Kati Wijdenes, BSN, RN, a student pursuing her Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree online through the University of Arizona College of Nursing, is one of only six students nationwide to be awarded the Armed Forces Health Professions Scholarship by the U.S. Air Force to become a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP).

On Aug. 23, Wijdenes was commissioned as an Air Force officer by Darcy Mortimer, MSN, RN, CCN, an Air Force veteran who currently is pursuing her Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) through the UA College of Nursing. They were joined by Wijdenes’ recruiter, Tech Sgt. Richard Geren.

“It’s a unique opportunity to serve in an area where there’s not enough service available,” said Wijdenes, who lives in Mesa. “The military is just starting to recognize the importance of treating the psychological effects of being in a war zone and being in the military. I have the opportunity to be there near the beginning and hopefully help shape how that care is given.”

The scholarship will pay tuition, books and fees, as well as provide a monthly stipend for Wijdenes’ living expenses while she pursues her degree. Each scholarship recipient is commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Medical Service Corps and placed on inactive, obligated Reserve status during the course of their studies. In exchange for the three-year scholarship, Wijdenes will serve as an active-duty member of the Air Force for a minimum of three years upon completion of her degree.

“My dad’s side of the family has a strong tradition of military service, and it’s something I’ve wanted to be a part of since I was very young,” said Wijdenes, whose father serves in the Army National Guard. “There are a lot of opportunities for research and to serve and treat military personnel who are coming back from war zones and reintegrating into society and life with their families.”

The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) online program offered by the UA College of Nursing prepares nurse practitioners (family, pediatric, adult acute care and psychiatric mental health) as clinical scholars. The program can be taken either full- or part-time by students holding either a nursing bachelor or master degree.