Doctor of Nursing Practice Programs in North Carolina

Why should advanced practice nurses pursue the DNP? In a letter to the provost and council members, the dean of East Carolina University’s nursing school cites information from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. The AACN has argued that the doctorate degree could place nurses on the cutting edge by helping them learn how to incorporate new research into their practice.

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Health informatics and scholarly research are key components of evidence based nursing. According to the AACN, evidence-based decision making can save lives; part of the foundation for this belief is research compiled by the Institute of Medicine (IOM). In the first years of the century, the IOM released two shocking reports. Among their more startling assertions: It took seventeen years for new scientific research to trickle down to clinical practice. After a two year task force, the AACN declared that doctoral level education was to be the new standard for advanced practice nursing. They expected the transition to be accomplished by 2015.

In the months and years after the AACN made its landmark announcement, it was often referred to as a mandate. This impression was strengthened when the independent but affiliated accrediting branch, CCNE, came out in support of the recommendation. The CCNE position has sometimes been interpreted as a deadline — that schools have only until 2015 to make the transition or they will lose their accreditation. As Susan Apold notes in “The Doctor of Nursing Practice: Looking Back, Moving Forward”, the CCNE has since clarified their position, making it clear that they will not cease to accredit master’s level programs in 2015. In 2007, a representative of the organization addressed more than 2,000 attendees at the NCBSN Roundtable. A 2010 letter of clarification — addressed “Dear Chief Nurse Administrator” — has also been posted to the internet.

Another accrediting body, AANA, came out in strong support of the AACN recommendation, but set a 2025 target date; all nurse anesthetist programs were to be transitioned by this time. In light of this, the AACN 2015 timeline can be seen less as a mandate than as a strong call to action. As such, it has been heard and heeded. At the time of the AACN announcement, there were just a few practice doctorate programs in the nation. Now there are more than 120, with even more in the planning stages Universities don’t want their students — or their student’s patients — left behind. In its DNP proposal, East Carolina University cited the above figures, noting that the DNP had become the degree of choice and thus it would be harder to maintain enrollment levels in a master’s program.

Difference Between A DNP and PhD Program

DNP programs are distinguished from PhD programs in that there is a practice focus; indeed the degree is sometimes termed a practice doctorate. This doesn’t mean it is just for clinicians, though. There are separate programs in direct and indirect patient care. Indirect patient care programs may prepare candidates for a variety of roles. At Duke University, for example, indirect patient care tracks include healthcare leadership and nursing informatics.

While research is central to both PhD and DNP programs, there are significant differences. While PhD students work on bringing new knowledge into the field, DNP students concentrate on translational research, synthesizing existing knowledge and applying it to the needs of different populations. This helps bridge the gap between theory and practice. DNP programs typically conclude with a capstone project. Students might design an educational program, evaluate an existing program, or do a cost benefit analysis.

Duke University, like many nursing schools around the country, has separate tracks for post-BSN and post-master’s nursing students. There is also an option for nurses with PhDs who want to add the DNP to their credentials. Practice doctorate programs tend to accommodate the needs of working professionals. Many schools offer part-time options.

Contact Information for DNP Programs in North Carolina

Find additional schools offering Online DNP Programs in North Carolina.

Duke University

Contact Information:
DNP Admissions
DUMC 3322, 307 Trent Drive
Durham, NC, 27710
PH: 877-415-3853


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