The Business of Caring: New D.N.P./E.M.B.A. Dual Program Prepares Nurses for Advanced Leadership in Health Care

October 5, 2023

Adam Stoverink
Adam Stoverink

Health care systems and delivery have become increasingly complex. With continuous advances in patient care and the technologies that help deliver it, health care organizations can serve more patients than ever and in myriad ways.

As health care systems continue to grow and evolve, there is a rapidly growing need for health care professionals who also know how to run the business side of their organizations, says Adam Stoverink, director of Walton M.B.A. programs at the University of Arkansas.

“Health care professionals provide an incredibly important service to our communities, and many of these professionals go beyond caring for patients to also take on the added responsibility of leading their organizations and the people within them,” Stoverink says.

Nurses, who are often closest to patients and their families, are well-positioned to fill this need. That’s why the University of Arkansas has developed and launched a new program for advanced practice nurses who want to advance their careers: the Doctor of Nursing Practice/Executive Master of Business Administration (D.N.P./E.M.B.A.) dual-degree program.

By combining the doctorate in nursing with the E.M.B.A. degree, this program gives nurses the opportunity to gain advanced nursing competencies and business skills critical for leading modern health care organizations.

“We are thrilled to partner with the Eleanor Mann School of Nursing on this innovative and cutting-edge dual-degree program that offers the best of both worlds (health care and business),” Stoverink says. “Our curriculum opens an unlimited number of doors for our graduates, and it prepares them to sprint through those doors with confidence.”


Going From Advanced Practice to Executive Leadership

For advanced practice nurses such as nurse practitioners, clinical specialists, nurse anesthetists and nurse-midwives, an executive leadership role can be a logical — and rewarding — next step. And, whether as president, CEO, or administrator of their own private practice, nurses are uniquely positioned to lead organizations in a way that balances patient care with business goals.

The modern health care system functions as a business, and many organizations are under pressure to cut costs, operate efficiently and improve their processes. However, patient care and outcomes are equally paramount to an organization’s success. Professionals without a practitioner background can lack the intimate knowledge of patient experiences and care that can drive positive change in an organization.

“Who among health care professionals has the closest proximity to and most encounters with patients and their families? Nurses,” says Jessie Casida, executive director and professor at the U of A Eleanor Mann School of Nursing. “It’s inherent to us to take care of patients, no matter what. That translates well into leadership positions.”

Careers for advanced practice nurses with the new dual degree include director of nursing, health care or nurse administrator, nurse executive, CEO or president. Graduates of the dual program can also go on to work for state, national or international organizations, such as the United Nations, Doctors Without Borders, the Department of Health or others. The distinctive preparation nurses gain in the D.N.P./E.M.B.A. dual-degree program creates countless opportunities for career advancement and positive change.

“If you look at the health care system as a whole — and how many moving parts there are within the system that must come together to create efficient, high-quality, cost-effective care — there’s no better position than a nurse to do that,” Casida adds.


Advanced Competencies in Health Care Practice, Policy

Jessie Casida
Jessie Casida

D.N.P./E.M.B.A. programs provide the advanced competencies, skill set and credentials advanced practitioners need for transformational leadership. The Doctor of Nursing Practice prepares nurses to use knowledge, theories and evidence-based practices to diagnose and solve complex health issues. This terminal degree helps advanced practitioners excel in managing patients across the care continuum, improving outcomes, disease prevention and general health for individuals, groups and populations.

The Doctor of Nursing Practice also encompasses competencies in policy development and organizational leadership. These competencies equip nurses to initiate quality improvements throughout the health care system, whether in a patient care unit, department, hospital or system of hospitals.

Casida notes that advanced practice nurses have insight into the processes and policies that impact the success of a health care organization.

“As practitioners who work within the system every day to execute policies and processes, nurses are well-positioned to develop innovative health care delivery systems and remove roadblocks or other hindrances that make care inefficient or fragmented,” Casida says. “The Doctor of Nursing Practice provides an understanding of policy and health care economics that goes well beyond master’s-level preparation, which helps graduates turn these insights into action.”


Critical Business Knowledge for Today’s Health Care Institutions

While the Doctor of Nursing Practice offers preparation for leadership roles on its own, an M.B.A. adds value by equipping nurses with a holistic understanding of business principles and practices. The D.N.P./E.M.B.A. dual degree includes coursework from the Sam M. Walton College of Business Executive M.B.A. program. The E.M.B.A. program helps nurses develop leadership and management skills, along with financial management, accounting, decision-making and an understanding of economics.

“The Walton Executive M.B.A. program prepares our students to lead,” says Stoverink. “We develop executive leaders by offering a broad coverage of the most essential business concepts, building critical skills in leadership, strategy, finance, accounting, data analytics, marketing, supply chain management, economics and global business.”

This holistic understanding of business, combined with the exceptional health care training students receive in the Eleanor Mann School of Nursing, prepares them to advance their careers in health care administration or consulting or to go on and start their own clinic, Stoverink adds.

This expertise is critical for the growth and success of an organization, and it provides the credibility advanced practitioners often need to initiate change or process improvements within an organization.

Casida says another advantage of the degree is it gives nurses a “better seat at the table.”

“A nurse executive with a D.N.P./E.M.B.A. will not only be able to articulate the needs of nurses and other health care providers for patient and family care. They’ll also understand and articulate the business component of the health care delivery system,” Casida explains. “If a D.N.P./E.M.B.A.-prepared nurse becomes president or CEO of an organization, they will have a combination of competencies, experience and credentials to create policies for health care leaders affecting and effecting change.”


Putting Knowledge Into Practice

The D.N.P./E.M.B.A. program also ensures students can get real-world experiences in health care leadership roles. The Doctor of Nursing Practice requires 1,000 practice hours to complete (505 practice hours can be applied from a master’s program). Students in the D.N.P. program work with the program director to coordinate a clinical practicum. In the practicum, students gain experience in specialty roles and project implementation, helping refine their leadership style and approach to health care delivery.


Designed for Working Professionals

Beyond the competencies and skills students will gain in the program, the D.N.P./E.M.B.A. dual-degree program was developed with the working professional in mind. The Doctor of Nursing Practice and Executive M.B.A. program offers both convenience and connection through online and occasional face-to-face meetings. The Doctor of Nursing Practice program requires a one-time, in-person orientation at the start of the program, and the E.M.B.A. requires face-to-face meetings one Saturday per month. This format allows you to network with your professors and peers while working around your schedule.


Learn More

If you’re an advanced health care practitioner interested in executive leadership, visit the U of A ONLINE website to learn more about the D.N.P. and E.M.B.A. dual-degree program.

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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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