20 Years of Family Nurse Practitioner Program


Alyssa Walker

Document Type

News Article

Publication Date


Campus Unit

College of Nursing & Professional Disciplines


For many North Dakotans who live in rural areas, receiving primary health care often means traveling long distances to see a doctor for a case of influenza or to get a prescription filled. The UND Family Nurse Practitioner program has filled the need for rural healthcare providers in the state for the last 20 years which has allowed rural residents to see a healthcare provider, often right in their hometown. 2015 marks the 20 th Anniversary of UND’s Nurse Practitioner program and UND celebrated this momentous occasion during Homecoming on October 10 th, 2015.

The 20th Anniversary event, which was held at the Eagle’s Crest Grill and Bar in Grand Forks, was well-attended by Nurse Practitioner alumni from across the region. Dinner was followed by a short program which was led by the Master of Ceremonies, Clinical Associate Professor, Stephanie Kaiser. Gwen Witzel received the Outstanding Alumni Award for her work as a rural Nurse Practitioner as well has her advocacy for Nurse Practitioners throughout the state and country. Former Nursing faculty member, Colleen Holzwarth, was honored with a tribute for her contribution to Nurse Practitioner education. A beautiful plaque honoring Colleen was presented to her daughter, son, and husband who were in attendance at the event. The event concluded with a keynote presentation by Dean Gayle Roux that highlighted the future of Nurse Practitioner practice. Alumni and faculty enjoyed the opportunity to connect with one another, reminisce, and celebrate the important role that Nurse Practitioners play in the healthcare field.

“This is a special time in our history with the 20th Anniversary. The climate and health needs in the United States and the state of North Dakota create a wonderful environment for us to give back to the community and provides Nurse Practitioners an opportunity to help manage patient health, as well as help them to deal with chronic health conditions” said Dean Roux.

Nurse Practitioners provide primary healthcare to patients often from infancy through adulthood with their focus on preventive health, patient education, disease management, and illness prevention. UND’s two year NP program is the largest education program for Nurse Practitioners in the state as it graduates about 30 students each year. There are currently about 600 Nurse Practitioners practicing in North Dakota today. With an emphasis on rural primary care, the NP program educates nurse practitioners throughout the state of North Dakota and the upper Midwest using both online education and a once per semester traditional classroom curriculum.

According to Jana Zwilling, Director of the Family Nurse Practitioner program, NPs are important to healthcare especially in rural communities. “There will be a shortage of healthcare providers especially in primary care in those rural and under-served populations, so the Family Nurse Practitioners can provide access to care where there may not be enough care or any care [at all].”

The Family Nurse Practitioner Practice began in the United States in 1965 at the University of Colorado and was developed by Dr. Henry Silver and Dr. Loretta Ford. Fifty years after its inception, there are more than 205,000 Nurse Practitioners licensed to practice in the United States. The American Association of Nurse Practitioners celebrated its 50th Anniversary with National Nurse Practitioner Week November 8-14, 2015.

If you would like to contribute to the Nurse Practitioner Scholarship and Education fund, please visit the UND Alumni Association Foundation website and type in UND Nurse Practitioner Fund in the box box below “I would like to give to.” You may also make a donation via mail by making your check, payable to UND Foundation with a note that requests your donation be allocated to UND Nurse Practitioner Fund. Donations can be mailed to:

UND Foundation 3501 University Ave, Stop 8157 Grand Forks, ND 58202-8157