Doctor of Nursing Practice Programs in South Carolina

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing made an announcement in 2004 that has changed the face of graduate nursing education: The practice doctorate (or DNP) was to become the new standard for advanced practice nurses. The AACN had determined, after considerable study, that further education could improve patient outcomes, help nurses become leaders and collaborators in system wide healthcare reform, and increase the pool of nursing educators. In the years between 2004 and 2006, the AACN conducted further task forces, communicated with key organizations, defined educational standards, and set a roadmap for transition. The change was to be completed by 2015.

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A lot of nurses are excited about further education opportunity. There has been a good deal of discussion, though, in the years since the AACN made their announcement. To what extent is it a mandate and to what extent is it a strong recommendation? The AACN is not responsible for certifying or licensing advanced practice nurses; the organization does have an accrediting body, CCNE, but CCNE makes decisions autonomously. Legal changes will not happen overnight. The National Pediatric Certification Board has noted that they expect to follow the progress of the DNP over a ten to fifteen year period; at such time as it becomes clear that the DNP has caused a sufficient alteration in entry level competencies, they will alter the certification requirements for new NPs. However, this will not apply to those who already hold certification.

There has been speculation that the CCNE would announce that they would cease to accredit master’s level NP programs in 2015; some, like the Medical College of South Carolina, have noted the issue in program proposals. However, this has not come to pass. The CCNE has spoken out more than once to reassure institutions that they do not intend to enforce the AACN timeline and that schools were not in danger of losing accreditation in 2015. What has happened is that the number of programs has ballooned to more than 120 and that many qualified students who want the practice doctorate have been turned away due to insufficient program openings. Other organizations, including AANA and AANP, have expressed that there was indeed something to gain from that higher terminal degree.

DNP Program Information

Prospective students often wonder how the DNP differs from other advanced nursing programs. In many programs, the initial courses in the sequence are identical in master’s level advanced practice tracks and doctoral level ones. The latter courses do include advanced competencies in the nurse’s specialties, but they also develop core competencies that are the same across programs.

In a DNP program, nursing is placed in a scientific and societal context. Nurses learn to evaluate new research and apply it, both in their own clinical practice and in the greater community. They take courses in population health, biostatistics, system leadership, and healthcare policy. Nursing pedagogy is not a main focus of DNP programs, but schools like the Medical College of South Carolina do offer their students the chance to add classes in nursing education to their program.

Generally, nurses may enter DNP programs at the post-BSN or post-master’s level. The University of South Carolina is fairly unique in allowing post-baccalaureate nurses with baccalaureates in other fields. The program is competitive — and longer than a typical DNP program, of course!

Often, much of the post-basic coursework is done online. DNP candidates do have more clinical hours to complete, however. Master’s level programs generally have at least 500, while BSN to DNP include 1,000. In a DNP program, clinical practice can go far beyond the basics of delivering safe care. Ultimately, candidates display their learning through a scholarly project which involves translational research (applying research to meet the needs of specific populations). There are many options, including quality improvement projects and new educational or outreach programs. Often the work benefits the larger community.

Contact Information for DNP Programs in South Carolina

Find schools offering Online DNP Programs in South Carolina.

Medical College of South Carolina

Contact Information:
PH: 843-792-6499


University of South Carolina

Contact Information:
1601 Greene Street
Columbia, SC 29208
PH: 803-777-3861


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