The new master's level program won approval of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board in October 1993.
Graduates will be prepared to offer primary care to the medically underserved in both rural and urban settings, according to Patty L. Hawken, PhD, dean of the School of Nursing.
"This is a strong program and many nurses have been waiting for it to begin," Dr. Hawken said.
Students will attend some classes in San Antonio, but Suellen Reed, PhD, associate dean for the graduate nursing program, said, "We will use various strategies and technologies including distance learning by teleconference and practicums and preceptorships near students' home communities to allow them to remain in and serve those communities as much as possible."
Nurse practitioners have advanced education to handle a wide range of basic health problems. They conduct physical exams, take medical histories, assess and treat common minor illness and injuries, order and perform lab tests, and counsel and educate patients.
"Demographics of the South Texas area include many migrant families, undocumented workers and working poor with problems ranging from substance abuse to pesticide exposure, to family violence and unsafe housing," said Margaret Brackley, PhD, assistant professor of nursing.
Students will work with family practitioners and at locations including community health centers, migrant centers and other treatment sites.
The new family nurse practitioner program is the third nurse practitioner specialization to be offered by the Health Science Center. Nurses also may pursue practitioner training with a specialization in neonatal care or women's health.