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Widener School of Nursing receives over $1 million to enhance Doctor of Nursing Practice degree

Widener University’s School Nursing received a $1,060,663 grant, D09HP22601, which will be given over the course of three years, from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to enhance its post-master’s Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree program. Dr. Deborah Garrison, dean of nursing, and Dr. Shirlee Drayton-Brooks, director of the DNP and FNP programs, look forward to implementing program enhancements over the next year.

“The DNP program will have an even stronger focus on the preparation of family nurse practitioners (FNPs),” Dr. Drayton-Brooks said. “We are enhancing the curriculum to provide clinical leadership and deliver culturally-competent, evidence-based disease state management care to improve health in urban and rural areas in Pennsylvania, as it is one of the largest rural states with a very high impoverished rate. With a notable primary care provider shortage and health disparities, more nurse practitioners need to be prepared to provide disease and systems-based care.”

“With more people unemployed there is a strong need for health care services that can be provided in a cost-effective way,” she said. “The public must be able to rely on care from our nurse practitioners.” Drayton-Brooks commented on the priority for expanding access to primary health care as a significant factor driving the emphasis in preparing more nurse practitioners for delivering care to patients with multiple disease processes in increasingly complex environments. “DNP degree preparation is a natural evolution for advanced practice nurses,” she said. “It’s the next step in education and is being driven by the expanding needs of the public.”

The DNP program at Widener is 2 years old, and has 24 students currently enrolled, most of which are FNPs. According to Dr. Drayton-Brooks, the program at Widener is unique as it is focused on disease-state management care – “a continuous process that seeks to improve the health status of the populations over the course of the disease.” The redesign of the DNP program meets the legislative intent to prepare advanced practiced registered nurses for the highest level health promotion though advanced nursing education and practice at Widener.

Dr. Drayton-Brooks is most excited to work with existing students on building models of care. “Two of our DNP students, who will graduate next May, are already doing projects with physicians; and we will now be able to offer more opportunities like this for students.” Graduates of the DNP program at Widener will be more prepared to build, implement, and evaluate evidence-based disease state management care.

“The School of Nursing is already a leader in the region, placing a large number of nurse practitioners in the tri-state area each year” Dr. Drayton-Brooks said. “Enhancing the DNP program will only increase the number of Widener alumni working to provide care in the region.”

Widener University is a private, metropolitan university that connects curricula to social issues through civic engagement. Dynamic teaching, active scholarship, personal attention, and experiential learning are key components of the Widener experience. A doctorate-granting research university, Widener is comprised of eight schools and colleges that offer liberal arts and sciences, professional and pre-professional curricula leading to associate’s, baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral degrees. The university’s campuses in Chester, Exton, and Harrisburg, Pa., and Wilmington, Del., serve some 6,700 students. Visit the university website,