Duquesne to Pioneer First-in-the-Nation Joint Undergraduate Program in Biomedical Engineering and Nursing

This fall, Duquesne University will launch a program that combines the sought-after credentials of degrees in both biomedical engineering and nursing, becoming the first academic institution in the U.S. and globally to offer this dual degree to undergraduates.

"Duquesne has pioneered the integration of clinical knowledge and patient care with engineering techniques in a single program, creating the first bachelor's degree of its kind," said Provost Dr. Timothy Austin.

The five-year program will provide students with a foundational body of knowledge that keeps patient care and practical application at the core of studies supporting innovations and technological advances.

The joint degree could prove a tremendous value to employers and patients, said Dr. John Viator, director of Duquesne's biomedical engineering (BME) program. In the relatively young and expanding BME field, engineers typically lack clinical expertise.

"This program will give our graduates an RN license to provide the clinical care so innovations can be introduced into the healthcare system and refined," Viator said. "Our graduates will have the ability to be involved in all phases of biomedical innovation-from the identification of the clinical problem, through the development of a technical solution, to clinical outcomes evaluation."

By gaining actual clinical experience, students also will develop new perspectives with respect to a patient's health and functional needs. "Engineers do not always fully appreciate the hospital culture and the clinical needs of patients," said Dr. Mary Ellen Glasgow, dean and professor of the School of Nursing. "This dual degree gives our students both the engineering and nursing perspectives to solve real world clinical problems."

In addition to learning engineering and nursing, students will benefit from class and clinical experiences that incorporate the Toyota Production System principles (used to address safety, cost and efficiency) and the American Association of Critical Care Nurses' Synergy Model.

"With this background, students will systematically tackle health issues, including those especially important to the active, aging baby boomer population," said Dr. Alison Colbert, chair of graduate nursing programs at Duquesne. "Graduates could develop technical solutions to problems such as preventing falls, ways to use sensors to note physiologic changes and new applications for telehealth. Graduates also could create novel simulators to teach the increasing complex skills required in both fields."

Pittsburgh provides a perfect setting for students to access exceptional practical opportunities, and the program will build on Duquesne's existing connections with the city's hospitals, startups and medical institutions. Pittsburgh is widely recognized as a healthcare and biomedical innovation hub. Students can gain rich experiences leading to their capstone projects with healthcare and technology partners.

Job opportunities for biomedical engineers are expected to grow 27 percent between 2012 and 2022, and nursing careers are expected to expand by 19 percent in the same timeframe, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. With the combined knowledge and skills of the two disciplines, opportunities may be limitless for the "nurse engineer," Viator and Glasgow predict.

"Our students will begin their careers with the preparation, knowledge and worldview usually seen in those with years of experience in the field," Austin said. "This exciting BME/BSN partnership illustrates Duquesne's innovative academic programs and the University's focus on preparing students with the knowledge and skills to serve others."

For more information on the program, visit www.duq.edu/bme-bsn.

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and horizon-expanding education. A campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, Duquesne prepares students by having them work alongside faculty to discover and reach their goals. The University's academic programs, community service, and commitment to equity and opportunity in the Pittsburgh region have earned national acclaim. 

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