First Students to Use Online Degree to Hone Leadership, Elevate Patient Care

May 9, 2024  |  by Heidi Wells, Global Campus |     min read

Hanna Baxendale, left, and Wendi Kimbrell are the first students in the DNP-EMBA.
Hanna Baxendale, left, and Wendi Kimbrell are the first students in the DNP-EMBA.

Having the authority, knowledge and skills to improve care for patients motivated two nurses to enroll in a new executive leadership-focused, dual degree program at the University of Arkansas. Both nurses want to help their employers expand the reach and quality of care they offer.

Hanna Baxendale, an Arkansas resident, and Wendi Kimbrell, a Texas resident, begin coursework this summer in the Doctor of Nursing Practice-Executive Master of Business Administration program offered jointly by the Eleanor Mann School of Nursing and the Sam M. Walton College of Business. The nursing school is part of the College of Education and Health Professions.

The coursework of the DNP-EMBA is delivered primarily online with the business college requiring on-campus visits one Saturday each month. The nursing requirements include a minimum of 1,000 practice hours, of which a maximum of 505 hours can be applied from a master’s degree.

The degree combines advanced nursing practice skills with executive leadership competencies. It is designed for master’s prepared, licensed advanced practice nurses who want to take on executive leadership positions beyond the director level.

Baxendale, a pediatric nurse practitioner, takes care of children at a pediatric clinic in Bentonville. She earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the U of A followed by a master’s degree from Duke University.

“For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a nurse,” Baxendale said. “I knew I wanted to help kiddos. It has always been my goal to work in pediatrics.”

Now, Baxendale is interested in becoming a partner in the small, physician-owned clinic where she works, to better focus on serving her patients and the community.

“I knew I wanted to pursue a DNP at some point in my career, to expand my knowledge base and provide better care for patients, but the EMBA really made a big difference in my career path,” Baxendale said.

Wendi Kimbrell, her husband and two sons, both of whom are enrolled at the University of Arkansas, enjoy a Razorback football game.
Wendi Kimbrell, her husband and two sons, both of whom are enrolled at the University of Arkansas, enjoy a Razorback football game.

Also a nurse practitioner, Kimbrell’s story is different. She was enrolled in college searching for a major when she got a direct care staff position at the Centre for Neuro Skills in Irving, Texas. She has been employed by the company in various nursing roles since 2000.

“I was given the opportunity to explore different disciplines (physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech and nursing),” she said about the job she held during college. “Nursing is something I have grown to love. It has changed my life. Being able to help patients get better and to see optimal health outcomes is very rewarding for me. I have seen patients go from severe traumatic brain injury not being able to walk or talk or feed themselves to being able to walk out of there, return to work, and drive again. I have seen many success stories.

“It’s time for me to challenge myself,” Kimbrell continued. “I feel like a lifelong learner. I decided to go back and do the DNP-EMBA to prepare myself for an executive leadership role. The degree will advance my competencies in leadership and nursing practice.”

The company she works with is expanding, Kimbrell said, growing from two facilities to seven in Texas and California and expects to continue growing throughout the U.S.

“I want to have the knowledge to help them grow,” she said. “Having knowledge about the corporate business model on top of gaining my terminal degree is something I have always wanted to do.”

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Heidi Wells

Content Strategist

Heidi Wells is the content strategist for the Global Campus at the University of Arkansas and editor of The Online Learner. Her writing spans more than 30 years as a communicator at the U of A and a reporter and editor at Arkansas newspapers. Wells earned two degrees from the U of A: a master's in 2013 and a bachelor's in 1988.

Wells can be reached at or 479-575-7239.

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D.N.P./E.M.B.A. Program

Learn the business of caring across the lifespan and care continuum where nurses lead, innovate and transform organizational outcomes. Prepare for executive leadership positions in health care with this dual-degree program that combines advanced nursing practice and executive leadership competencies.

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