Doctor of Nursing Practice Programs in Maine

In years past, advanced practice nurses typically entered the field with a master’s degree. Why is there now a practice doctorate (DNP) degree for nurses? In their project proposal, members of the nursing department of the University of Southern Maine address this question. The primary reason is patient well-being. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has estimated that 44,000 to 98,000 patients die each year as a result of medical errors. A big part of the problem is fragmentation of services. The USM also cites the Agency on Health Care Research and Quality who estimated that it can take as long as twenty years for new medical knowledge to find its way into clinical practice. Clearly, system-wide change is necessary; while nurses do not carry the brunt of the blame, they can be educated to be a part of the solution, at the system level as well as the individual level. The IOM believes that it is imperative that healthcare professionals be trained to work in interdisciplinary teams.

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There is another surprising reason for change in educational standards: to supply the nation with high quality nurses at all levels of practice. A big part of the nation’s nursing shortage is actually a faculty shortage. The AACN — and USM — see the DNP as an attractive degree for potential nurse educators. Advancement opportunities are more limited for master’s level teachers, yet not all prospective educators feel that a PhD meshes with their goals.

The practice doctorate is not just an ideal but a reality. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing wrapped up a two year task force with a strong call to action. The committee urged all schools offering advanced practice nursing courses to transition their programs to the doctoral level by 2015. Many have already done so. The USM program, which received approval in late 2010, will be Maine’s first, but probably not its last program! There is demand for the DNP in Maine. USM set out a survey to 5,000 BSN and graduate level nurses. 29% indicated that they wanted to pursue the DNP; another 32% indicated that they were uncertain.

What is the DNP About?

What can a nurse expect to gain by pursuing a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree? A nurse not only gains advanced clinical competencies, but learns how to improve health at the population level. Programs are based on the essential standards developed by the AACN. In addition to courses in their clinical specialty, DNP students take a common core. Coursework includes population health or epidemiology, informatics, research methodologies, systems leadership, and scientific underpinnings of the nursing profession. There are two main tracks: clinical practice and nursing leadership. Within the clinical practice track, one finds all traditional advanced practice specialties, including nurse anesthetist, nurse practitioner, and clinical nurse specialist.

Students enter DNP courses at the post-baccalaureate or post-master’s level. Some schools are able to accommodate a wide variety of specialties at the post-master’s level. The Maine Board of Nursing does not individually approve advanced practice nursing courses, so online learning is a viable option for an RN who does not find a local program in his or her desired specialty. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that CCNE standards include 1,000 hours of post-baccalaureate practice. Individual schools have varying policies with regards to supervision, but some online programs are designed to accommodate students across borders.

Programs conclude with a capstone project. This is a opportunity to use research and other evidence in solving real world problems. The project might be a new health education program or a cost benefit analysis of care delivery models.

While the DNP is not required for licensing, graduates may have enhanced career options. The USM lists, among the possible jobs, quality improvement director and information technology specialist.

Contact Information for DNP Programs in Maine

Find schools offering Online DNP Programs in Maine.

University of Southern Maine

Contact Information:
College of Nursing and Health Professions
96 Falmouth Street
PO Box 9300
Portland, ME 04104-9300
PH: 207-780-4505


References: University of Souther Maine DNP Program Committee. “Program Plan – USM Department of Nursing Practice.”

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