New Doctor of Nursing Practice Degree Program presents unique opportunity for inaugural class

Angelica Gales, a member of the inaugural class of the Master’s Entry Program in Nursing, launched her nursing career at UC San Diego.

“The first time you do a thing is always exciting.”

Detective novelist Agatha Christie said it. Members of the inaugural class of the Doctor of Nursing Practice — Family Nurse Practitioner Degree Program (D.N.P.-F.N.P.) will live it at the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis.

Since opening its doors to students in 2010, the School of Nursing has welcomed five inaugural classes in five brand-new degree programs. Whereas longer-standing programs are rooted in established practices, the School of Nursing programs live without constraints and offer students a rare opportunity to shape the future.

“It’s kind of scary being the first class in a new program, because you don’t know what the outcome will be. You don’t know whether or not the process actually works. Will I come out being successful, prepared, knowing what I need to know,” said Angelica Gales, a member of the inaugural class of the Master’s Entry Program in Nursing (M.E.P.N.). “The answer is yes!”

With the rapidly changing health care landscape — most notably during the pandemic — new knowledge develops every day. School of Nursing students who share in the fine-tuning of curriculum, and faculty who are nimble and responsive to student feedback, prepare advanced practice providers for the future they will face, not just the current moment in their education.

“By nature of choosing a D.N.P. and this one in particular, we have people with the desire for creating health care transformation. They come in with a different lens through which they view the material,” explained Kathryn Sexson, D.N.P.-F.N.P. program director. “Bringing in their experiences and what they want their education to look like will impact curriculum and how we incorporate those experiences.”

Advancing health, transforming health care and igniting bold system change are the foundation upon which the School of Nursing is built. Creative thinkers pioneer their education here by reimagining the future without expectations from the past: a prospect that could be nerve-wracking and exhilarating at the same time.

Lori Madden with hospital behind her.Lori Madden, a member of the inaugural class of the Doctor of Philosophy Degree Program, now leads the UC Davis Health Center for Nursing Science as a clinical nurse scientist.

“Even though there were no former students to guide me on certain courses, I really enjoyed being part of the process of shaping the academic program at a new school,” explained Ren Bee, a member of the inaugural master’s-degree leadership class. “The school really embraced student feedback. I also thought it was pretty remarkable to attend a brand-new school without feeling the ‘newness’ throughout the entire time.”

Several of Bee’s former classmates serve as clinical instructors for the entry-level nursing program. Their experience reminded students, like Gales, what is possible when you are “the first.”

“Those master’s leadership students were our mentors. The Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing is really focused on creating change agents and that’s how they do it. They create students who think differently and see things outside of the box and they want student input,” Gales said.

“Having that student feedback is integral to what we’re striving to achieve,” Sexson added. “It’s a collegial environment where students learn from the faculty and the faculty learn from students and together, we create learning experiences that neither one of us could have created independently.”

Breaking traditional boundaries and reimagining nursing education — those principles built the School of Nursing and came to life once students infused their experiences with faculty instruction.

“I think from the day that we said yes or the day that we applied to the School of Nursing, we signed up for bold transformation and to be innovators,” said Lori Madden, a member of the inaugural Doctor of Philosophy Degree class. “I think that the School of Nursing attracts people interested in moving things forward and working together to transform health care.”

And those innovators appreciate the opportunity to be the first.

“The term inaugural it means something,” said Gales. “Even in 20 years down the road after countless cohorts at the school, there’s still only one. You get to say you were instrumental in making this program a success.”

Are you interested in applying to the D.N.P.-F.N.P. program? If so, you can learn more on the program web pages. Prospective students may also sign up for the school’s email group to receive regular updates about the school’s graduate degree programs.