Like many nurses pursuing an advanced degree, Rafal Mirowski set his sights on attaining a nurse practitioner degree, specifically a DNP in adult-gerontology. After all, the NP degree is one of the most pursued advanced nursing degrees in America. According to the U.S. Bureau for Labor Statistics, the need for nurse practitioners will increase 36% between 2016 and 2026, substantially faster than the average 7% growth anticipated across all occupations during that time. “I was convinced that a DNP in direct patient care was the ONLY path,” said Mirowski.
“I was convinced that a DNP in direct patient care was the ONLY path,” said Mirowski.
A Single Focus – An NP Degree
But after applying, competing for a spot, being accepted into the University of Colorado’s BSN to DNP program, enrolling and taking a few classes, he started to rethink his goal. “Before I began, I hadn’t considered anything but adult-gerontology.” Like a lot of nurse practitioner programs, CU’s was focused on direct patient care -- treating and caring for patients at the bedside. “And that’s exactly what it was supposed to deliver, but I wanted something different. I just didn’t know what that was until I got here. I knew there had to be other things out there.”
Preparing to Quit the Program, Mirowski Had Some Hard Decisions to Make
Because of the disconnect between what he was learning and what he wanted to learn, Mirowski became dissatisfied. He was prepared to leave the program but didn’t want to. He liked CU. The faculty. The environment. The students. Its reputation for innovation. He had spent years focused on this path. Now, what was he going to do?
Before enrolling, he never questioned his pursuit of an NP degree in direct patient care. “This was the way to advance my career,” said Mirowski. “I didn’t just want the diploma and the initials after my name. I wanted to embrace the degree and really learn from it.” While on his quest to applying, he spent months analyzing and researching universities and programs. And narrowed his top three choices to the University of Michigan (Flint), University of Illinois at Chicago, and the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.
Why Choose CU?
His criteria for selection included that the institution: be connected to an academic hospital; have significant NIH funding; produce theorists and leaders in the field; have a BSN-DNP program that allowed students to earn an MSN along the way. “CU had it all,” recalled Mirowski. But what sealed the deal for him was the interview process. “CU was different. Other schools had a formal process. CU’s was unconventional, which confirmed my perception that CU was innovative and encouraged thinking outside of the box. That appealed to me.”
For Mirowski, the realization that the program he was enrolled in wasn’t the right fit was devastating. Instead of dropping out, he leaned in, and started talking with faculty about his goals to determine if something else at the College would fit his needs. He researched other BSN to DNP tracks that might offer him the critical thinking he was looking for. He discovered iLEAD (Innovation in Leadership and Administration in Nursing and Health Care Systems) – one of three programs that is more focused on the business side versus the bedside. The others included health care informatics and veteran and military health care. The online Master of Science in Nursing leadership program guides nurses into leadership and administrative responsibilities in primary care, long-term care, home health positions and more.
Discovering the Right Program for Him
“The iLEAD program sounded interesting. It focuses on reflecting on what you are studying, what works, what doesn’t work. I thought it might fulfill a desire I had to grow in nursing.” He talked with the program leaders and transferred within the College. “They really cared and worked with me,” said Mirowski.
With a long-term goal of being part of leadership at an academic institution, he has found the degree that fits him best, and also discovered along the way that “you don’t have to pigeonhole yourself.”