Doctor of Nursing Practice Programs in Iowa

When is a nurse a nurse, and when is she also a doctor? For several decades, highly educated nurses have taken on some duties traditionally reserved for physicians. Now an increasing number of advanced practice nurses are pursuing a doctoral degree called the DNP. The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, the National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties, and other nursing organizations have issued a joint position statement. They note that doctor is an academic title; its use can help nurse practitioners achieve parity with other healthcare practitioners.

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In the world of healthcare, parity is about far more than just personal satisfaction — it‘s also about having a hand in reshaping the United States healthcare system. The Institute of Medicine issued several turn of the century reports that indicated significant failures within the system. They noted communication gaps between groups of professionals as well as significant time lapses between research and clinical implementation. The end result was unfavorable outcomes, including patient deaths.

In 2002, the American Association of Nurses undertook a two year study to examine doctoral education programs. They determined that such programs provided the best preparation for evolving advanced practice roles. Advanced practice nurses should have training in research methodologies, health informatics, population health, and leadership, as well as advanced clinical skills.

Additional coursework would allow nurses to extend their influence beyond the clinic doors. However, the AACN noted, master’s programs for nurse practitioners were already longer than those in other fields — sometimes significantly so. It was time for a new degree, the practice doctorate. For the sake of uniformity, all such programs were to be titled Doctor of Nursing Practice, or DNP. The AACN has urged all schools to complete the transformation by 2015.

Specializations and Curriculum Overview

Because of the AACN’s strong words, the public associates the DNP with programs in advanced clinical care. There are, however, courses of study in both direct and indirect patient care. The latter would be appropriate for nursing executives, public health workers, and others working for system level change. (Programs that concentrate on new knowledge and theory bestow a separate degree, the academic PhD.)

In Iowa, APN courses are available in the following nurse practitioner specialties: family care, adult/ gerontological, neonatal, pediatrics, acute care, and psychiatric/ mental health. Programs for nurse anesthetists are also available. All courses of study are based on the Essentials for Doctoral Education released by the AACN in 2006. Additional competencies in the specialty area may be determined by other professional organizations.

Programs typically include 500 hours of clinical practice beyond that which is required for a master’s. They wrap up with a capstone or leadership project. These can be an exciting opportunity to explore challenges in one’s own professional practice. A 2010 DNP candidate at the University of Iowa, for example, responded to a new law that allowed Iowa’s advanced practice nurses to supervise fluoroscopy. She chose to evaluate and recommend education approaches that would help nurses comply with the safety regulations of the Iowa Board. Another candidate focused on mitigating the effects of potential cuts to the Iowa System of Care Initiative. She concluded that the Child and Adolescent Service Intensity Instrument could be an effective tool for developing a triage plan and better allocating resources.

Doctoral nursing programs have a rigorous curriculum, but are designed to give flexibility to working professionals. Both full- and part-time options are available within Iowa. The application process may take some time. Universities typically require one or more essays as well as evidence of academic and professional competence. Since the course of study includes biostatistics and advanced research methodologies, some schools require a prerequisite course in statistics.

Contact Information for DNP Programs in Iowa

Find a school offering Online DNP Programs in Iowa.

Allen College

Contact Information:
PH: 319-226-2000


University of Iowa

Contact Information:
446 College of Nursing Building
Iowa City, IA
PH: 319-335-7055


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