Summer 2021 arrives with new optimism and renewed determination. As we round the corner on the coronavirus pandemic and look ahead to what McKinsey & Company terms “the next normal,” the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis charts a course for the next decade of preparing future health care providers, researchers and educators and impacting health care practice in California and beyond.

The COVID-19 crisis tested our resiliency. The reality of virtual learning fast-tracked how we leverage technology to deliver our valuable curriculum. The disruption reframed our approaches to collaboration. And now the experience presents a new course to navigate to the next normal.

For the School of Nursing, that means sunsetting a flagship program and launching an innovative hybrid option for a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree to meet the evolving needs of California and beyond.

When the school welcomed its first classes in October 2020, 25 registered nurses with a desire to lead bold system change took a chance on a new school and a Master of Science — Leadership degree. In the decade since, more than 225 alumni have gone on to lead quality improvement initiatives at area health systems, advocated for community organizations and started professional organizations.

The leadership program sparked contributions at UC Davis Medical Center and beyond that embody Betty Irene Moore’s vision for the school and how nurses drive change. The program cultivated relationships with dozens of community organizations that moved our students out of their comfort zones to forever change the landscape of Northern California.

American philosopher William James said, “The great use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.” Though a degree program ends, the people connected to its experience and their contributions endure for generations.

As the School of Nursing commemorates its 10th Anniversary during the 2020–2021 school year, our leadership team is creating a strategic plan to guide the school for the next 10 years. That future includes a new degree program. We plan to offer a hybrid post-baccalaureate Doctor of Nursing Practice — Family Nurse Practitioner (DNP–FNP) degree program.

In 2018, The National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties committed to assisting all entry-level nurse practitioner programs with shifting to the DNP by 2025. The DNP is a practice-focused degree that prepares nurses to improve the health of people and populations through practice, bold system change, as well as translation of research to patients and populations.

So, while our research-intensive Doctor of Philosophy program discovers new knowledge in an academic setting, a DNP puts that knowledge into practice in the clinical environment. Today’s health care system needs both and each degree prepares nurses for leadership roles that our patients need and deserve.

Yes, the COVID-19 crisis upended the health care landscape. But it also spurred us at the School of Nursing to live out our goal of creating leaders who are nimble enough to lead in health care settings that are continually evolving.

Technology will, no doubt, play a major role in that evolution. The use of telehealth has greatly increased since last March. Our students even experienced telehealth rotations to prepare for the reality that faces them after graduation. At the School of Nursing, we leverage technology and data science to advance research, enhance education and improve clinical practice.

As we look ahead, we embrace the increased collaboration with our UC Davis School of Medicine colleagues to develop our students into the excellent providers they dream of becoming. We leverage our expertise in family caregiving and geriatric care delivery to contribute to the Healthy Aging Initiative. We embody confidence as we chart a new course and navigate to the next realities that await us on the other side of the pandemic.