH (Integrative Health), and MEPN (Master's Entry to the Profession of Nursing) programs, in addition to approximately 150 advanced nursing practice students. Our proposal includes expanding our existing programs and establishing collaborations with healthcare institutions to create ample clinical placement opportunities for a more substantial student cohort.

Online and Hybrid Programs: The introduction of online or hybrid nursing programs can greatly enhance accessibility to education, extending its reach to a more diverse range of students, including those residing in remote or underserved regions. This approach has the potential to attract individuals who may not have otherwise considered nursing as a viable career choice.

Continuing Education and Lifelong Learning: The provision of continuing education programs is essential to enabling existing nurses to remain current with evolving healthcare practices and technologies, thereby enhancing their effectiveness and adaptability in their roles.

Curriculum Innovation: Our college will continually innovate and update the nursing curriculum to equip students with the skills required to meet the evolving demands of the healthcare landscape. This may encompass the integration of emerging technologies, telehealth, and other progressive trends into the curriculum.

Advanced Practice Nursing Programs: We envision expanding our offerings in advanced practice nursing programs, such as nurse practitioner, nurse anesthetist, and nurse midwife, to help address shortages in specialized healthcare areas, particularly primary care.

Research and Policy Advocacy: Our college is dedicated to engaging in research pertaining to nursing workforce issues and advocating for policies that bolster nursing education and practice. This advocacy encompasses securing increased funding for nursing education, advocating for improved working conditions, and championing scope of practice reforms.

Diversity and Inclusion: Actively promoting diversity and fostering inclusion within nursing education is vital to addressing workforce shortages while ensuring culturally competent care. Our College of Nursing is committed to implementing recruitment initiatives and scholarship programs tailored to underrepresented minority groups.

Faculty Development: To accommodate the influx of students, we intend to invest in faculty development programs. Ensuring an ample pool of qualified educators involves hiring additional faculty, providing ongoing training, and incentivizing advanced degrees and certifications.

Community Partnerships: Collaborative partnerships with healthcare institutions in our region will furnish additional clinical placement opportunities for our students. These affiliations can also pave the way for post-graduation employment prospects, contributing to the retention of nursing talent within our local workforce.

Mentorship and Support: We are committed to establishing mentorship programs that foster connections between nursing students and seasoned professionals. Such mentorship initiatives serve to guide students through their educational journey and assist them in making informed career decisions.

Global Initiatives: Exploring opportunities for international partnerships and programs holds promise in addressing nurse shortages on a global scale while affording students exposure to diverse healthcare systems and practices.

In summary, the University of Arizona College of Nursing is poised to make a substantial contribution to alleviating the national nursing shortage crisis. Our multifaceted approach involves increasing enrollment, championing diversity, expanding program offerings, forging partnerships with healthcare entities, and advocating for policy enhancements in support of nursing education and practice. These concerted efforts will culminate in the cultivation of a well-prepared and diverse nursing workforce, ideally positioned to meet the burgeoning healthcare demands of our nation.

Additional news:






College of Nursing honors graduates at fall convocation

Dec. 20, 2023

OASIS (Older Adult Specialty Interest Scholars) program December 2023 Graduates

Nov. 9, 2023

The Strengthening Eldercare Workforce through Rural and Underserved Nursing (SEW-RUN) grant was funded in 2021 by the Health Resource and Services Administration (HRSA) with the purpose of educating entry level nursing students from diverse backgrounds in care of diverse populations of older adults with complex needs living in rural and under-resourced areas. Project Director, Cheryl Lacasse, PhD, RN says that “the OASIS program provided an opportunity for students to immerse in the specialty of gerontological nursing, receive additional support to facilitate overall student success, and develop confidence as a professional nurse.”

The University of Arizona College of Nursing’s OASIS (Older Adult Specialty Interest Scholars) program has enhanced the knowledge and competencies of full-time, Bachelor of Science in nursing students from diverse backgrounds focused on older adult care from diverse populations. These scholars represent diverse populations including Hispanic/Latino, Native American, first-generation college attendees or from rural areas and receive financial support and academic enrichment and support through mentoring and coaching, professional and leadership skills development, and peer networking. In addition, the program also engaged faculty champions from each semester in the BSN-Tucson program to strategically incorporate and highlight key principles of older adult care throughout all 4 semesters of the program. The framework for this curriculum infusion was the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s 4M Model which includes 1) What matters most? 2) Mobility, 3) Mentation, and 4) Medications. 

Students completed two summer intensive experiences beginning after completion of their first semester in nursing school.  The curriculum of summer intensive one included academic and skills-based learning including: discussion of the 4Ms, common chronic conditions and medications in older adults, frailty, interprofessional team approach to older adult, topics in aging such as (ageism, advocacy, aging family, caregiving, end-of-life decisions), and comprehensive geriatric assessment. One favorite weekly seminar led by Mary O’Connell, MA, RN, principal lecturer, was entitled “Aging Gracefully”. During this seminar, students learned about aging from a diverse group of older adults. Students were encouraged to engage in dialogue and learned about aging through the wisdom and experiences of older adults. It also included community-based experiential learning at Pascua Yaqui Health Department, Mariposa Community Health Center, Holy Cross Hospital in Nogales, and Banner University Medical Center South focused on diverse, older adult populations.

After the summer intensive, students completed their BSN curriculum while attending monthly educational mentoring meetings. Students also attended the National Hartford Center of Gerontological Nursing Excellence Leadership Conference and learned about national and international challenges in older adult care and health care policies.

During the second summer intensive, the OASIS program partnered with the ANIE program to share program resources and enhance the OASIS students’ mentoring and leadership opportunities.  OASIS students engaged in two days a week engaging in nursing care of older adults with complex care needs in clinical simulation and community-based nursing experiences including older adults with complex needs at Clinica Amistad and Casa Alitas. Students also participated in a “learning on the road” experience by attending the Rural Health Conference in Flagstaff which included content on health of older adults in rural Arizona.

Linda Perez, M Admin, RN, principal lecturer and primary faculty for the OASIS Summer Intensive, explains that the program prepares students for working with older adults in many different environments. It also helps the students build upon the skills they have learned and learn new skills that help them prepare for their upcoming classes. Working closely with their cohort builds a sense of bonding and belonging. “They get to learn from each other and establish connections through peer mentoring,” she says.

Perez is proud to be part of working with the OASIS students. She loves seeing their personal and professional development during the Summer Intensive. “They grow so much in such a short time, and they become true advocates in caring for older adults. They have become leaders as well as model students. I only wish all students were able to get the information they received and practiced as our older adult community will be well cared for by students like the OASIS students. 

The following OASIS students demonstrated competency in comprehensive older adult care and will be graduating with their BSN in December 2023: Melina Barrigan, Samantha Kennepohl, Alanna Leung, Hope McCain, Carolina Medina, Bella Rodriguez, Mark Sauceda, and Wyatt Ute.

The OASIS grant team is very proud of the students’ accomplishments and their commitment to immersing in learning about supporting healthy aging.  The grant team includes: Cheryl Lacasse, PhD, RN (Project Director), Linda Phillips, PhD, RN, faculty eldercare champions (Linda Perez, MAdmin., RN, Mary O’Connell, MA, RN, Laurel Bilbo, MSN, RN, Stephanie, Donovan, MSN, RN), specialty mentors (Lori Martin Plank, PhD, RN, Heather Carlisle, PhD, DNP, RN, and Kim Shea, PhD, RN), and interprofessional consultants (Mindy Fain, MD, Jeannie Lee, PhD, and Zhao Chen, PhD).