UR School of Nursing Launches Upstate New York’s First Doctor of Nursing Practice Program

July 09, 2007

"By bringing doctorally educated nurses into the fold, we have a tremendous opportunity to improve the quality and safety of patient care."

Responding to the growing complexity of health care delivery systems, a burgeoning health care workforce shortage and increasing educational demands on nurses, the University of Rochester School of Nursing today announced it will launch a new Doctor of Nursing Practice (D.N.P.) degree program this September.  Aimed at improving patient care through the most rigorous academic training, the D.N.P. will give nurses a more prominent place at the decision-making table in hospitals and other health care institutions nationwide. 

Representing the highest level of academic preparation for practicing nurses, the D.N.P. is nursing’s equivalent to practice-focused degrees in other disciplines such as Doctor of Medicine (M.D.), Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.), Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) and Doctor of Physical Therapy (D.P.T.).  Unlike the Ph.D., the D.N.P. is not intended to prepare students to design and build programs of research, rather it prepares advanced nurse practitioners to lead the delivery and evaluation of evidence-based, patient-centered care; synthesize research findings to develop and/or refine practice guidelines; and integrate information technology into the management, application and evaluation of patient care.  

“The nurse practitioner role has historically centered on individual patient care,” said Patricia Chiverton, dean of the University of Rochester School of Nursing.  “While that role is critically important we also recognize that nurses at the very most advanced experience and practice levels have the capability to take on more responsibility and the potential to oversee the care of large patient populations.  By bringing doctorally educated nurses into the fold, we have a tremendous opportunity to improve the quality and safety of patient care.”

The establishment of Rochester’s new program could become of particular importance in light of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing’s recommendation that educational requirements for all nurses in advanced practice roles move from a master’s degree to a D.N.P. by the year 2015.  While it is unclear if these recommendations will be adopted in New York State and elsewhere, the movement towards clinical doctoral education for nurses is becoming a larger part of the dialogue on the future of health care nationally.

Consistent with the other doctoral programs within the University of Rochester, students in the D.N.P. program will be required to complete a minimum of 90 credits as well as a minimum of 1000 post-baccalaureate clinical hours.  Students will complete coursework in evidence-based practice and translational research including advanced statistics and epidemiology; leadership, systems management and strategic planning; and health policy, informatics and interprofessional partnerships.  At the completion of the program, students will be required to defend an evidence-based capstone project, the practice equivalent to a Ph.D. research dissertation. 

The University of Rochester School of Nursing has a long history of educational innovation.  In the early 1970s the School was a leader in establishing the first nurse practitioner program.  This advanced practice degree opened new professional doors for nurses, helped establish new practice models to address a growing shortage of primary care physicians, and ultimately changed the way health care is delivered in the U.S. 

In exploring the viability of a D.N.P. program locally, the School held several community forums to gauge practitioners’ interest in pursuing a D.N.P. as well as nurse administrators’ desire to hire doctorally-prepared nurse practitioners.  The survey found that half of respondents would be interested in pursuing a D.N.P. at some point in their career and that another 35 percent might consider a D.N.P. citing financial considerations as a key barrier to returning to school.  Of the12 nurse administrators surveyed, 11 indicated they would be interested in hiring a D.N.P. prepared nurse in their respective health care facilities.  New York state’s only other D.N.P. program is offered at Columbia University in New York City

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