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By 2015, advanced practice nurses (APNs) may need a doctorate to enter practice. At a meeting of member nursing schools in October, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) adopted a sweeping new position recognizing the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) as the highest level of preparation for clinical practice. Currently APNs, which include nurse practitioners, nurse-anesthetists, clinical nurse specialists, and nurse-midwives, are prepared in master's degree programs. However, many of these programs already carry a credit load equivalent to doctorate programs in other health care professions.


Under the new proposal, doctorate degrees would be required for APNs by 2015. However, doctorates won't be required for APNs in practice before the new rule takes effect.


Only a few DNP programs currently exist, but more than a dozen new ones are in planning stages. The AACN plans to work with nursing schools to convert existing APN programs to doctorate programs and to construct bridge programs for current APNs who wish to pursue a doctorate. For more information, visit AACN's Web site at