ST. CLOUD -- St. Cloud State University’s Department of Nursing Science and the University of Minnesota School of Nursing are joining forces to create a Doctor of Nursing program with the goal of training medical professionals to work in rural, underserved central Minnesota clinics and hospitals.

The new collaborative program, based out of St. Cloud, will offer a Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree with a Family Nurse Practitioner specialty.

Classes toward the degree will begin in the fall of 2021. Courses will be taught by University of Minnesota School of Nursing faculty, and students will complete their clinical practices at CentraCare clinics and hospitals. St. Cloud State faculty will also work on creating curriculum specifically focused on rural family nursing care, which will launch in 2025.

“The students will initially be U of M students,” said Dr. Shonda Craft, Dean of the St. Cloud State University School of Health and Human Services. “It is a St. Cloud cohort of students who are taking the full U of M curriculum. They will, in essence, be University of Minnesota nursing students, and we will make sure we are working alongside the University of Minnesota to provide the clinical opportunities within the St. Cloud region.”

Craft says SCSU faculty will serve as mentors to students enrolled in the program. The collaboration with the University of Minnesota will end in 2025, and St. Cloud State University will begin granting advanced nursing degrees on its own.

“We will have a designated faculty member who will serve as a liaison from our Department of Nursing Science to work alongside the University of Minnesota faculty,” Craft said. “So, they will have faculty privileges at the University of Minnesota so they’re aware of what the curriculum looks like, so we are well positioned in a few years to seek that autonomous standing.”

The collaboration is supported by a $1.5 million donation from CentraCare.

Job openings for registered nurses and nurse practitioners in central Minnesota are predicted to grow significantly in the next few years. The need for nurse practitioners is expected to increase by 33 percent, with over 120 openings in central Minnesota. The need for registered nurses is also expected to increase by around 11 percent, with over 1,700 openings. The majority of job openings will be to replace nurses who are retiring, according to DEED.

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