GVSU To Add DNP For Advanced Nursing

December 3, 2007
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GRAND RAPIDS — Grand Valley State University’s Kirkhof School of Nursing is preparing to become one of a growing number of colleges nationwide to implement a new doctorate of nursing practice program.

Analogous to the PharmD and degrees in physical and occupational therapy, for example, the program is meant to elevate the level of education of practicing nurses rather than focusing on research as in a traditional doctorate program, said Kirkhof Dean Cynthia McCurren. It won’t replace current master’s or doctorate programs.

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing, which started looking at the issue in 2003 and 2004, backed a plan to raise “the current level of preparation necessary for advanced nursing practice from the master’s degree to the doctorate level by the year 2015,” according to the association’s Web site.

“The AACN sets our standards, and we have accreditation through that organization,” McCurren said. “They looked at this degree extensively, did a lot of work with member universities and with constituents, and determined that this was the way we should go. All schools being able to get those programs up and running at a level of equality: That remains to be seen.”

McCurren said she thinks the move makes sense because of the time and effort involved in achieving advanced practice status. The number of clinical hours is five times more than what’s required for a baccalaureate degree, she said. Combined with course credit hours, “You’re creating an intensive degree to only emerge with a master’s,” McCurren noted.

According to the AACN, 2.4 million people are in the registered nurse work force in the U.S. Of those, 47 percent hold a baccalaureate or graduate degree, 33.7 percent have an associate degree and 17.5 percent hold a diploma in nursing. At all three levels of preparation, the students sit for the same registered nurse licensing exam.

Over the past few years, many different nursing groups have called for the baccalaureate degree to become the basic level of education for registered nurses.

“The other driving force came from the Institute of Medicine’s report in 1999 and 2000, ‘To Err is Human,’ about quality and safety in the health care system,” McCurren said. “It outlines specific knowledge the health care profession needs to be focused on. Nursing as a profession felt like advanced practice nurses needed to be more broadly grounded in those kinds of areas to inform their practice.”

Of the 53 DNP programs listed by the AACN, Oakland University in Rochester is the only Michigan college. Oakland began offering the DNP last year. The AACN said another 140 colleges are in the process of starting DNP programs.

GVSU offers six programs at the baccalaureate and master’s levels, as well as three post-master’s certificates: the baccalaureate program; the second degree program for people with a bachelor’s degree in another discipline; an accelerated second degree program; a program that allows registered nurses with associate degrees to complete a bachelor’s degree; a master’s of science in nursing; and a master’s program for registered nurses with a non-nursing bachelor’s degree. A combined MSN/MBA program also is available. The nursing programs enroll more than 1,600. The baccalaureate and graduate programs received full accreditation, good for 10 years, from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education in April.

The Kirkhof School started the process of adding the DNP prior to the retirement of former dean Phyllis Gendler. McCurren took over the position several weeks ago.

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