Doctor of Nursing Practice Programs in Colorado

On March 25, 2011, a bipartisan group of Southern Colorado lawmakers introduced a bill to begin a DNP (Doctor of Nursing Practice) program. They reasoned that highly trained nurse practitioners could help alleviate the shortage of medical professionals in the southern part of the state.

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Why is a DNP expected when advanced practice nurses have traditionally delivered primary care with only a master’s degree? The foremost reason is improved care for patients. In its report “Crossing the Quality Chasm”, the Institute of Medicine pointed out some serious failings in our healthcare system. The system is designed to respond to acute crises. It would be far more effective, though, if it were restructured to prevent them. As the United States population ages, it becomes imperative that healthcare be centered around managing chronic conditions. This requires cooperation across hospitals and across health disciplines — and it is something that has yet to happen. The IOM describes groups of health professionals as islands.

Another problem is the amount of time that it takes scientific research to become part of common practice — the IOM reports a shocking seventeen years. A lot of people die not from lack of a cure, but from lack of communication.

Where to begin? The American Institute of Colleges of Nursing envisioned professional nurses as a part of the change. They realized that additional coursework could teach advanced practice nurses how to better incorporate research into their own practice. It could also teach them how to work as leaders, collaborators, and advocates for healthcare reform. The AACN noted that courses for APNs were already longer than master’s courses in many other fields. Thus, they thought a new degree was in order: the practice doctorate.

The organization, which includes fully 600 member colleges, set a ten year time frame for transition. The AACN is working on transitioning APN courses to the doctoral level by 2015.

DNP Programs Entry Options and Specialization Tracks in Colorado

Some schools accept either post-BSN or post-master’s students. During the transitional period, some programs are only open to students with credentialing as nurse practitioner or clinical nurse specialist. (Other students may be admitted provisionally.)

Students will find that many core courses are the same regardless of specialty. There are, however, opportunities to individualize the coursework. These differ from university to university. At the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs, for example, students may select from holistic care (which includes energy fields), geriatric care, or a self-defined specialty. Students may choose from a variety of settings to complete required clinical hours. These include everything from hospitals to midwifery clinics to detention centers. Students typically complete a capstone project in an area that relates to their own practice and interests. The project differs from a dissertation in that the focus is on translational research as opposed to creation of new knowledge. There can be many choices as to the form the project takes. These may include quality improvement projects, creation of databases, or use of research to work on health-based legislation. A final presentation and oral defense may be required.

While DNP programs do not typically include faculty preparation as a main feature, some allow students to incorporate teaching classes on the side and leave school with a teaching certificate as well as a doctorate.

Typical admission requirements include submission of an essay and curriculum vitae. An English proficiency exam may be required for students from other language backgrounds.

Contact Information for DNP Programs in Colorado

Explore schools offering Online DNP Programs in Colorado.

University of Colorado-Colorado Springs

Contact Information:
1420 Austin Bluffs Pkwy.
Colorado Springs, CO 80918
PH: 719-255-4422


University of Colorado-Denver

Contact Information:
MS C296
12631 E. 17th Avenue, Rm 2609
Aurora, CO 80045
PH: 303-724-2915


University of Northern Colorado

Contact Information:
Gunter Hall 3080, Box 125
Greeley, CO 80639
PH: 970-351-2293


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