Doctor of Nursing Practice Programs in New Mexico
Prospective graduate students at New Mexico State University School of Nursing received an important letter in February of 2011. The school was phasing out its master’s level program in several areas: adult health nursing, psych/ mental health nursing, and public community health. These programs were to be replaced with doctoral programs leading to the DNP (Doctor of Nursing Practice) degree.
Why such a big change? NMSU noted that the research had spoken: Higher levels of education led to better patient outcomes. The NMSU transition is in fact one of many. Less than a decade ago, there were only four programs in the nation offering practice doctorates to advanced practice nurses or nursing leaders. The number has grown to more than 120, with more in the works. The movement gained momentum when the AACN announced the results of a 2002 - 2004 task force. Doctoral level education provided APNs with the best preparation, they declared. The AACN indicated that the practice doctorate was to become the standard by 2015.
While the AACN does not certify or license nurses, it is a very influential organization. Other organizations, both state and national, have come out in support of the AACN vision. In the initial program proposal, New Mexico State University SON referred to it as a national mandate. The New Mexico State University also asserted that doctoral education is a key factor in meeting the goals of Healthy People 2010: elimination of healthcare disparities and increased quality and years of life. NMSU noted that New Mexico has a high multiracial population -- in fact, it’s fifth in the nation. Hispanic and Native American populations comprise many distinct cultural groups, yet the mental health community fails to distinguish among them. Mental health disparities extend to other populations as well. Only 15% of the prison population is receiving mental health services (compared to 20% for the nation as a whole). Clearly the healthcare system has room for improvement.
What a Prospective Student Should Know About the DNP
What can a dedicated nurse find in a DNP program that she won’t find in a master’s level APN track? She or he can expect additional coursework in advanced clinical competencies in their own specialty area. Other competencies are common to nurses from different disciplines. The AACN has identified a set of essential standards which include epidemiology, health technology, research methodology, system and organizational leadership, and collaboration with other healthcare professionals. The end goal is that nurses are prepared to draw evidence from a variety of sources and use it to inform decision making at many levels. Incorporation of cutting edge research should improve individual clinical practice and also allow nurses to be leaders in system wide change. Nurses have long built their practice on prevention and education as well as on management of existing conditions. This won’t change -- they’ll just have some more tools at their disposal.
What else should a prospective student know about DNP programs? It is possible to enter at either the post-BSN or post-master’s level. Nationwide, programs are available in all traditional APN specialties as well as in nursing leadership. A scholarly project is expected, and the expectations can be rigorous. There is a requirement for 1,000 hours of post-baccalaureate clinical practice, though students who enter with a master’s in a specialty will have already completed about half of these. With the exception of clinical practice, much of the work is often done online. A student who doesn’t find a local program in her specialty may want to look into distance learning options -- a few schools do enroll students from around the nation.
Contact Information for DNP Programs in New Mexico
Find schools offering Online DNP Programs in New Mexico.
New Mexico State University School of Nursing
P.O. Box 30001, MSC 3185
Las Cruces, New Mexico 88003-8001