Doctor of Nursing Practice Programs in Washington

The highest level of education that a nurse can achieve is a doctorate. The practice doctorate has been an option since 1979, but until a few years ago, programs were few and far between. This is fast changing, as several key organizations have come out in favor of doctoral education for advanced practice nurses.

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As of early 2011, Washington has one DNP program, at the University of Washington. There are plans underway, though, to establish more within the state. Washington State University expects to have a program underway at the Vancouver and Spokane locations in the fall of 2011. In order to do so, they had to request a minor legislative change; as in other states, there are policies that limit doctoral programs. The case Washington State University presented was compelling. They noted that nurse practitioners have a key role in improving health outcomes in medically underserved areas. Even more pressing, perhaps, was their revelation that the master’s level preparation was being phased out.

The AACN has pushed for schools to transition to doctoral level advanced practice nursing courses by the year 2015. The Doctor of Nursing Practice will soon be the standard for new nurse practitioners. For nurse practitioners who have already completed their education, doctorate completion is an option. The AACN noted, in its position statement, that master’s programs for nurse practitioners were significantly longer than many other master’s programs. The committee felt that nurse practitioners were not getting proper credit for their studies. A higher degree would make it easier for them to collaborate as equals with other healthcare practitioners. This in turn would put them in a better position to shape healthcare policy.

What can one expect a DNP program to be like?

Washington students may enter doctorate programs at either the BSN or MSN level. Although currently licensed nurse practitioners are not required to take the doctorate completion course, many choose to do so. In some cases, the additional coursework can be completed in as little as one year. It depends of course on the individual program and the student’s course load.

DNP completion courses are significantly different than initial nurse practitioner training. There is additional coursework in health systems and information technologies, and attention is given to community and global health issues as well care of individual patients. Although nurses with practice doctorates are not expected to conduct independent research — that is the domain of the PhD — they are expected to be very adept at using research to inform their own practice. This extends also to program implementation and evaluation.

Students should be aware that the AACN recommends that nurse practitioners do1,000 post-baccalaureate clinical hours in their area of specialty. Hours that have been completed in the master’s program may be subtracted from the total. It is possible to do the hours at one’s place of employment, but there are regulations about how this works. Work hours and student hours must be clearly separated, and no pay may be received for student hours. The student nurse is also expected to wear a badge that clearly defines his or her status.

The University of Washington offers nurse practitioner DNP programs in pediatric, neonatal, family, and psychiatric mental health. Students enrolling in the neonatal program must have two years experience with high risk newborns.

There are also several DNP programs in clinical nurse specialist roles and in public health. Currently, post-baccalaureate students have the option of earning a masters in passing. That means they can earn a master’s — and certification — before completing the doctorate program. Washington does license certified advanced practice nurses who have graduated from accredited master’s programs.

Contact Information for DNP Programs in Washington

Learn about the schools of nursing offering Online DNP Programs.

University of Washington

Contact Information:
PH: 206-543-8736


Washington State University

Contact Information:
PH: 360-546-9473


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