Doctorate grant: bright spot on education radar

by Sarah Demerly

The Federal Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) awarded a grant totaling $700,000 to Madonna University in late August and is for resolving local and national healthcare disparities at the Doctor of Nursing Practices (DNP) level. Madonna launched its first doctoral program, DNP in May 2009.

Given the struggling U.S. economy, the nursing departments of Madonna University and University of Detroit Mercy collaborated in an effort to maximize economic resources and provide an advanced level of education to nursing students.

“We want to graduate DNP students that will have a major impact on our healthcare system’s quality, improvement, leadership and excellent care and health system transformation,” said Nancy O’Connor, Ph.D. and Director of the Doctorate of Nursing program at Madonna University. 

The collaboration between the two schools, in conjunction with area healthcare systems, will use the HRSA grant to supply funding to a conglomerate of healthcare professionals concentrating on greater access to healthcare for undeserved minority populations. An additional hope for the program is a focus on the development of nurses in advanced roles, specifically on mental and cultural healthcare competency.

HRSA, a federal agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is primarily responsible for overseeing the availability of healthcare to medically isolated and uninsured people. The program is viewed as a critical element in preserving and protecting health in area healthcare systems.

Madonna’s DNP is a post-master’s program and is 36 semester hours long. After a 40-60 semester hour master’s program and a requirement of a 1000 hour residency period, the task is not for the faint of heart. Even still, Madonna students have embraced the challenge.

“I love nursing and I believe that by furthering my knowledge of nursing I can be a better role model for young nurses that are just entering the field. Nursing is a wonderful job but it is so much more…it is a vocation,” said Rosemary Lowry, DNP student. “I know that the more knowledge and experience one gets in a profession, the broader the opportunities.”

The program, which currently has 21 students enrolled, will provide an advanced knowledge base and accelerated clinical skills. The nurses will have a much greater responsibility to the public and will be separately licensed by the state.

By 2015, the profession of nursing has suggested that a DNP be mandatory for advanced practices. The DNP is a professional doctorate, not a research doctorate and is similar to an M.D. or a D.P.T.

“The doctoral level prepares us to do clinical research. It’s not a Ph.D. so it isn’t all research. We’re considered clinical leaders and the program helps us achieve that title,” said Dianne Conrad, Family Nurse Practitioner and Madonna DNP student. “I have a very specific clinical specialty and I would really like to do clinical research in the diabetes nurse practitioner specialty. That wouldn’t be possible without the DNP.”