Two New Doctor of Nursing Practice Specialties Introduced

Online Programs in Population Health and Systems Innovation and Leadership Added to Lineup of Offered Specialties

By Megan Hinners

DNP Whitecoat ceremony

The University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Nursing continues to raise the bar in developing leaders in nursing, announcing two new specialty tracks to the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program. With the new additions, nurses looking to advance their careers in health care can discover new possibilities in advanced nursing practice through two unique online DNP tracks in either Population Health or Systems Innovation and Leadership.

The announcement comes during a pivotal time in health care as the industry finds itself facing an increasing need for advanced practice nurse leaders. Customized to a nurse’s experiences and career goals, each program builds the skills nurses need to think critically and proficiently as expert clinicians with advanced knowledge in systems, leadership, program evaluation, informatics, and health policy.

The UW–Madison School of Nursing DNP program develops expert nurses in specialized advanced practice. Prepared as clinical scholars, these nurses meld their practice expertise with advanced understandings of research, program planning, and leadership to transform practice and improve health. All specialty tracks at the School are based on leadership and practice-based experiential learning for planning and team building, as well as implementation and dissemination of impactful, evidence-based systems. The two new online tracks will prepare students for nursing leadership roles in population health or systems leadership and innovation.

“These new tracks are set to prepare the nurses we need to help resolve some of the greatest challenges we’re facing as a society: rising rates of chronic disease, figuring out how to adequately and affordably care for an aging population, health disparities, access to care and the skyrocketing costs of that care,  addiction, climate change,  emerging infectious diseases, and a global pandemic.” —Pam McGranahan, DNP, RN

Both new additions to the DNP lineup will be online, offering both the flexibility and convenience to complete their respective programs over the course of three years. DNP Program Director, Pam McGranahan, DNP, RN, is thrilled about the new opportunities, adding, “These new tracks are set to prepare the nurses we need to help resolve some of the greatest challenges we’re facing as a society: rising rates of chronic disease, figuring out how to adequately and affordably care for an aging population, health disparities, access to care and the skyrocketing costs of that care,  addiction, climate change,  emerging infectious diseases, and a global pandemic. The opportunities to make a difference are endless.”

DNP program in Population Health

The DNP program in Population Health is designed to provide a course of study that will foster the development of competencies to lead population health improvement across health care, public health, and community systems. This advanced practice nursing program of study emphasizes the values of the nursing profession, applying an upstream perspective on health, coordinating care across providers and sites, collaborating with other professionals and community stakeholders, and advocating for the well-being of individuals, communities, and populations. Graduates of this program will be well prepared to shape population health improvement and lead population health programs.

“The ability to see patients within context; to recognize the indelible influence that history, environment, education, and social connections have on health, is at the very core of nursing,” McGranahan explains. “Nurses meet patients where they are and tailor care to align with a person’s wishes, needs, and circumstance. We take note of the environment and advocate for the conditions in which all people can be healthy. We promote health and well-being, and we strive to prevent illness or injury. These are fundamental perspectives for all nurses, embodied by Florence Nightingale, Lillian Wald, and Mary Breckinridge. Our Population Health DNP program embraces these principles and builds, expanding students’ competencies and knowledge to include epidemiology, interagency collaboration, program development, and organizational leadership. Never has this unique constellation of knowledge, skill, and perspective been needed more. This is the perfect time for nurses to step forward and lead.”

Dr. Kelli Jones, PhD, RN, CPH, joins the faculty as a Clinical Associate Professor and leader for the new online DNP in Population Health program. Jones received a BS in Nursing, an MS in Nursing and Health Care Systems Leadership, and a PhD in Nursing from Marquette University. Deeply experienced in academic nursing, Jones also has a wealth of practice experience as a local and state level public health nurse, a program director at the state level, as well as an executive director of a non-profit organization.  In addition, she holds a certification in public health. Jones will assure currency and relevance of course content, teach courses, and lead the implementation of the DNP in Population Health.

DNP program in Systems Innovation and Leadership

The DNP in Systems Innovation and Leadership program is devised to provide an agile, customized course of study that will support the development of advanced practice nursing leaders for a variety of healthcare roles who understand multifaceted human-environment and systems factors for systems innovation. Leaders who join the program will incorporate the values of the nursing profession in positions of influence, and will build the knowledge and skills necessary for healthcare transformation, innovation and effective leadership in a wide variety of settings. Graduates of this program will be well prepared to leverage a broad perspective on systems innovation, to design and lead new models of care delivery.

“The discipline of nursing is innately holistic.  We are taught to see not only the individual patient at one singular point in time, but also the whole of that person’s history and context.” —Barbara Pinekenstein, DNP, RN-BC, CPHIMS, FAAN

Interim Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Barbara Pinekenstein, DNP, RN-BC, CPHIMS, FAAN, highlights the importance of the Systems Innovation and Leadership specialty, explaining, “The discipline of nursing is innately holistic. We are taught to see not only the individual patient at one singular point in time, but also the whole of that person’s history and context. In the hospital setting nurses are the constant, and we see the whole of patients’ care. Our work with individual patients intersects with that of other providers, interdisciplinary teams, and the larger healthcare system. Understanding the whole, or ‘systems thinking’, allows us to address gaps, anticipate barriers, build alliances, and find the pivot points to improve care. Making things better is what we do, and nursing history is filled with creative, pragmatic problem solvers who left a legacy of innovation: Clara Barton, Linda Richards, Anna Maxwell, and Dorothea Dix. These nursing icons recognized opportunities to change the system for good, and they led lasting transformations in care. The Systems Innovation and Leadership DNP capitalizes on the strengths of nursing to place graduates at the cutting edge of healthcare leadership.”

Guiding the Systems Innovation and Leadership DNP will be Dr. Roberta Pawlak, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, who joins the faculty as a Clinical Professor and track lead. Pawlak earned a BS in Nursing from D’Youville College, an MS in Nursing Administration from SUNY at Buffalo, and a PhD in Nursing from UW–Madison.  She holds ANCC certification as a Nurse Executive Advanced, and has deep experience in nursing education in academic and professional development settings. Pawlak will guide course content and lead the implementation of the new Systems Innovation and Leadership program, as well as mentor DNP students in their scholarly projects.

With health care constantly evolving and changing, the DNP Program at the UW–Madison School of Nursing focuses on further developing clinical expertise in a chosen population area while helping individuals build upon leadership skills to advance their career in nursing and better meet the changing demands. The doctoral-level advanced practice degrees emphasize critical thinking and evidence-based practice, positioning graduates as leaders capable of facilitating organizational change that leads to improved operations, greater workforce satisfaction, increased efficiency, and better patient care. Graduates of the programs go on to advance the nursing discipline and practice through research, education, policy, management, and leadership.

Applications for both the DNP in Population Health as well as the DNP in Systems Innovation and Leadership are slated to open September 1, and will close for review on December 1. Interested candidates can learn more about advancing their career in nursing with a DNP from the UW–Madison School of Nursing through upcoming online events, including a Meet the DNP Director event on August 6, a DNP Open House on September 22, as well as a DNP Information Session on October 15.

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