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A DNP from GW Caps off a Military Career

Colonel Richard Prior, DNP, FNP-BC, FAANP
October 24, 2014

At the age of 42, Colonel Richard Prior, having already obtained an MSN from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, MD, decided he wanted to further his education by obtaining a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree. Given the limited number of schools in the country at that time offering this degree, Colonel Prior quickly zeroed in on  George Washington nursing program.

“I’m from Ohio, so I gave serious consideration to Ohio University,” says Colonel Prior. “But I was living in the DC area at the time, and what attracted me to GW was that they offered the entire program online—no sitting in traffic!”

Colonel Prior was also enthusiastic about attending a university with a national reputation, and one that resided in the nation’s capital. “It was a pretty big deal for me,” says Colonel Prior. “I was 11 or 12 when Reagan got shot—which had a big impact on me—and I thought about that as I walked into the GW hospital so many years later. Plus, my son and I enjoyed following the basketball games.”

A ‘career army guy,’ Colonel Prior was a family nurse practitioner when he began his studies at GW. Colonel Prior found the nursing faculty extremely helpful and supportive of the online students. If time did not allow for a trip to the campus, professors were happy to set up appointments by phone. According to Colonel Prior, the online model worked quite well for this particular degree program and enabled him to  acquire the skills he needed.

Enjoying the perspective of international students was an added benefit of being part of the program.  “I really liked the online discussions,” says Colonel Prior. “For instance, I remember one student from Canada talking about what [the healthcare system] was like in Canada shortly after the Affordable Care Act was enacted. It was pretty interesting.”

Although Colonel Prior brought with him a wealth of ‘real-world’ nursing practice from his longstanding military nursing career, upon completing the DNP program at the GW School of Nursing in 2012, Colonel Prior was assigned the position of Deputy Commander for Nursing and Clinical Services at the Kenner Army Health Clinic in Fort Lee, VA. In this capacity—which he currently holds—he oversees provision of nursing and ancillary services for 32,000 beneficiaries. He is also responsible for leadership, administration and operations for a 180 member staff, and is the principle advisor to the commander on policies, procedures and all matters pertaining to nursing.

In July of 2014, Colonel Prior will transfer to the Ireland Army Community Hospital in Fort Knox, KY, where he will assume the role of Deputy Commander for Nursing.
Colonel Prior’s advice to anyone considering this particular degree program at the GW School of Nursing? “If you are a clinician looking to assume a leadership role as your career matures, it’s important that you broaden your skill base. It’s critical that you learn how to lead a team in a multi-disciplinary environment. The DNP program at GW can help you develop those skills.”


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