In fall 2021, the College of Saint Benedict (CSB), in partnership with Saint John’s University (SJU), will welcome the first cohort of students into their new doctor of nursing practice programs. The graduate-level degrees will be the first awarded on the CSB campus and will fill an increasing demand for advanced nurse practitioners and nurse leaders in the region.
The program will offer two distinct options:
- Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) – Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) track. This track prepares actively practicing RNs to care for patients across their lifespan. FNP students will learn how to complete comprehensive health assessments, order appropriate diagnostic tests, complete advanced level procedural skills, manage and diagnose acute and chronic conditions and serve as a primary health care provider in a variety of settings.
- Doctor of Nursing Practice – Leadership track. This track will empower individuals to rise to new levels of leadership. They’ll develop specialized expertise to become an agent for change in the evolving health care landscape. Students will also be equipped to pursue roles where they will be responsible for managing nursing staff and serve as a source of knowledge for a team. Options for both post-master’s program entry and direct bachelor of science in nursing-to-DNP are available.
A third option – a master of science in nursing – is currently in development for launch in fall 2022.
“We’ve had great success with our undergraduate program and, over the years, many of those graduates have expressed interest in a graduate program,” said Assistant Professor of Nursing Dr. Jennifer Peterson (CSB ’98), DNP, APRN, FNP-C, CNOR, who will chair the new graduate nursing program. “We did three separate market analyses that looked at the interest level of prospective students and the needs of the community. Family nurse practitioner rated the highest.”
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates family nurse practitioner to be one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, with a projected 28% rise between 2018-24.
“There is a need for high-quality and competent nurse leaders in health care,” Peterson said of the doctor of nursing practice – leadership track. “There is also currently a nursing faculty shortage which, along with interest, is the driving force leading us to create a master of science in nursing emphasizing three pillars: practice, education and leadership.”
College representatives also met with clinical partners from various health systems in the area to get a better understanding of their needs.
“There was a clear need within the community for this type of a program. Our community partners see a substantial gap that they’re trying to fill with strong, high-quality candidates. We anticipate that trend will continue over the next decade,” Peterson said.
In addition to conducting a market analysis, the team also looked at the schools’ skillsets for offering the programs. The CSB/SJU Nursing Department is ranked in the top three of 14 programs in Minnesota by College Factual.
“Our undergraduate program is known for producing exceptional registered nurses. We plan to build on that strong reputation to develop exceptional graduate nursing programs,” said Peterson. “This program is a response to need in the community and demand from our alums and prospective students, and it sets our graduates up to improve the future of health care.”
“Our students have very strong results in terms of nursing exams and pass rates, and the accrediting agencies have high regard for what we’ve been doing here,” said Richard Ice, provost at CSB/SJU. “We aren’t just training people to be nurses. We’re educating people to be leaders in health care.”
Both programs will be offered in hybrid format, a combination of in-classroom and online. Designed for working professionals, the format allows students maximum flexibility while connecting with a consistent cohort of students.
Another unique offering of the program is the elective for specialty care areas. Graduate nursing students have the ability to develop specialized skills beyond the traditional family nurse practitioner track through a specialty clinical course and clinical rotation.
“If a registered nurse comes in wanting to get his or her graduate degree as a family nurse practitioner, and they currently work in a specialty area, this program accommodates that. We’ve created a course that allows them to get those additional hours in their specialty area of interest. It’s something our clinical partners are very excited about,” Peterson said.
When developing the courses for the leadership track, the schools were intentional about potentially incorporating input from the Global Business Leadership Department. Peterson said it’s important that nurse leaders have knowledge regarding all realms of working in the manager role, including organizational structure, behavior, finances and budgets.
In addition, the new graduate programs are designed to be flexible as market needs change.
“If in 10 years the trend shifts away from family nurse practitioner to a different kind of advanced practice nursing position, we’ve created the curriculum in a way that we could easily modify it to make those changes,” Peterson explained.
Other program highlights include:
- Guaranteed clinical placements;
- Eligibility to become licensed and nationally certified as a family nurse practitioner;
- Eligibility to become certified as a nurse educator and/or nurse executive;
- One-to-one mentorship for DNP project;
- Graduate assistant teaching scholarships available (limited quantity);
- Discounted tuition for CSB/SJU graduates, CentraCare and Veterans Affairs employees;
- Part-time options may be available.
So far, the response to the program has been overwhelmingly positive. Alumnae/i and community health care staff have expressed definite interest in the programs.
Those interested in the program can visit csbsju.edu/graduate-nursing-programs or contact Assistant Professor of Nursing Dr. Jennifer Peterson, chair of the graduate program, at 320-363-5194.