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[Interview] Anne Pithan, DNP, Chair of the USD Department of Nursing

Oct 21, 2020 07:00AM ● By MED Magazine

Earlier this year, the University of South Dakota announced two new programs designed to equip more area nurses to step into healthcare leadership roles. The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program, which opens in the spring,  will prepare nurses for administrative positions in all kinds of complex systems. The Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program emphasizes nursing informatics and e-Health and is designed to help nurses become leaders in the growing area of telehealth. The MSN program opens in the fall. Both programs will be offered entirely online.

MED spoke with Anne Pithan, chair of USD's nursing department, for additional insights into these timely new educational tracks. 

MED: Why did USD decide to introduce these two programs now?

AP: The need for leadership within nursing has never been as profound as it is now, in the midst of the pandemic. Both new nurses and experienced nurses need strong leadership. The pandemic has also shown us that we really need to be able to use data to provide the best patient outcomes and we need to be able to provide quality care from a distance. Those are big focuses for our MSN program. 

MED: Both programs were developed in partnership with other departments. Why was that important?

AP: The DNP program is partnering with our business school because nurses not only need leadership skills but they also need to have those business and financial pieces in order to lead effectively. Dakota State University is especially strong in informatics and cybersecurity, two areas that we knew we wanted to focus on in our MSN program, so we are partnering with them, as well. These partnerships bring an interprofessional aspect to our educational programs that will make them solid and strong. 

MED: How did the school decide on these two particular tracks?

AP: We met with providers about what the need was in nursing right now. What bubbled to the surface from these conversations was information and eHealth and nursing leadership. We knew this before the pandemic, but the pandemic really highlighted that need. Our goal with these programs is to meet workforce needs in our region.

MED: Our region is largely rural. How do you think these programs will benefit rural areas?

AP: Making sure that our citizens in rural areas are getting their health needs met is a big focus for us. We know that telehealth is an opportunity to have a personal connection with people from a distance. But we still want to maintain that compassionate caring side of nursing while using the latest technology to deliver those patient outcomes. We are excited to have this opportunity to enhance the nursing profession statewide. We need solid leaders now more than ever.