Nursing Dean Completes Leadership Program

By Laura L. Acosta

UTEP News Service

As the American health care system undergoes massive changes, UTEP School of Nursing Dean Elias Provencio-Vasquez, Ph.D., is leading the way in educating nurses to keep up with the standards of 21st century health care. 

Provencio-Vasquez is one of 20 scholars who recently completed The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Executive Nurse Fellows program, a three-year world-class leadership program for nurses who aspire to lead and shape health care locally and nationally. In that time, he has also made great strides in advancing UTEP’s School of Nursing to meet national goals.Elias Provencio-Vasquez, Ph.D., is one of 20 scholars who recently completed The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Executive Nurse Fellows program. Photo by J.R. Hernandez / UTEP News ServiceElias Provencio-Vasquez, Ph.D., is one of 20 scholars who recently completed The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Executive Nurse Fellows program. Photo by J.R. Hernandez / UTEP News Service

He was selected for the program in 2009.

“This fellowship offers an excellent opportunity to meet and exchange ideas with top nurse executives from across the country,” said Provencio-Vasquez, who made history twice as the first Hispanic male in the country to earn a nursing doctoral degree and the first Hispanic male appointed dean of a nursing school. “The program enhanced our leadership abilities and taught us how to lead with a purpose. The skill sets I developed will help me lead the UTEP School of Nursing to become one of the top nursing schools in the nation.”

According to Linda Cronenwet, the RWJF program’s co-director, fellows are exposed to nursing leaders who have made an impact through all sectors of health care, from heading professional organizations to participating in scientific panels.  

“They’re exposed to role models and to the thinking and the challenges and the opportunities of leadership across a broad array of nurses and people in health care,” Cronenwet said on

Fellows receive coaching, education and other support to strengthen their ability to lead teams and organizations that are improving health care.

Provencio-Vasquez’s participation has helped him as a national health care leader to incorporate the eight recommendations in The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health, a report that was released last year by the RWJF and the Institute of Medicine that serves as a blueprint for transforming nursing education and practice.

The School of Nursing already has adopted 40 percent of the recommendations, which include increasing the number of nurses with bachelor’s degrees to 80 percent by 2020, doubling the number of nurses with a doctorate by 2020, and implementing nurse residency programs.

Provencio-Vasquez serves as chair of the RWJF’s Doctoral Advancement in Nursing Committee, where he leads a group of academicians who are developing an action plan to promote doctoral education. Since his appointment as dean in 2009, Provencio-Vasquez has been instrumental in establishing a Doctor of Nursing Practice (D.N.P.) Program at UTEP. 

Hector Morales is an instructor in clinical nursing who is pursuing his DNP at UTEP. Morales said that he was interested in obtaining his doctorate because he wanted to enhance his skills as a clinical nurse specialist. The program allows him to combine both his education and research, and he is already applying what he has learned to his practice.

Morales said the Institute of Medicine recommendation to have more nurses obtain their doctorates makes sense.

“This report calls for nurses to practice to their full extent of their education and training,” Morales said. “In the near future, by 2015, nursing is focusing on making the doctoral degree the entry level for nurse practitioners. Although those of us who have been practicing for years hope to be grandfathered, we just never know.”

Provencio-Vasquez also is a member of the RWJF’s Tri-Council for Nursing, a two-year initiative that looks to advance state and regional strategies to create a more highly educated nursing workforce. This summer, the School of Nursing launched the Believe in BSN Education campaign to encourage nurses to obtain their Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree through UTEP.

UTEP’s RN to BSN online degree has made it possible for Marilyn Frishman to obtain her bachelor’s this December without having to quit her job as a registered nurse at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston.

The 63-year-old wife, mother and grandmother decided to go back to school and pursue her degree for her own personal satisfaction.  

“This experience has enriched my life in so many ways and I could not have achieved this degree without UTEP's RN to BSN program, the support of all my professors and most importantly the support of my family,” Frishman said.

Provencio-Vasquez also sits on the Foundation’s New Careers in Nursing Committee, established in 2008 to expand nursing student capacity in accelerated baccalaureate programs, like UTEP’s Fast Track nursing program.

He also is heading efforts to establish nurse residency programs between the school and its clinical partners. Last February, the School of Nursing received $4 million from the U.S. Department of Labor to establish the Successful Transition and Retention (STaR) nurse residency program, which will accelerate the clinical training for new graduating nurses. The school has partnered with several academic and clinical institutions to launch the new residency program: Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center – Gayle Greve Hunt School of Nursing, the University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing, and eight Texas hospitals with the Hospital Corporation of America (HCA).

“Innovation is key to educating the next generation of nurses,” Provencio-Vasquez said. “The combination of talented faculty, evidence-based practice education, state of the art facilities/technology and exceptional clinical partners provide the perfect environment to create the best and brightest nurses for our community. The UTEP School of Nursing is changing the face of nursing education.”

Since it started in 1998, more than 200 nurse leaders have participated in the RWJF Executive Nurse Fellows program.