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UW School of Nursing leads the way in re-envisioning DNP curriculum


Date: February 1, 2013
Media Contact: Ashley Wiggin,, 206-221-2456

The University of Washington School of Nursing has a long history of national distinction in preparing advanced practice nurses for a variety of careers, including community health nursing, critical care nursing, psychiatric mental health nursing, adult, gerontology, family and pediatric nursing, and nurse-midwifery. 

DNP conference presentationDNP conference presentationA pioneer in Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) education, which prepares nurses for independent practice and practice leadership, the UW School of Nursing has recently taken on the task of re-envisioning and restructuring the curriculum in its DNP program. The first class of students started in the UW’s DNP program in 2007.  As the DNP program grew at UW, specialty tracks developed organically and independently, creating a complex and eventually a fiscally unsustainable model. To address  these issues , a faculty work group collaborated during the summer of 2012 to re-envision the DNP and  just presented papers on the school’s efforts at the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) Doctoral Forum  held January 23 through 26, 2013 in San Diego.

The three peer-reviewed papers were each co-authored by several of the school’s faculty members. They outline the school’s process in re-defining the existing DNP program, re-affirming program goals, developing a consistent core curriculum, and making the program more financially sustainable. Professors Gail Kieckhefer and Cindy Dougherty and Associate Professor Cindy Perry presented the papers at the conference, attended by national nursing leaders. The visionary work of the school’s DNP Consolidation Committee was well-received by AACN and colleagues from around the country who are investigating the organization, sustainability and cost of their own DNP programs. Dr. Dougherty noted that the UW School of Nursing is at the forefront of creating these models and that this work will be beneficial to others who are struggling to incorporate program changes in a resource-challenged environment. Following their presentations, several other schools asked the faculty members to share information on how to “systematically change their curriculum” and integrate a program similar to this one at their own schools.

“Faculty from the University of Wisconsin and Rush University spent time with us to talk about how we are merging our tracks in core coursework.  They were also interested in our plans for inter-professional education,” said Dr. Kieckhefer.

The proposed consolidated program at the UW School of Nursing maintains the current program’s foundations of advanced practice, clinical inquiry, and leadership, within a consistent program structure.  This increased core was designed to create consistency for students in the DNP program while maintaining the ability of students to sit for national certification in role and population tracks, allowing appropriate levels of clinical experience, and ensuring flexibility for future program changes.  The new consolidated program reduces cost by 26%, better aligning with current resources and students’ ability to afford tuition.  

In creating the consolidated program, the faculty committee focused on aligning the curriculum with the current national standards for accreditation in doctoral education and with the expectations of  state boards of nursing and national task forces on advanced practice nursing  all while maintaining the  goal of ensuring that students are prepared for certification exams and for practice. With its DNP students achieving close to a 100% pass rate on the national certification exams to date, the UW School of Nursing is committed to maintaining the excellence if its programs, furthering the doctoral education of its students and ensuring their success after graduation.

The new program model was approved by school faculty in fall 2012, with implementation planned for the fall 2013 entering class.

“It was pretty clear, from listening to the 700+ AACN doctoral conference attendees, that the UW School of Nursing is staying abreast of issues around doctoral education and, in many ways, leading,” said Maggie Baker, Interim Associate Dean for Academic Services in the School of Nursing. “For example, our work to revise the DNP curriculum and our work around doctoral-level (PhD and DNP) recruitment and retention is clearly on par with that our peer institutions and, in many ways, cutting-edge.”


The University of Washington School of Nursing is consistently a top-rated nursing school, according to U.S. News & World Report. Ranked No. 2 in research funding from the National Institutes of Health in 2011, the UW School of Nursing is a national and international leader in improving the health and well-being of individuals, families and communities. The school addresses society’s most pressing challenges in health care through innovative teaching, award winning research and community service. For more information, visit