Memo 55: Evaluating DNP and Graduate Certificate Student Previous Courses for Core Course Equivalency

DNPCC Procedures for Course Equivalency and Credit Substitution Requests​​​​

Introduction and rationale for Gap Analysis

A matriculated student in the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) or Graduate Certificate Program in Advanced Practice Nursing (GCPAPN) may pursue the process below whereby previous coursework will be evaluated for equivalency to core coursework at the UW School of Nursing.

All incoming DNP or GCPAPN students who have had any prior graduate training, taken courses, or earned a master’s degree or higher should have a ‘gap analysis’ done by the faculty in the track to which the student is admitted. Post-Graduate DNP students are assigned a faculty adviser in the specialty track to which they are admitted. This analysis provides for an assessment of prior coursework so as to plan the most optimal program of study that acknowledges prior learning.

DNPCC is charged with oversight of all graduate course equivalency and substitution requests from students/faculty.


  • Gap analysis:  A method used to assess a student’s prior course work to determine what courses may be granted equivalency and what courses may be deemed substitutable for DNP degree required credits.
  • Course equivalency means the student has had prior training in the content and skills in the course, but credit towards UW degree is not granted (this requires course equivalency and substitution (see below)).  Students are still accountable for completing the number of credits required for the degree based on their individual gap analysis.
  • Course substitution means that a student may request prior graduate coursework completed to count toward the 93 credits required in the DNP degree program. Students who earned a MN degree from other than the UW Seattle Graduate School are limited to 30 credits for substitution (Graduate School Memo 46 section VII). Students may need to petition the graduate school for course work completed more than 10 years prior.  Some courses deemed equivalent may also be used for substitution up to the total number permitted, based on whether the prior graduate work was completed at the UW or another university.

Categories of students requiring a gap analysis

  • DNP enrolled student, or student who has accepted an offer for enrollment in the DNP degree program, who previously earned a graduate degree or completed graduate level courses.
  • Master’s or DNP-prepared students seeking post-graduate credentialing in a new specialty.

General standards

  1. Clinical course credits:
    1. ​​Prior clinical course credits may be deemed equivalent, and can be substituted for some of the 93 credits for the DNP degree.
    2. 1000 clinically-relevant practice hours are required for the DNP degree.
    3. Clinical hours completed as part of requirements for advance nursing practice degree may be used as part of the 1000 hours.
    4. Credits earned can be counted toward the 93 credits for the degree, not to exceed the number of credits permitted as noted above in course substitution.
  2. Course equivalency for the 3P’s:
    1. ​​Physiology and Pathophysiology across the Lifespan (NSG 557) – to be granted equivalency the student must have completed a similar standalone course (e.g. not integrated into disease management) at an accredited MN or DNP program in the last 5 years prior to matriculation.
    2. Advanced Health Assessment (NCLIN 500) – to be granted equivalency the student must:
      1. Have successfully completed a similar course at an accredited program;
      2. Pass a written challenge exam with a score of at least 75% (completed at UW SoN); and
      3. Successfully demonstrate advanced assessment skills via a timed observed physical exam (TOPE) exam in a laboratory setting (completed at the UW SoN).
    3. ​​Advanced Pharmacology (PHARM 514) – to be granted equivalency the student must:
      1. Have successfully completed a similar standalone course of at least 3 quarter credits or equivalent at an accredited program within the past 3 years prior to matriculation; and
      2. Pass a written challenge exam at UW SoN with a score of at least 75%. Students will be notified if choose to challenge and are granted equivalency that licensure with Prescriptive Authority in the state of Washington requires 30 pharmacology hours within 2 years of application.
  3. ​MN degree graduates from Bothell or Tacoma may have some of their course work evaluated as equivalent, and some of the credits may be deemed substitutable for degree requirements but some may not, if the prior course work taken was not consistent with DNP AACN essentials (2006).
  4. Faculty Academic Adviser (FAA) conducting the initial gap analysis and student should consult the list of prior approved courses for equivalency. This document is part of the DNPCC end of year report.
  5. All requests must include the following:
    • ​​​​A completed gap analysis form.
    • Course description, objectives and a syllabus for each course for which equivalency has not been previously approved or disapproved (#4 above) must accompany each request. Should a syllabus not be available, the course deliverables completed by the student may be substitutes (e.g., paper, lecture slides, etc.).


Time frame for requ​​ests

  • For currently-enrolled students, requests for review must be submitted at least one quarter in advance of when a decision is needed about whether to take a core course (May for Fall quarter; October for Winter; January for Spring). Enrolled students may choose to submit multiple course equivalency review requests simultaneously.
  • Newly-admitted students who are not yet enrolled (e.g., those who accept an offer of admission in Spring, but do not enroll and register for classes until Fall quarter) are instructed to contact their newly-assigned FAA and work with the FAA to complete a “gap analysis” and, if appropriate, discuss course equivalency review requests (for their first Fall quarter only) and submit requests using the process below as soon as possible for consideration no later than the May DNP Coordinating Committee meeting.
  • Students admitted off the waitlist after the May DNPCC meeting, but who matriculate in Fall will have a gap analysis conducted and reviewed by DNPCC in the end of September prior to start of Fall quarter.

Paperwork completion

  • Student fills out a draft version of the gap analysis form in concert with their FAA or track lead.
  • Indicate on the form if the request is for potential credit substitution.
  • Student provides course syllabus and/or assignments completed for each course for which equivalency is sought (and credit substitution).
  • Once all the materials have been gathered, the form filled out and signed by the adviser, the student will send them to the Graduate Program Adviser (GPA) for the SON (Betsy Mau) for review.
  • The GPA reviews the request against the prior approval list to inform DNPCC about the status of previously approved courses for equivalency, and determines if all paperwork is complete, then sends the request to the DNPCC chair.

DNPCC approval process

  • DNPCC Chair places the draft gap analysis on the DNPCC agenda under executive session for discussion and possible approval at the next regular meeting.
  • Chair of DNPCC reviews the request – any course previously deemed NOT equivalent, DNPCC chair denies request and reports to DNPCC during executive session.
  • Process for requests with designated coursework not previously evaluated for equivalency:
    • Chair of DNPCC seeks a recommendation from the faculty currently teaching the course as to the extent of equivalency.
    • Sends supporting materials out to the committee for review.
    • At DNPCC meeting the committee discusses and makes determination.
  • Decision communication:
    • If DNPCC does not accept previous coursework as equivalent, the Chair communicates decision with brief rationale by email to student with a copy to FAA and GPA.
    • ​If DNPCC decides to accept previous coursework as equivalent, the Chair notifies student of the decision by email with a copy to the FAA and GPA and includes language related to risks incurred by the student seeking core course equivalency as outlined below (see note).
  • ​GPA files the written decision in the student’s academic file to record the decision and rationale. The gap analysis should be updated to reflect only those courses deemed equivalent, and if appropriate, substitutable. For those courses requiring challenge examination, this will need to be completed successfully prior to determination by DNPCC.​​​​​
  • Student may appeal the decision by requesting a meeting with the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. The Associate Dean for Academic Affairs will make the final decision as to acceptance or denial of DNPCC’s justification.​

DNPPC annual report:

  • DNPCC chair places a summary of equivalency decisions made in the DNPCC annual report.
  • The list of approved and not approved courses for equivalency will be updated annually in this manner.


  • Some DNP and GCPAPN core courses are prerequisites to later core courses. A course instructor has the right to deny enrollment in a course for which the student has not taken a prerequisite.
  • Supervisory committee or track lead has authority to decide at any time that the student must take a core course, regardless of an earlier recommendation for course equivalency.

Updated January 2018