Doctor of Nursing Practice Programs in Hawaii

These are exciting times for Hawaii’s professional nurses. In 2009, legislation made advanced practice nurses primary care providers for the first time; the Aloha state granted nurse practitioners full prescriptive authority and removed the requirement that they enter into collaborative agreements with physicians. Now the University of Hawaii-Hilo has a proposal that they believe will increase the number of advanced practice nurses available to provide care to Hawaii’s largely rural population. Their answer to improving healthcare access? The DNP.

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A 2008 survey had found that for more than 20% of respondents the absence of a local program was a significant barrier to completing advanced nursing education. UHH believes, as does the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, that the DNP will increase the number of nursing faculty and thus the number of nurses.

What is the purpose of a DNP (Doctorate of Nursing Practice) degree? Simply put, to provide the communities with the best in healthcare. The Institute of Medicine has long been critical of the American healthcare system. The AANC cited IOM findings in a 2004 position statement. The AACN stated that doctoral level education was to become the standard for advanced practice nursing programs. They put together a ten year timeline for transition. The target year? 2015.

DNP Program Options, Tracks and Curriculum

DNP programs include 1,000 hours of post-BSN clinical practice. Post-master’s practicum hours can be particularly exciting. They provide an opportunity to apply research skills and collect data for a final project. With the exception of the required practicum hours, coursework may be offered entirely online — a plus for nurses in a rural island state

There are two main tracks of CCNE-accredited DNP programs: those for advanced practice nurses and those for nurse executives and other nursing leaders. Students may enter DNP programs with a baccalaureate degree; those who already have master’s degrees can enroll in shorter DNP completion courses. All programs are based on the Essential Standards developed by the AACN. In addition to advanced clinical competency, doctoral level nursing programs teach concepts such as organizational and systems leadership, epidemiology, health policy and advocacy. Research strategies are also emphasized. The final project involves translational research. Students who pursue practice doctorates are not expected to bring new knowledge into the field, but they are expected to use existing knowledge to design programs for specific populations. Capstone projects might take the form of program or policy evaluations, educational programs, or pilot studies.

Students have an array of choices. Schools around the nation have designed innovative programs that go beyond the basics. The University of Hawaii-Hilo is no exception; it has proposed to offer the first combined DNP/PharmD degree. One of the goals would be to provide multi-faceted primary care givers who could serve in rural underserved areas; another would be to collect research in safe medication usage. Senator Daniel Inouye introduced legislation to fund the program. The Center for Rural Health is envisioned as a collaborative of nurses, pharmacists and other health professionals, working together to use biostatistics to improve the health of Hawaii’s population. The bill has not become law — at least not yet. In the meantime, UHH is working on tailoring the curriculum to meet the needs of Hawaii’s diverse population. The Big Island, as it is sometimes called, has the highest ethnic diversity index in the nation.

Hawaii has a particular need for culturally competent Native Hawaiian nurse practitioners. Native Hawaiian students may want to look into the Native Hawaiian Scholarship Program. In exchange for a future work commitment, the program pays tuition, fees, and monthly living expenses.

Contact Information for DNP Programs in Hawaii

Explore schools offering Online DNP Programs in Hawaii.

University of Hawaii – Hilo


References: University of Hawaii-Hilo. “Proposal for Doctorate of Nursing (DPN) Program.” 2010.

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