DNP Programs in Tennessee

Tennessee boasts some highly educated nurses. The state has one of the oldest practice doctorate or DNP programs in the nation, housed at the University of Tennessee. It was among the programs that the AACN Task Force studied before making the recommendation that all advanced practice nursing programs be moved to the doctorate level by 2015. Other states, like Texas, looked to the University of Tennessee for information when putting together their own programs.

Why a DNP? The question can be answered on both the national and personal level. The first reason is better health outcomes. It’s not that master’s educated nurse practitioners are not competent -- numerous studies have found that they delivered primary care services at a level comparable to doctors. The nation as a whole, though has an inadequate healthcare system, at least one that’s inadequate to meet the needs of a changing population and keep pace with medical advances. The AACN believes that the practice doctorate has the potential to increase the nursing faculty pool, lure people from other professions, and help nurses sit at the table as equals with practitioners from other health fields.

What does the DNP have to offer to nurses at the individual level? It can help them deliver care at the highest level. A doctorate completion program for practitioners includes coursework in emerging technologies, biostatistics, and research as well as advanced diagnosis. A nurse’s influence can spread far beyond her own practice, indeed, practice doctorates are not just for those who provide direct patient care. DNP programs in executive nursing leadership are also available. They can help the nurse affect change at the system level. A doctoral level education can also increase one’s credibility in the eyes of other healthcare professionals. (The AACN noted in its task force report that programs for nurse practitioners had gotten longer and more demanding than master’s programs in other fields, and that today’s graduates were being under-credentialed.)

The AACN has set a target date of 2015 for implementation of the new educational standards. Nurse anesthetists have a different accrediting body and a different timeline. Schools have until 2025 to transition from master’s to doctorate level programs in nurse anesthesia. Students don’t have to wait until then to get their DNP, though. Schools like Tennessee’s Union University are already offering DNP programs in nurse anesthesia.

Why a Doctorate of Nursing Practice Program?

Nursing educators, and other ambitious nurses, will need to choose between the DNP and the PhD. A PhD remains a good choice for someone who is interested in conducting independent research for either an educational or governmental institution. DNP candidates typically complete a capstone project, which can inform their own practice and also aid others. The project is open-ended so a nurse can pursue a field she cares deeply about. One 2010 Vanderbilt student compared patients’ and nurses’ perceptions of hypertension and noted that nurses overestimated patients’ knowledge of hypertension issues, including what figures were actually considered high. The candidate drew the conclusion that advanced practice nurses could have a key role in blood pressure related education.

For those who do opt for the DNP, the career pathway varies. Some Tennessee programs are open only to post-master’s candidates during the transitional period. Others accept students with BSN degrees. Vanderbilt allows students to earn a master’s en route to a doctorate. All nurse practitioner programs are expected to include 1,000 hours of post-baccalaureate clinical work. Clinical hours completed in a master’s program are generally subtracted from the total.

Contact Information for DNP Programs in Tennessee

star Check out the nursing schools offering Online DNP Programs.

Union University

1050 Union University Drive Jackson
Jackson, TN 38305
PH: 731-661-6545


University of Tennessee Health Science Center

877 Madison Avenue
Memphis, Tennessee 38163
PH: 901-448-6128


Vanderbilt University

Godchaux Hall 207
461 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37240
PH: 615-322-4400


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