Mary Baldwin to launch nursing practice doctorate
You could say Christina Feggans-Langston was destined to become a nurse.
“I was named Christina after one of the nurses that my mom had when she was delivering me,” says Feggans-Langston, who works for UVA Health, the same health system where she was born. “Now that I’m a nurse, I want to just keep giving back.”
In August, she will be in the inaugural class of students in the new doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree program at Mary Baldwin University’s Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences in Fishersville. A first for Virginia, MBU’s DNP program will be delivered in a hybrid model combining online study with three visits to campus each year for intensive clinical instruction.
The DNP is a terminal degree for clinical nurses. Similar to a medical doctor, DNP degree holders can prescribe medication, order lab tests and make diagnoses. (Some nurse practitioners hold DNP degrees.)
MBU’s chief health officer, Deborah Greubel, who holds a DNP degree herself, founded MBU’s DNP program, which was funded via a $5 million gift announced in April from Richmond philanthropists Bill and Alice Goodwin. Interest in the degree and health care in general has been on the rise, she says, since the pandemic began last year. Additionally, as baby boomer nurses reach retirement age, some experts estimate the country will need one million new nurses before 2030.
“There is going to be demand. The question is whether we’re going to be able to keep up with the demand,” Greubel says.
The program will be affiliated with 600 other health institutions. It will have two inaugural cohorts of 10 to 20 students pursuing either the family nurse practitioner track or the adult gerontology acute care nurse practitioner track. Future cohorts may hold up to 40 students per track. The DNP program also offers a study track for nurses who already hold a nursing master’s degree.
MBU President Pamela R. Fox expects high interest in the program, pointing out that primary care practitioners are in demand and that fewer than 1% of nurses have doctoral degrees.
“There’s a tremendous need right now,” Fox says. “We wanted to create these new programs to help fulfill that national demand.”
As for Feggans-Langston, she’s sold on having a future as a nurse.
“I couldn’t think of any other profession [I’d rather] be in,” she says. “If there were something higher than a DNP, I’d probably do that too.”