As the West African Ebola outbreak grabbed headlines this fall, the relevance of Wagner’s first doctoral program, a Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP), became all the more sharply defined.
The DNP program, launched this fall by the Evelyn L. Spiro School of Nursing, provides advanced training for nurses, with a special focus on disaster preparedness and population health worldwide.
The program, currently open to board-certified family nurse practitioners, is for working professionals. Those enrolled in the program are expected to complete their doctorates in two years and three months, including two summers.
According to Kathleen Ahern, professor and director of graduate nursing studies, watching the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina inspired her and Paula Dunn Tropello, dean of the Evelyn L. Spiro School of Nursing, to create the DNP program.
“When Katrina happened, what really touched me was that the doctors and the nurses were so poorly prepared to handle that kind of disaster,” Ahern says. “We discussed that we really needed to prepare leaders who could function in those kinds of devastations.”
The interdisciplinary program features a course in medical ethics, taught by philosophy professor John Danisi. A course on global nursing requires a 50-hour clinical experience, where students observe international health structures. The nursing program has established partnerships in Haiti and Mexico and with the Navajo Reservation in Arizona.
This fall, 15 students were accepted into the program. “Some of them would like to become faculty with their doctorate and continue their practice, while others are looking to take a larger role perhaps in their city or state health departments,” Ahern says.
Kathleen Oberfeldt, assistant dean for Wagner’s Center for Health and Wellness, is in the DNP program’s first cohort. She says that the program will enhance her ability to plan for public health crises, especially in the context of a college campus.
The program has already broadened her comfort level with helping in case of a natural disaster. “I never thought I would see myself in that role, but I am emerging and taking a step out of my comfort zone,” she says. “It’s great to be able to have that opportunity. Opportunities like working on the Native American reservation, that really touched my heart.
“Going with a group that is already established and has confidence in the work that they do — I am very happy to be part of that kind of group. I am capable of doing more than I ever thought I was capable of,” Oberfeldt adds.