UK HealthCare

First Doctoral Students Graduate through UK Nursing-Norton Healthcare Partnership

The first cohort of students to participate in an academic-practice partnership between the UK College of Nursing and Norton Healthcare graduated on Dec. 16.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Dec. 19, 2016) —The first cohort of nursing students to benefit from an academic-practice partnership between the UK College of Nursing and Norton Healthcare graduated with doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degrees on Dec. 16.

Through the partnership, introduced in 2014 by Norton Healthcare Institute for Nursing, as many as 150 advanced practice registered nurses employed by Norton Healthcare will receive their DNPs through the UK College of Nursing. The class of 2016 is the first of five cohorts scheduled to complete the program.

The UK College of Nursing established the first DNP program in the nation. The DNP program focuses on the development of advanced competencies for complex practice, and research utilization for the improvement of clinical care delivery, patient outcomes and system management. Graduates are experts in designing, implementing, managing and evaluating health care delivery systems and will be prepared to lead at the highest clinical and executive ranks.

Nicole Brink started working as a bedside nurse at Norton Healthcare in 2001 and has since climbed the ranks of her profession, recently accepting a position as a nursing manager in the ICU at the Norton Audubon Hospital. With a new leadership opportunity, Brink was eager to grow in professional and academic knowledge through the DNP program. The partnership with UK College of Nursing allowed her to continue working while pursuing an advanced degree.

“The partnership has benefited me by providing me with the educational rigor that will allow me to enter my new position with the ability to see situations with a holistic approach,” Brink said.

Leaders at the UK College of Nursing and Norton Healthcare initiated the program in response to the Institute of Medicine's proclamation that shifts in the health care system necessitated more members of the nursing profession achieving higher levels of academic and leadership training. 

“This private-academic partnership is the first of its kind in the nation,” Janie Heath, dean of the UK College of Nursing and Warwick Professor of Nursing, said. “This is a model for all colleges and health care organizations to prepare resilient nurse leaders who will provide compassionate, competent and evidence-based care.”

Tracy Williams, senior vice president and system chief nursing officer of Norton Healthcare, brought forth the original vision for the partnership, stating that growing the doctoral-prepared practitioner workforce internally is a strategic economic model for Norton.

“It is also a way for us to invest in our high-performing nurses looking for growth opportunities and hopefully keep them with us for a long time,” Williams said. 

For more information about the DNP program, click here.


UK is the University for Kentucky. At UK, we are educating more students, treating more patients with complex illnesses and conducting more research and service than at any time in our 150-year history. To read more about the UK story and how you can support continued investment in your university and the Commonwealth, go to: #uk4ky #seeblue