PharMerica and the National Association of Directors of Nursing Administrators in Long Term Care (NADONA) knew they were building something special together when more than 1,800 nurse providers and other professionals joined their first webinar under the Nurse Advancement Program. The webinar was an educational opportunity for nurses who were interested in moving forward in their careers, and the specialized content was exactly what Sherrie Dornberger, Executive Director of NADONA, and Robin Arnicar, President of NADONA, had worked hard with PharMerica to develop.

“The lack of individuals pursuing the director of nursing (DON) positions at facilities across the country keeps me up at night,” said Arnicar. “We saw the profession lose qualified individuals during COVID-19, and of those who remain, many are nearing retirement age. As a profession, we don’t have a great plan for what happens next—especially as we face a future with incredibly high demand for long-term care nurses and DONs.”

The Nurse Advancement Program was developed as one solution to this challenge by providing educational opportunities through webinars, podcasts, expert content, and other learning resources that are specifically created to help nurses advance up the clinical ladder.

“NADONA’s entire mission is to elevate nurse leaders,” said Dornberger. “PharMerica became a great partner for this program because of their excellent reputation, access to individuals looking to enhance their careers, and the desire to support the future of the profession. It’s a great match for us to work together to create a program as robust—and growing—as the Nurse Advancement Program.”

Robin ArnicarAlthough the program is still developing, the initial impact has been impressive. Thousands of professionals access the Nurse Advancement Program website each month to download resources and attend webinars, and there are opportunities for leaders to elevate their own voices within the program. For instance, Alena Goergen, President of the North Dakota chapter of NADONA, was invited to be a speaker on the 1,800-person webinar—an opportunity that would not necessarily exist for a DON in their daily work activities. The Nurse Advancement Program has acted as a springboard to bring new leadership opportunities to the profession and encourage DONs to connect to one another in uplifting and positive ways.

“There are untold stories of how we have helped people just like Alena,” Arnicar shared. “This program can elevate an individual, help them advance their career, and showcase them as an industry leader.”

While exposure is certainly a benefit, more hands-on advancements are part of the Nurse Advancement Program, too. NADONA has observed that individuals who take part in the educational webinars and learn the lessons within are more prepared to sit for the certification process to become a Certified Director of Nursing Administration.

“All of our certificates are online, and our training programs are currently online, too,” Dornberger said. “We’ve noticed more people are taking the certifications after they move through the webinars. They’re less intimidated by the digital interaction and more comfortable with the online learning experience.”

Supporting employees through the educational and training process to become a certified DON is one of the measures of the Nurse Advancement Program. It not only helps support the career aspirations of the individual, but it can elevate an entire facility’s reputation and visible commitment to care.

“The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recognizes the stickers that we provide to all people who have successfully completed the DON certification,” Dornberger explained. “A DON might place that in her office window, offering a visible reminder of the employee and facility’s training background. It gives them pride and raises their confidence, and families and residents can walk away with more trust in the commitment to continuous quality care.”

Sherrie DornbergerBuilding the curriculum to advance the profession has been one of the areas NADONA and PharMerica have focused on during the development of the Nurse Advancement Program. The organizations aimed to create content that would directly impact the daily lives and education of current nurse practitioners. They do this by surveying their contacts to find out exactly what’s going on in the field that they need more information and training on, such as infection prevention and assessment/improvement programs. By addressing what is already challenging nurses, the Nurse Advancement Program seeks to improve daily operations as well as train future leaders.

As the program continues to grow and deepen its impact, NADONA and PharMerica hope to instill a change that goes beyond tracking the number of registrants in a webinar or visitors to a website. The vision is to enhance the overall view of what it means to be a DON in the modern long-term care workforce.

“We are starting to examine the field and ask questions about what nurses are seeing when they look at DONs,” Arnicar said. “We want to attract more DONs and make the leadership role appealing—and we have to do that by training our current DONs better and leading by example. Nurses have to be able to see a job and duties that inspire them to continue their career.”

To learn more about PharMerica, NADONA, and the Nurse Advancement Program, visit