The idea for Southern Adventist University to pursue a Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) program quickly came up for discussion after the American Association of Colleges of Nursing moved the required level of preparation for advance nursing practice from a master’s to a doctorate degree. This transition has to occur by 2015, but Southern is well ahead of that deadline and will begin providing classes for this terminal degree beginning in the fall.
The DNP differs from a PhD by focusing on clinical care rather than academic research. Southern’s School of Nursing will offer the DNP as a five-semester online program with two tracks available, lifestyle therapeutics and acute care-adult/gerontology. Students complete most of their course work, clinical practicum, and a scholarly project at home and in their current work environment.
According to Barbara James, dean of the School of Nursing, the road to getting Southern accepted for a DNP was a long one. Originally, Southern was approved by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools accreditation agency as a Level III institution, which meant a master’s was the highest degree it could offer. The proposal for a DNP included an application for Southern to move up to a Level V, allowing for 2-3 doctoral programs.
The School of Nursing also had to get approval from numerous on-campus committees and also worked with the Tennessee Board of Nursing to write a proposal to the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission to become candidates for the DNP.
“It was and still is a huge undertaking, but the process has gone smoothly,” James said. “To offer an advanced degree with increased knowledge and skill level is important.”
It’s also important to Shana Hilson who, after graduating in May with an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Degree Plan, hopes to enroll in the acute care-adult/gerontology track of Southern’s DNP. She has been a nurse for ten years and spending two of those looking after her husband who had been in a serious car accident. These experiences helped strengthen her appreciation for the profession.
“It is a challenge on a daily basis,” she said. “But the reward of helping save a life is indescribable.”
According to Holly Gadd, nursing graduate program coordinator, a more advanced level of care is needed as the overall health of our nation declines. She says Southern’s DNP will work to lead initiatives for nurse practitioners to align their practice with the philosophy and mission of Seventh-day Adventist healthcare providers.
“Healthcare providers should be focused on helping individuals, families and communities adopt lifestyles more in tune with God’s original design.”