All advanced practice programs are not created equal

Director Kathryn Sexson outlines the DNP-FNP program curriculum plans.

Deciding to embark upon an advanced practice degree hinges on the desires of health care professionals — and what changes they want to make on a larger scale.

Choosing a Doctor of Nursing Practice Degree program centers on the attributes of the curriculum along with how its delivery fits one’s life and learning styles.

At the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis, the proposed Doctor of Nursing Practice—Family Nurse Practitioner Degree Program (DNP-FNP) blends online instruction with in-person immersions resulting in a hybrid program that fosters collaborative learning environments.

“Our curriculum uses both in-person and online instruction. That format enables us to share information, resources and perspectives from a diverse group of learners in equally diverse settings,” explained Kathryn Sexson, DNP-FNP program director. “By combining the core values of our school and leveraging the options of technology, faculty use pedagogically sound learning strategies to engage learners and support their success.”

The School of Nursing’s DNP-FNP program includes both flexible online and interspersed in-person immersions, such as a clinical skills intensive. This mode of delivery optimizes faculty support and develops a community of learning for students. Controlled student‐to‐faculty ratios throughout the program amplify the depth of learning through small group interaction. The program also capitalizes on an unrivaled, rigorous educational experience found within a Research I university, those that engage in the highest level of discovery through research.

Technology and a team of curriculum design specialists combine to deliver an array of approaches.

  • Through synchronous and asynchronous online coursework, students build their knowledge, while balancing life’s other priorities.
  • Innovative design supports large-group discussions, along with small-group conversations, that appeal to both auditory and visual learners.
  • Ongoing chats and discussion forums offer spontaneous idea sharing and students are expected to interact directly with the content at hand as well as to complete work in advance.

These attributes foster students’ individual learning and add to the collective virtual classroom experience of the group.

“In the first year of the program, students expand their understanding of systems, evidence, political and social determinants, population health and leadership as they build their toolbox to create change,” Sexson said. “In year two, students put that into practice in clinical applications, culminating in a scholarly project in the final year of study.”

She added that faculty are committed to meeting or exceeding what students receive in a face-to-face environment. To enhance the online learning, four immersive, in-person experiences that enhance mentorship and foster teamwork are woven throughout the program. In addition to clinical skills simulations and hands-on labs on the Sacramento campus, students also experience an on-site intensive review and sign-off on their skills before heading to their clinical sites.

The result: graduates who lead in clinical practice, health policy, collaborative practice, health equity and evidence-based practice.