With a mission to educate health professionals to lead teams and improve the availability of primary care to underserved populations; the nurse practitioner program at UC Davis attracts nurses from a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences. It’s this mission that attracted Jonathan Hernandez of Bakersfield to the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis.

Jonathan Hernandez put on his white coat for the first time when he was welcomed to the nurse practitioner program in June 2015.

“As an emergency department nurse, I saw the barriers a lot of people in my community have in accessing health care,” Hernandez explained. “I am excited to be a part of a primary care team and work to change this.”

Hernandez earned an Associate Degree in Nursing in 2010, and then returned to California State University, Bakersfield, to complete a bachelor’s degree in 2013. Now, he’s back in school again to earn a master’s degree to become a nurse practitioner.

“It was always in the back of my mind that I wanted to be a provider,” the second-year nurse practitioner student explained. “What attracted me to UC Davis was the team-based, collaborative nature. That core value really spoke to me.”

Hernandez said this focus on interprofessionalism — where nurse practitioner and physician assistant students learn together from a faculty team of physicians, nurses, physician assistants, pharmacists and more — is evident throughout the student experience at UC Davis.

“The way these programs are set up, where there are other disciplines always involved, this really breaks down barriers,” Hernandez said. “I feel that we get the best of everything: the best of medical training, the best in nursing theory. Everything we learn complements each other, so I’m not only learning the concepts in a classroom but how to apply them in the real world.”

According to Elizabeth Rice, the director for the nurse practitioner program, UC Davis emphasizes the need to recruit a diverse student body to develop a future provider workforce that reflects the communities they serve.

“That’s what drew me to UC Davis: this long-term, consistent and honest vision to not only change health care, but change health care systems through both research and how we prepare future providers,” Rice said. “People here think deeply about these issues and I want to be with people like that.”

Another distinction of the UC Davis program is the variety of clinical settings students here experience.

“For decades, training has been concentrated in hospital-based settings,” said Gerald Kayingo, who directs the physician assistant program that is integrated with the nurse practitioner program. “Health care in the 21st century requires more understanding of ambulatory care, environmental determinants of disease and how patients, families, communities and providers work together to improve health. At UC Davis, we expose students to these experiences as soon as they start their education.”

For Hernandez, the UC Davis nurse practitioner program opened his eyes to multiple perspectives.

“Everything here is at a completely different level, it’s unlike any other nurse practitioner program,” he said. “I think that’s what I really like about UC Davis. You take a look at the curriculum, how we’re taught, it’s just a whole different model.”