Degree requirements

The Doctor of Nursing Practice program is focused on preparing advanced practice nurses in accordance with the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) Essentials of Doctoral Education for Advanced Nursing Practice. The term Advanced Practice refers to any form of nursing intervention that influences health care outcomes for individuals or populations. This includes:

  • the direct care of individual patients
  • management of care for individuals and populations
  • administration of nursing and health care organizations, and
  • the development and implementation of health policy

Preparation at the practice doctorate level, including advanced preparation in nursing, is based on nursing science and is at the highest level of nursing practice.  Advanced practice, practice inquiry, and leadership are the major themes of the curriculum. Domain threads integrated into core courses include:

  • ethics
  • informatics
  • communication, and
  • interprofessional training

The graduate faculty in the School of Nursing approved revised DNP program goals, core elements, and a conceptual model for a consolidated curriculum in 2012. The goals are based on the DNP program goals adopted by SON faculty in December 2008, but broadened to reflect the scope of advanced nursing practice preparation to include community health perspectives on population health, systems of care, prevention, and social justice

The curriculum also aligns with the national Licensure Accreditation, Certification, and Education (LACE) model for students seeking preparation as nurse practitioners (NP), clinical nurse specialists (CNS) and nurse midwives (NM). Core elements identify the DNP program as a core program of the SON, all students have the same number of required credits (minimum of 93), and the majority of courses are required of all students.

The DNP is conceptualized as a single degree from the SON with multiple specialty tracks organized within the degree. Two major branches of the program identified are the Advanced Practice Registered Nursing (APRN) and Advanced Systems and Population Health (ASPH), each with specific core coursework. The program culminates with a final project that includes an immersion clinical experience during which the final DNP project is completed.

Applicants are evaluated for fit with the DNP degree and fit with the specialty track.

Program curriculum model: “The Dawg Path”

The figure below, which we call the Dawg path, shows the conceptualization of the program, delineating the basic and advanced DNP core, the APRN and ASPH cores, and the shared/ unique specialty courses.

Basic DNP core

The DNP Year 1 core courses focus on the DNP role and foundational content since this is the degree to which all students are admitted. The emphasis is on the commonalities among all the students as learners; however, learning activities in the first year will also introduce students to their specialty track.

Beginning the curriculum with DNP Core courses assists students to affirm their interest in and ability to continue in the program before they begin the specialty track training.

These Year 1 courses are required of and taken by all students for the DNP degree. The objectives of these courses meet the DNP Essentials (2006) I-VIII. [Coded Purple]

APRN and ASPH core

APRN Core is required of all students preparing for advanced practice registered nurse certification and licensure roles (i.e., NP, CNS, CNM). These courses meet the “3 P’s as outlined in the LACE consensus document: advanced physical assessment, advanced pharmacology, advanced pathophysiology.” [Coded Green]

ASPH Core is required of all students preparing for the advanced systems & population health track. (Currently only Population Health in this branch) [Coded Green]

Specialty Didactic and Clinical Courses include additional coursework necessary to meet certification requirements (if appropriate) for individual specialty tracks. Included in each track are a series of 3 clinical practica courses (a fourth clinical course is included in the final project).

Track curriculum grids

Advanced DNP core: the final project

The final project includes 2 courses focused on the DNP project and a clinical immersion course. The foundations for the DNP project occur during Year 1 with the series of practice inquiry courses.

In the final two quarters of the curriculum, two courses are focused on the DNP final project. The first course is focused on planning practice inquiry and systems level change projects, and the second course is focused on implementation of the project in a clinical setting.

The combination of the project implementation course with the clinical immersion course in the final quarter is intended to provide an opportunity for synthesis of advanced practice, practice inquiry, and leadership and also to serve as a transition to advanced practice as a DNP-prepared practitioner.

The clinical immersion course consists of 9 credits and the student averages 3 days a week in the clinical setting.