1. Section Editor(s): Newland, Jamesetta PhD, RN, FNP-BC, FAANP, DPNAP

Article Content

The number of Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) programs in the United States has grown exponentially over the past 10 years, with more than 300 programs either presently operational or in some phase of planning. Baccalaureate to DNP programs are gaining momentum as nurses seek a seamless and timely process to the culmination of their education.1

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DNP essentials

As of 2014, over 3,000 nurses have graduated from DNP programs. In what types of positions and settings are these graduates working? Have they defined the value added to advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) roles by a nurse prepared with a clinical doctorate? More data are needed before any conclusions can be made. The AACN published The Essentials of Doctoral Education for Advanced Nursing Practice in 2006 outlining the expected competencies of graduates.2 The competencies include areas of scientific underpinnings for practice, organizational and systems leadership for quality improvement, clinical scholarship, evidence-based practice, information systems and technology, healthcare policy, interprofessional collaboration, prevention and population health, and advanced nursing practice.


An academic degree

An AACN-appointed task force released a report in 2015 that "includes recommendations to describe and clarify the characteristics of DNP graduate scholarship, the DNP project, efficient use of resources, program length, curriculum considerations, practice experiences, and collaborative partnership guidelines."3 Consistency between programs was a major source of confusion. The DNP is not a role but rather an academic degree, and documents from the AACN are applicable to all advanced practice roles.


However, the National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties (NONPF), the recognized leader in nurse practitioner (NP) education, has been an active participant in the dialogue over the years and has disseminated white papers and other documents to guide faculty in moving from concept to reality in developing quality programs to prepare nurses for the NP role-at both the master's and doctoral levels.4 A national task force, representing the collaborative efforts of many nursing organizations, developed criteria to use in evaluating NP programs, including evaluation of student/graduate competencies.5


Evaluation is key

TheNurse Practitioner journal's tradition for the April issue is to feature articles focusing on some aspect of DNP preparation. Drs. Ursula Pritham and Patricia White contribute to the discussion in their article Assessing DNP Impact: Using Program Evaluations to Capture Health Care System Change and Transformation. They evaluated the competencies of DNP graduates on individual patient care, population health, and healthcare system outcomes. The title of the article by Drs. Marie Annette Brown and Louise Kaplan Opening Doors: The Practice Degree That Changes Practice aptly describes their descriptive, qualitative research study evaluating the educational experience and preparation for future roles of a cohort of new DNP graduates.


Advancing the profession

I regularly tell DNP students, "Upon graduation, it can't be business as usual. People have to see a change in how you practice." Otherwise, why are you [and we] taking this journey to earn a clinical doctorate? Evaluation is part of the improvement process. If students, faculty, graduates, employers, patients, and other stakeholders are able to articulate what makes a DNP-prepared APRN unique, we have advanced the profession.


Jamesetta Newland, PhD, RN, FNP-BC, FAANP, DPNAP

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1. AACN. AACN Position Statement on the Practice Doctorate in Nursing. Washington, DC: 2004. [Context Link]


2. AACN. The Essentials of Doctoral Education for Advanced Nursing Practice. Washington, DC: 2006. [Context Link]


3. AACN. The Doctor of Nursing Practice: Current Issues and Clarifying Recommendation: Report from the Task Force on the Implementation of the DNP. Washington, DC: 2015. [Context Link]


4. NP Core Competencies Work Group. NP Core Competencies with Curriculum Content. Washington, DC: NONPF; 2014. [Context Link]


5. National Task Force on Quality Nurse Practitioner Education (NTF). Criteria for Evaluation of Nurse Practitioner Programs. 4th ed. Washington, DC: NONPF; 2012. [Context Link]