Cluster Descriptions

Courses offered in all Clusters aim to address the educational priorities of health equity and determinants, population and community health, prevention and health promotion, or systems and models of care.

Below are the descriptions for cluster groups. Courses are placed into clusters by topic area. Some clusters have specific DNP descriptions. Cluster descriptions and courses offered within the cluster are regularly reviewed by a panel of faculty who specialize in that particular topic area. Some courses may be open to both PhD and DNP students. The NEXus catalog course details identify whom the courses are open to: PhD Only, DNP Only, or Open to both PhD and DNP. For a downloadable version of the cluster descriptions click here. *DNP SPECIFIC are clusters in which the courses that are offered in the course exchange are through DNP Programs.

Advanced Nursing Practice

DNP SPECIFIC* This cluster provides theory, method, professional role and substantive courses to provide direct care as an advanced nursing practitioner within appropriate population foci. Content includes: professional roles/issues; diagnosis & management of common conditions; and selected population management, i.e., family, psychiatric/mental health.

Children, Parents and Family

This cluster focuses on issues, methods and analysis of studying and intervening with children, parents and families. The three areas of major emphasis are: 1) Substantive theory about the health and development of children, parents and families; 2) Effective methods for conducting ethical, culturally sensitive and developmentally appropriate research with children, parents and families; and 3) Translation or application of research into practice settings to address the health needs and optimize outcomes for children, parents and families.

Chronic and Disabling Conditions and Palliative Care

This cluster contains courses with a focus on substantive theory and methods for conducting research with persons affected by chronic and disabling conditions and palliative care and/or a theoretical foundation for health care of persons with chronic and disabling conditions and palliative care.

Diverse and Vulnerable Populations

This cluster focuses on three areas: 1) substantive theory and principles about health equity and the determinants of health; 2) effective methods for conducting ethical, culturally safe, and sensitive research with diverse and vulnerable populations; and 3) addressing health needs of diverse populations through community and academic partnerships to reduce health disparities with at-risk, and marginalized communities and populations.


DNP SPECIFIC* This cluster focuses on increasing awareness of the application of values as they apply to human health rights, evidence-based decision making, and clinical care of patients and populations. Ethics related to safety, confidentiality and privacy are discussed in relation to the conduct of research as well as the use of research and patient data in practice.

Gerontology and Geriatric Nursing

This cluster provides gerontology theory, research methods, and substantive courses to support gerontological nursing or research. Course content includes psychosocial and biologic aging, health promotion for older adults, disease prevention and management, and caregiving.

Interprofessional Collaboration

DNP SPECIFIC* This cluster focuses on actualizing healthcare professionals’ roles and responsibilities to foster respectful communication that demonstrates partnership in delivering excellent care to patients that is ethical, accountable, altruistic and caring. Facilitating interprofessional collaborative practice competencies will be foundational to this cluster.

Nursing Education

This cluster provides the student with information on current issues, the teaching role, and pedagogy in nursing.

Nursing Knowledge Development: Theory, Philosophy, and Science

This cluster provides students with a variety of courses that explore science, philosophy, and theory in the relationship of generating nursing knowledge.

Research Methodology

This cluster includes both basic and advanced courses in research including sub-clusters related to quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods research design.

Quantitative Research Methods

This sub-cluster supports quantitative research designs and methods, including comprehensive courses focused on principles of quantitative research, development of data-collection instruments and application of specific and advanced statistical design, testing, and analysis.

Qualitative Research Methods

This sub-cluster supports qualitative research, moving beyond a basic overview of qualitative principles, designs and methods. The cluster offers courses specific to a single qualitative design approach (e.g., phenomenology, grounded theory, ethnography, etc.), as well as content focused on advanced qualitative data analysis and qualitative designs in the context of collaborative and mixed methods approaches.

Mixed Methods

This sub-cluster includes courses addressing designs using more than one method, usually qualitative and quantitative to answer research questions. Mixed and multiple method research includes specific design typologies that usually include multiple forms of data to provide a deeper and more nuanced understanding of complex health and social problems.

Scholarship and Writing

PhD: This cluster provides opportunity to develop or enhance communication skills through scholarly writing with a focus in areas such as publication, grant writing and other related activities.

DNP: This cluster of courses addresses the scholarly activities involved in generation and integration of new knowledge, translating research into practice and critically applying and evaluating knowledge in complex clinical practice settings. Course content includes: qualitative;quantitative; evidence based practice; translation of research into practice; evaluating practice guidelines; and outcomes evaluation.

Scientific Underpinnings for Advanced Nursing Practice

DNP SPECIFIC* This cluster of courses includes a broad array of courses that support advanced nursing practice. These graduate level courses include pathophysiology, pharmacology and physical (health) assessment. Coursework in epidemiology is included along with population science, health promotion and disease prevention strategies. Coursework in Genetics is included because of the expanding knowledge generated in this area. Course content includes: pathophysiology; pharmacology; physical assessment; epidemiology; population science; genetics/genomics; and health promotion/disease prevention.

Systems, Leadership, Informatics, and Policy

This cluster contains courses that relate to the delivery of health care and nursing care from a systems perspective. Included in the cluster is content that affects the actual delivery of care as well as the organizational, community, and political environments that influence that delivery. Courses are included that address the following areas: Health Care Systems; Health Services Research; Health Information Systems; Nursing Leadership within Systems of Care; Implementation Science within Systems of Care; Health Care Innovation; Health Policy; Health Economics; and Quality Improvement

Special Topics

This cluster includes courses that are one-time special offerings or address temporary/hot topic issues.

Non-Nursing Courses

This cluster includes courses that may be taught in the physical sciences, the social sciences and humanities and have been approved by the faculty of nursing at a NEXus member school as acceptable for elective credits.