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Two graduates will walk across the stage in ceremony Saturday morning at the Hammond campus as the first to complete the Doctor of Nursing Practice program. 

Purdue University Northwest's Hammond campus is preparing nurses to transform health care, with its first graduates of the Doctor of Nursing Practice program being awarded their diplomas on Saturday. 

The two graduates, Manisa Baker and Martha Drake, will walk across the stage during the Purdue University Northwest winter graduation ceremony Saturday morning at the Hammond campus.

"What really influences our curriculum is about bridging the gap between discovery of new knowledge and putting it into practice," said Lisa Hopp, dean and professor of the College of Nursing.

The program is a research-based degree that encapsulates scientific, organizational, leadership, legislative and economic knowledge. The degree is a collaboration between the Hammond campus and the Purdue University West Lafayette campus. Students in the program have access to courses from both Purdue campuses. 

The program had its first enrollees in August 2015, Hopp said, and there are 11 students currently enrolled. She said because the program is so faculty-intensive, the enrollment goal will be 15 students per year.  

The clinical degree also prepares graduates to meet health care needs of the growing number of people who are struggling with health care disparities, the university site states. Hopp said the Doctor of Nursing Practice program is catching on in higher education for a variety of medical fields.

"The program is a modern trend created from the complexity of health care and it's growing in various skill sets," Hopp said. 

Students also conduct clinical inquiry projects that contribute to evidence-based health care. Each campus with the Doctor of Nursing Practice program has a focus and Purdue University Northwest's Hammond campus is zeroing in on translation science, which uses research to apply scientific findings to improve health and well-being. 

Hopp said the program is designed to transform nurses into "systems engineers" who, rather than get frustrated by the healthcare systems in place, "can accomplish change." 

"Our graduates then go out in the surrounding communities in Northwest Indiana, Chicagoland and in other states with this knowledge," Hopp said. "Our goal is to produce leaders who can improve the health care wherever they go."

The program prepares students to evaluate health systems in diverse settings, use research to support evidence-based practice, initiate changes in the health care system, implement and evaluate ways to improve health care systems, solve complex health care delivery problems and more, according to Hopp. 

There are both full-time and part-time plans for students who want to pursue the Doctor of Nursing Practice program and scholarships are available on the program site

To be accepted an individual must have graduated from an accredited program with a master's degree in nursing with “B” grades or better, be a current registered nurse, completed an introductory statistics course in the last five years and pass a personal interview.

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