Seven students from North Dakota, Minnesota and Idaho are well on their way to becoming the first at the University of North Dakota to achieve their Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree.
This fall, this pioneering group (class of 2015) kicked-off their first semester in one of UND's newest post-master's degree programs at the UND College of Nursing & Professional Disciplines. All of the students already are advanced practice nurses.
The DNP, a clinical practice doctorate, is the highest level of preparation for the actual practice of a discipline.
While the DNP may seem like a new concept to the general public, it is definitely not new to the health care profession. Physicians, dentists, pharmacists, and physical therapists, all hold practice doctorates. The DNP provides nurses with an option to seek their terminal degree in nursing practice. This differs from a Ph.D. in nursing which is a research-focused doctorate.
The DNP faculty at UND come from a variety of clinical backgrounds and will share their expertise with the students. Drs. Maridee Shogren, Christine Harsell, and Jackie Roberts are leading the program's development.
This first cohort of students was admitted this summer with subsequent admissions decisions to take place each January.
"We are very impressed with the outstanding students admitted to this first DNP cohort," said Shogren, program director. "They were chosen from a high quality applicant pool. Their enthusiasm is contagious.
"We are so excited to be a part of their journey and mentor these students as they use their creative and innovative ideas to make a difference in healthcare today."
Students will take courses on line and meet once per semester for on-campus intensive experiences. These experiences provide students with professional mentoring, encourage a community of learning, and enhance skill development.
The DNP curriculum includes courses in leadership, evidence-based research, health informatics, and health policy. Students will also complete an additional 500 clinical hours during the program and finish their academic requirements with their Capstone, a final scholarly project that demonstrates a measurable improvement or impact on healthcare delivery and/or patient outcomes.
"I am excited to learn how to navigate the ever-changing healthcare system," said one of the DNP students. "This program will offer me the tools to do this."