By Robin Shear

Higher education is a critical component in addressing the national medical workforce shortage. Here in South Florida, the University of Miami School of Nursing and Health Studies (SONHS) is doing its part by increasing its capacity to graduate high-quality advanced practice nurses.

SONHS recently added three BSN-to-DNP tracks to its existing slate of graduate programs. These new BSN-to-DNP specializations include Family Nurse Practitioner, Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner, and Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner. Each specialization can be completed in two years on a full-time track, or in four years on a part-time schedule.

Dr. Mary Hooshmand,

“Today, DNP-level preparation is increasingly considered the standard for advanced nursing practice certification and licensure,” explains Dr. Mary Hooshmand, Associate Dean for Graduate Clinical Programs at SONHS. “We were already a leader in preparing nurses at the doctoral level with our executive-style MSN-to-DNP program and BSN-to-DNP anesthesiology track—the first of its kind in Florida—so it only made sense for us to develop new opportunities that streamline graduation with a terminal degree.”

U.S. News and World Report currently ranks the school’s DNP program in the top 11 percent of programs nationwide (#38). “This is not a ‘fast food’ program,” explains Dr. Hooshmand. “Our tailored curriculum is led by our exceptional faculty and clinical partners, and we work closely with students to develop the skills and tools required to become patient-centered nurse leaders for our community.”

Dr. Hooshmand notes that the school helps identify scholarships and high-quality clinical placements for students. In addition, tuition is program-based, which translates to big savings compared to the per-credit tuition charged by some other graduate programs. Additional benefits Hooshmand highlights include world-class campus facilities, small class sizes, and just two to six students per DNP faculty advisor.

“My advanced nursing degrees from the U changed my career,” says Dr. Kenya Snowden, a nurse practitioner who completed the DNP program at SONHS in 2011 and now directs two of the new BSN-to-DNP tracks being offered as of Fall 2022. “With COVID-19 compounding the nursing shortage, we wanted to develop curricula that would help us continue expanding the pipeline of diverse nursing leaders equally prepared to practice, innovate system-wide solutions, and educate the next generation of nurse practitioners.”

Snowden, associate professor of clinical, has a ready response for any nurse daunted by the prospect of becoming a doctor: “I started as an LPN, and I always tell my students that advanced degrees are within reach for everyone! In just two short years, a BSN-DNP degree like this one from SONHS will open many doors and career possibilities you never imagined.”

Dr. Kenya Snowden

Indeed, the career outlook for doctorally prepared nurse practitioners is bright, as are salary projections. Career options range from clinical practice and academia to government and business. The school has many prestigious alumni of its CCNE-accredited DNP program, some of whom have also returned to teach in the program, like Dr. David Zambrana, executive vice president and chief operating officer for Jackson Health System, and Dr. Jackie Gonzalez, Nicklaus Children’s Hospital’s recently retired chief nursing officer.

“The DNP program is fantastic,” says Amauri Quintana, a simulation nurse specialist who earned his DNP at SONHS in 2020. “The curriculum is all about transferring evidence and knowledge into practice at a systemic level.” Quintana focused on improving medical management of patients at high risk for cardiovascular disease for his DNP scholarly project, the evidence-based practice improvement initiative all DNP students must identify within a real-world clinical setting. “The faculty here want to see you succeed. From day one, they encourage you to explore your interests. There’s a lot of guidance and mentorship, and the variety of clinical partners and projects is impressive.”

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