School Establishes New Department of Academic Nursing

Learn about our latest advancement in our commitment to nursing education, a new Department of Academic Nursing formed in 2020.

The School of Medicine announced the latest advancement in its commitment to nursing education by forming a new Department of Academic Nursing, effective July 1, 2020.

A young black woman in blue scrubs and wearing a disposable paper mask and looks down at a tabletThe school received accreditation approval to establish the new department, which will allow the entire Nurse Anesthesia (CRNA) Program to transition to a doctoral degree program over the next two years. Michael Rieker, DNP, CRNA, FAAN, will lead the new department as its founding director, reporting to medical school Dean Julie Ann Freischlag, MD, FACS, FRCSEd(Hon), DFSVS.

“With hospitals employing more nurses than any other clinical provider and a nursing shortage rampant, establishing the department structure will position us to expand educational offerings and help to alleviate the provider shortage in our region,” said Rieker, who has served as director of the Nurse Anesthesia Program since 2005.

Nursing education at Wake Forest Baptist began in 1923 with the establishment of a nursing school, which produced more than 1,600 RNs before it closed in 1974. Nursing alumni, now numbering 954, remain engaged members of the School of Medicine family.

The Nurse Anesthesia Program began in 1942. It enrolls 24 students per year, and intensive care unit nurses with a bachelor’s degree may apply for the two-year, full-time program. For more information, email

The Doctor of Nursing Practice Program, established in 2018, enrolls 12 students per year from a wide range of specialty areas and is open to any nurse with a master’s degree. A part-time online program for working professionals is also available. Virtual ceremonies honoring the first graduating class were held Aug. 22. For more information on the program, email