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August 21, 2014 — When working for the Wyoming Department of Health, University of Wyoming student Sheriedan Grannan of Cheyenne realized she loved working with patients and wanted to do more to contribute to their overall health.
That desire inspired her to enroll in UW’s Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program, which offers a unique set of skills to profoundly change health care delivery in Wyoming.
UW’s trustees in 2010 approved the new DNP program as part of a national shift to offer extended training for nurse practitioners and in response to Wyoming’s health care needs, says Mary Burman, dean of the Fay W. Whitney School of Nursing. The first DNP students enrolled in the fall semester of 2012 and will enter the workforce in 2015.
“Most of the counties in Wyoming are underserved in terms of mental health care, and part of our DNP program focuses on nurse practitioners who work in psychiatric mental health,” Burman says. “The other piece of it is in primary care, and much of the state is experiencing shortages in primary care as well. The DNP graduates will play a key role in helping to meet those health care needs in the state of Wyoming.”
UW’s DNP program offers two options: 1) family nurse practitioner (FNP), which prepares nurse practitioners (NPs) to practice as primary care providers and 2) family psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (FPMHNP), which prepares NPs to practice as mental health providers. Both FNPs and FPMHNPs are prepared to diagnose and manage illness, including medication prescribing.
Wyoming’s health care community recognized the need to bolster both primary care and psychiatric care in Wyoming, and fully supported the move to the new DNP program, says Associate Professor Ann Marie Hart, the DNP program director. She says the program offers training in the basic skills required to practice nursing, as UW previously offered at the master’s degree level, but adds a lot more.
Grannan says the strong emphasis on health behavior change should be an integral part of primary care.
“It allows people to make changes relating to health care that can prevent a variety of chronic conditions and promote wellness.”
The DNP program attracts people who want to work in rural areas, Burman says. Hart adds that many nursing students do their required rotations in rural areas.
“We find they want to stay and work in communities such as Saratoga, Guernsey, Lusk, Pinedale, the Wind River Reservation and other areas where they contribute to meeting community health care needs,” she says.
Grannan says she wants to continue working in Cheyenne.
“I have a passion for underserved populations and plan to work with them on a regular or volunteer basis,” she says.
The DNP adds a critical component to the mix of Wyoming health care including primary care physicians, pediatricians, internal medicine doctors, OB/GYN specialists and others, Burman says.
“Now, we are providing a new set of skills that emphasize behavior and lifestyle changes that add some really exciting things to expand primary care and mental health care in Wyoming,” she says.
Those skills are helping Grannan realize her career aspirations.
“The DNP program has been rigorous, but well worth the hard work,” she says. “The increased number of clinical hours over the former program has added to the educational experience.”
The DNP is among other School of Nursing programs that play a role in meeting Wyoming’s health care needs. The school offers a program with the community colleges to teach the associate degree with a transition to the bachelor’s degree (RENEW); an accelerated BSN through the Outreach School (BRAND); and an option for RN/BSN completion online.
Other College of Health Sciences units also provide significant value to the state through education and outreach, including the School of Pharmacy, and Divisions of Communication Disorders, Social Work, Kinesiology and Health, Wyoming Institute for Disabilities, and Medical Education and Public Health/Family Medicine Residency Programs.