As the traditional role of a nurse continues to expand to help foster innovation, leadership, and entrepreneurship, nurses with excellent clinical and administrative skills are in higher demand than ever before. One program that is helping future nurses build this valuable dual skillset is the Nursing and Health Care Management (NHCM) program at the University of Pennsylvania (Penn), which aims to prepare student nurses to become transformative practitioners and leaders.
The five-year NHCM program is an opportunity for students to enroll in the Wharton School and the School of Nursing simultaneously, resulting in a Bachelor of Science in Economics and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing upon graduation. Curriculum includes science and clinical courses, as well as general education courses in arts and sciences— a combination that is aimed at boosting patient care skills and deepening knowledge of care delivery, while preparing graduates to utilize effective and efficient business models that will advance science, deliver solutions, and shape policy and practice.
“Being part of NHCM means that I not only learn about the healthcare system in theory, but also get to experience real-life care delivery,” said Jiaxuan “Grace” Nie, a fourth-year student from Auckland, New Zealand. “This aspect of the program is extremely unique, and has enabled me to contribute special perspectives to both my nursing and Wharton policy classes. In nursing classes, NHCM students have much more thorough knowledge about health policy; in Wharton classes, NHCM students are able to provide specific anecdotes of how health policy affects their day-to-day practice in clinical rotations.”
In previous years, an obstacle for students pursuing this dual degree has been the financial commitment of a five-year program—students have limited opportunities for financial aid after the traditional fourth year of study. As part of its ongoing commitment to advancing health and wellbeing, Johnson & Johnson and its chairman and CEO, Alex Gorsky, Wharton Graduate '96, saw an opportunity to devote resources to these future leaders and impact the future of healthcare. In June 2018, Johnson & Johnson announced a gift of one million dollars to launch the Nursing/Wharton Impact Scholars Loan Program, which will offer forgivable loans to fifth-year students in the NHCM program.
“The need for nurse leaders is critical and the Impact Scholars Program provides our students the opportunity to become exceptional clinicians while at the same time developing their business acumen, making them change agents at multiple levels of health care practice and administration,” said Antonia M. Villarruel, PhD, RN, FAAN, the Margaret Bond Simon Dean of Nursing at Penn. “Conversely, the program provides business leaders with an extraordinary background to understand how business decisions affect individuals, families, and communities across the health/illness continuum.”
To qualify to receive the Impact Scholars Loan, fifth-year students must commit to working with underserved communities for a one- to two-year period after graduation. This includes a wide range of positions, settings, and practice areas that support the U.S. Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) definitions of Medically Underserved Areas (MUAs) and Medically Underserved Populations (MUPs), which identify geographic areas and populations with a lack of access to primary care services.
This requirement aims to support both nurses and medically underserved populations, and ultimately, help to improve human health overall. Graduates emerge from the program poised to become leaders in healthcare and business environments, and are prepared for clinical practice and patient care management in hospitals, community settings, and group practice sites. They are also well-suited to positions as business and policy analysts as well as managers in such fields as pharmaceuticals, consulting, insurance, health care systems, nonprofits, and government organizations.
For Kelsey Gross, a fifth-year student from Rockville, Md., the most fulfilling part of NHCM has been discovering her love for bedside pediatric nursing, which she plans to pursue after graduation.
“I came into this program very passionate about my future career as a healthcare administrator, and saw nursing as somewhat of a stepping stone to a greater role,” Kelsey said. “However, during my clinical rotation on a hematology floor, I discovered that I truly love bedside pediatric nursing! I love the intense science involved, the important relationships formed with both patients and families, and the pure joy children find from small gestures. I am still very passionate about working as an administrator one day, but I am glad that I am also looking forward to my first job.”