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Nursing School celebrates first graduate
of doctoral program
June 21, 1999

The celebrations began back in March, when Jean Lange defended her dissertation. She was set to become the first graduate of UConn's doctoral nursing program. And last month, during Commencement, she received her Ph.D.

Lange's dissertation investigated hospitalized patients' ability to tell the difference between practical nurses and unlicenced assistants. She also questioned whether a patient's ability to differentiate between the two affected their satisfaction with the nursing and overall quality of care.

The idea for her topic came from Lange's 22 years of clinical nursing experience.

"I noticed that patients didn't know who was qualified to do what," says Lange, who now teaches at Fairfield University. "Sometimes patients will think a nurses' aide is a nurse and ask them questions about their conditions, questions that aides aren't qualified to answer or simply don't know."

Lange found that even though there is no separate uniform that distinguishes nurses from aides, patients did know and identify their nurses. "It is good to know that nurses haven't become invisible," says Lange.

She found that patients did not know their aides, but this had no effect on how satisfied patients were with the treatment they received.

Lange's topic is an important issue in health care because of the downsizing of nursing staff that has occurred in many hospitals. Hospitals have cut costs by hiring fewer nurses and more unlicenced assistants. As a result, patients see less of their nurses and more of the aides.

UConn's doctoral nursing program is one of five in New England, and one of about 80 in the country. The program began admitting students in 1994 and currently has an enrollment of 27.

Peggy Chinn, a nursing professor and coordinator of the doctoral program, says there is a demand for nurses with a Ph.D., especially in hospitals where they are hired to conduct research on health care. Also, nurses who teach and seek tenure at a university must have a doctoral degree in nursing.

"In the past, nursing was viewed as an apprenticeship," says Kathleen Bruttomesso, interim dean of nusring. "Now, nursing is a science and there is a need to prepare nurses for scientific research."

Kirstyn Lazur