The first cohort of the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program graduated August 2017, taking with them not only their diplomas, but new clinical and leadership skills that prepares them to make an impact on the health care landscape.
The students, who were together since the launch of the program in January 2016, began the program with a variety of clinical interests ranging from oncology survivorship, geriatric long-term care, adolescent mental health, executive leadership, advanced practice nurse fellowship programs, graduate nurse orientation, and simulation.
“Our program provides students an opportunity to develop a specialized area of clinical leadership through courses and mentorship offered sequentially in the program,” Jane Champion, PhD, DNP, FNP, FAANP, FAAN and director of the program, said. “These areas of clinical leadership specialization are identified by the students, and development is facilitated by faculty and community experts throughout the program.”
The students’ clinically focused projects were as diverse as their areas of interest. Susan Wnuk, MSN, FNP-C, AOCNP, provides direct care to cancer patients who are undergoing cancer treatment at a large outpatient cancer center in San Antonio as well as a smaller clinic in Uvalde, Texas. Susan chose to develop a quality improvement tool for cancer survivors who live in rural areas.
“Although all cancer survivors have unique health care needs, rural cancer survivors have additional needs and barriers to receiving quality care,” Susan said. “Because of this, my DNP project included conducting a needs assessment among rural cancer survivors. With the assistance of my faculty advisor, Dr. Champion, I am currently conducting focus groups with patients who have completed cancer treatment or are receiving treatment in Uvalde.”
Susan expects these focus group sessions to inform translation of survivorship care plans (SCPs) currently used in urban settings for rural cancer survivors. SCPs, Susan explained, are a communication tool intended to provide guidelines for the health care of survivors as they complete active cancer care and for the duration of their lives.
Dr. Champion was pleased with the program’s smooth roll out, which she attributed to the strong nucleus of tenured and clinical faculty in the School of Nursing that led the research and education efforts.
“From the start, we used a continuous improvement process for implementation of the DNP,” she said. “It’s an ongoing effort to improve program efficiency, effectiveness and flexibility through student and faculty feedback, and observation and evaluation of student and faculty outcomes.”
The next DNP cohort is scheduled to start the fall 2018 semester. To apply, visit the DNP Degree Programs page. The deadline to apply is Friday, June 1, 2018.