DNP—Population Health & Systems Leadership

Community Health Nursing students

Our Population Health & Systems Leadership (PHSL) track in the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree program is designed for nurses who are interested in improving population health, healthcare, and community systems in the U.S. and around the world. Our multi-disciplinary curriculum teaches you to:

  • Become a leader to work effectively with diverse stakeholders and communities
  • Use skills in community assessment and engagement, policy and program development and evaluation, budgeting, and management to drive healthy change, policy, and high impact solutions to health problems

Our DNP-PHSL alumni describe their career paths as richer and their passion for nursing energized by gaining a solid foundation to be a leader in the nursing profession.

Initially launched in 2008, this is the first post-baccalaureate DNP-PHSL curriculum in the Northwest region. A master’s degree is not required to apply.

Sites of practice

Our graduates are expertly prepared in:

They excel in traditional and non-traditional nursing practice roles in different employment sectors.

Examples of practice roles for DNP-PHSL graduates from the UW School of Nursing:

Employment Sectors

Practice Roles

Education Manager of School Health Services, RN-BSN Program Director, Nursing Faculty
Healthcare Division Director in hospital and public health institution, Hospital-based Population-level Care Manager or Coordinator, Chronic Disease Program Manager, Director of Clinical Services at a community and migrant health center
Government Nurse Manager and Director at urban and rural public health departments, Community Health Director, Advanced Practice Nurse Specialist at public health department, AACN/CDC Public Health Nurse Fellow, Equity & Environment Program Manager
Tribal Institutions Community Health Program Supervisor
Nonprofits Director of a national environmental health nonprofit, Program Director and Assistant Director at local and regional nonprofits, Mental Health Project Manager, Regional Director of Health Equity at a voluntary health agency, Chief Nursing Officer at a nonprofit for global health
Business Self-employed Public Health Nurse Consultant, Employee Health Nurse and Program Supervisor


All Doctor of Nursing Practice tracks are offered as full-time study only.

Our Population Health & Systems Leadership track offers a multi-disciplinary curriculum. With your cohort, you will:

  • Learn to use evidence-informed decision-making models and analytic skills to nimbly respond to pressing societal needs
  • Become equipped with leading-edge, interdisciplinary research to lead sustainable change in community and population health practice
  • Develop skills to serve vulnerable populations and communities through intensive practicum internship
  • Build a professional network from a wide range of disciplines

You can become a specialist in your preferred area of community and population health by focusing your course papers, projects, internship and coursework on your areas of interest in:

  • Global and Cross-Cultural Health; OR
  • Health Systems Transformation; OR
  • Community Engagement for Health Equity

Year one

Year one of the DNP program is offered in a hybrid format (50 percent in-person, 50-percent distance learning), and requires that you be on campus one to two days per week. You will complete core DNP academic classwork with peers across all DNP tracks in the School of Nursing. Content of year one courses includes:

  • Leadership
  • Appraisal and application of evidence to advance practice
  • Health equity
  • Health systems and policy
  • Wellness and health promotion, and
  • Quality improvement

Year two

In year 2, students establish the foundation of advanced practice education with regard to population health equity and systems, which includes:

  • Collaborating with community partners
  • Systems thinking
  • Program evaluation
  • Population health leadership
  • Epidemiology and informatics

Students build competency through track-specific courses that include requirements outside of the School of Nursing and across domestic, global, and environmental systems. You will gain advanced practice skills from academic courses that will support you in your application of your learning in practice, during clinical placements starting in spring quarter.

Year three

As in year two, many courses require in-person attendance with some courses including distance learning methods. In the final year of your program, you will continue clinical training.

In addition, you will work with your supervisory committee to complete a DNP final project in collaboration with a local clinical agency or organization. This project is presented in the form of a final examination.

Role of the DNP

Our DNP program prepares you not only for an advanced practice role but also teaches you how to look at cutting-edge research and apply that evidence to your practice.

The DNP program’s additional academic and clinical hours beyond a master’s-level degree gives you a solid foundation to become a leader in the nursing profession. You will work with faculty who are nationally recognized for their research, and also with agencies around the Puget Sound region to gain hundreds of hours of hands-on clinical experience.

By combining advanced practice nursing skills and knowledge of how to evaluate evidence-based research, you are empowered to become a more efficient and effective nurse leader.

National certifications

Graduates of our DNP-PHSL program may be eligible to apply for the following national certifications:


The Doctor of Nursing Practice program at the University of Washington is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (