Turtle Mountain member among the six who graduated with UND’s Doctor of Nursing Practice degree

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Turtle Mountain member among the six who graduated with UND’s Doctor of Nursing Practice degree

When she walked the stage at this year’s summer commencement, Jessica Ahmann, a family nurse practitioner (FNP) from Bismarck, was among the first six students to receive the University of North Dakota’s Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree.

It’s a big deal for North Dakota, where health advocates note that there’s a shortage of health care delivery professionals — advanced practice nurses, physicians, nurses, and aides, among many others.

“I’ve been a nurse practitioner for several years,” said Ahmann, who got her bachelor of nursing (BSN) degree from UND as part of the RAIN (Recruitment/Retention of American Indians into Nursing) program — now celebrating its 25th year here. “So I knew about the changes that are coming in health care, including all the talk nationwide about making this a terminal degree in nursing.”

“So I wanted to further my education — more knowledge is good for my profession and, for sure, it’ll keep me marketable for many years,” said Ahmann, an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, in Belcourt, N.D., and, with her twin brother, among first in her family to go to college.

Ahmann is an FNP at the Sanford Health Dakota Children’s Advocacy Center, working with victims of sexual and physical abuse.

“There are not many child abuse practitioners in North Dakota,” she said. “It’s a very intense specialty.”

Ahmann — whose twin is employed at the same facility that she works — got into nursing after learning the health care ropes from her mother, who has worked in a hospital setting for 35 years. As soon as Ahmann was old enough, her mom encouraged her to become a “candy striper,” or volunteer health aide.

“After that experience, I fell in love with health care,” she said.

The UND DNP program is just completing its second year and is growing.

The first class — which graduated Friday, Aug. 7 — comprised of six students (in alphabetical order):

  • Jessica Ahmann, FNP
  • Elizabeth Jahn, FNP working in primary care in Thief River Falls, Minn.
  • Illaria Moore, an adult gerontological nurse practitioner, working with elderly veterans in Boise, Idaho
  • Bettina Thompson, a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) in Rochester, Minn.
  • Michelle Ullery, a FNP, rehabilitating patients with disabilities in Minnetonka, Minn.
  • Sheila Wiegman, a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner in Minneapolis.

“We hope to have 12 in our next cohort,” said Maridee Shogren, director of the DNP program at UND. “We feel very proud to have added this clinical practice doctorate to our program — it’ll continue to grow and evolve.”

Juan Miguel Pedraza University & Public Affairs writer

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