The Department of Higher Education Coordinating Board’s approval for a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree program at UCA has placed the Department of Nursing one step closer toward its goal for the post-master’s degree to begin in the summer of 2014.
The DNP would take students six semesters, including summers, to complete the 36 hours of online courses.
The program is contingent on the approval from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of a substantive change request, which will be submitted in March.
Barbara Williams, nursing department chair, said the HLC approval would depend on a thorough assessment of the DNP and UCA’s ability to prove it can financially and practically support another doctoral program.
“The program is sound,” Williams said. “[The nursing department] is not concerned about the assessment because the nursing program does a lot of assessment for our [department’s] accreditation.”
An additional fee for DNP students would supplement the university’s financial ability to fund a new faculty member and a new staff member. Williams said the amount of that fee has not yet been decided.
The nursing department currently employs 10 faculty members with the necessary experience to instruct the doctoral courses.
UCA originally partnered with the University of Arkansas, Arkansas State University and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, but after six years of coordination attempts, four separate programs were determined to be cost effective for the universities and the most beneficial for the state’s demand for DNPs.
The Arkansas Department of Higher Education approved UAMS and ASU in October 2012. UA’s DNP was approved along with UCA on Feb. 1. Each program will accept up to 20 students each year.
Nelda New, nursing department graduate program director, said UCA’s DNP would not be restricted to advanced practice nurses like the programs at UA, UAMS and ASU.
“In our examination of the DNP nationally, we found that you don’t have to be advanced practice to be a DNP,” she said. “[UCA] decided to have a more broad program.”
New said the “uniqueness,” would open the program to nursing students graduating from UCA’s existing master’s programs and increase enrollment.
According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), the United States had eight DNP programs in 2004. The AACN released a statement calling for advanced practice programs to transition to DNP by 2015. As of March 2012, there were 184 DNP programs enrolling students, with approximately 9,000 students across 40 states and another 101 DNP programs reported in the planning stages.
Williams said the DNP program is gaining popularity because of American health care system’s need for employees with advanced and specific leadership.
“[The DNP program] has the additional systems focus, financial focus [and]policy focus that will truly help [students]to be a leader and facilitate change going through the [health care]system,” Williams said.
New said that without a DNP program, all of the post-baccalaureate nursing programs would not be able to compete with the three other state universities.
“The DNP is a national move and we cannot afford to not adhere to national expectations of a graduate program. We are moving with the tide of change in nursing. We either go with the changes that are happening or we lose it all,” she said.