VUSN: Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Program

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DNP Program Administration | DNP Degree Requirements | Curriculum Overview | Practice Hours | Ratio of Credit Hours to Clock Hours 

 

The Doctor of Nursing Practice program prepares leaders in advanced nursing practice to bring evidence-based knowledge into the practice arena, improve health care outcomes and strengthen the leadership role in guiding complex care delivery and nursing education. 

Increased complexity in health care, the explosion of knowledge and technology, and national issues related to patient safety and quality improvement call for fundamental changes in the education of all health care professionals. Redesigning care processes are indicated, with information technology systems enhancing evidence-based decision making at both the macro- and micro-system levels. Addressing the above challenges identified by the National Academy of Medicine (formally Institute of Medicine [IOM]) and other national organizations, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) published a position paper in 2004 targeting the adoption of the DNP as the terminal degree for advanced nursing practice. Advanced nursing practice is any form of nursing intervention that influences health care outcomes for individuals or populations, including the direct care of individual patients, management of care for specific populations, administration of nursing and health care organizations, and the development and implementation of health care policy. VUSN has a long history of educating advanced practice nurses at the Master’s level in both direct and indirect patient care, e.g., Nurse Practitioners, Certified Nurse-Midwives, Clinical Nurse Specialists, Nursing Informatics Specialists, and Healthcare Leaders. Nurses prepared in practice doctorate programs have a blend of clinical, organizational, economic, and leadership skills to enable them to critique nursing and other clinical scientific findings and design programs of care delivery that are locally acceptable, economically feasible, and have significant impact on health care outcomes.

Dr. Terri Allison is the Assistant Dean for Academics, Doctoral Nursing Practice. 

DNP Program Goals

Central to the DNP curriculum is the application of evidence-based practice methods within practice settings throughout the program of study. Evidence-based practice is classically defined as the integration of best research evidence with practice expertise and patient values to facilitate health care decision making. The goals of the DNP program are to prepare nurse scholars to:

  1. Assess, analyze, evaluate, and manage complex health environments serving diverse populations to improve patient and population health outcomes;
  2. Apply clinical scholarship and available evidence to make clinical and system decisions incorporating professional values and ethical principles;
  3. Support and improve patient care and health care systems through the use of clinical practice models, health policy, informatics, and organizational leadership skills;
  4. Advocate for clinical prevention, population health initiatives, and evidence-based health policy through interprofessional and stakeholder collaboration.

All students are expected to meet the DNP program goals regardless of entry track. Students demonstrate achievement of program goals via didactic assignments and documentation of practice hours. BSN to DNP entry in an advanced nursing practice specialty and DNP plus post-master's certificate entry students must also complete specialty-focused didactic and clinical hours requirements. 

Students enter the VUSN DNP program in one of the following categories:

Entry to the DNP Advanced Clinical Practice Track with an MSN Degree in Advanced Nursing Practice

For students who have completed an advanced clinical practice program, this entry requires APRN certification as either a NP, CNM, CNS, or CRNA. For students who are progressing seamlessly from VUSN’s MSN program, certification must be obtained prior to enrolling in NURS 8105: DNP Integrative Application of Evidence-Based Practice.

Entry to the DNP Advanced Systems Track:

This track has three entry options:

  1. Applicants with an MSN in health care leadership, nursing administration, or nursing informatics may enter the Advanced Systems track or the Executive Leadership track (see below). National certification in the area of specialty is preferred.
  2. Applicants with a BSN and a master’s in a non-nursing, business- or health-related field to the Advanced Systems track must be certified or eligible for certification in one of the following:

Applicants may be awarded up to 500 clinical hours upon enrollment dependent on portfolio review, systems practice experience, and national certification relevant to advanced systems practice.

  1. Applicants with a MSN or MN in Nursing Education to the Advanced Systems track must complete additional MSN level courses in Nursing and Healthcare Leadership as part of the DNP program and prior to enrollment in DNP courses, which lengthens the program of studies. A gap analysis will be conducted to evaluate completion of graduate level courses in Leadership, Finance, and Quality Improvement.  The program length will be based on the individual gap analysis. After completing the MSN level courses, the student continues in DNP courses. Applicants with MSN or MN in Nursing Education to the advanced systems practice track must be certified or eligible for certification in one of the following:

Applicants may be awarded up to 500 clinical hours upon enrollment dependent on portfolio review, prior MSN clinical hours, systems practice experience, and national certification relevant to advanced systems practice.

Entry to DNP Executive Leadership Track:

This track has four entry options:

  1. MSN in health care leadership or in nursing administration. Applicants may be awarded up to 500 clinical hours upon enrollment dependent on portfolio review, prior MSN clinical hours, systems practice experience, and national certification relevant to executive leadership practice.
  2. MSN in other advanced nursing practice specialties.
  3. BSN with a master’s in a non-nursing, business- or health-related field (e.g. MBA, MPH, MHA, MMHC). Applicants may be awarded up to 500 clinical hours upon enrollment dependent on portfolio review, systems practice experience, and national certification relevant to executive leadership practice.
  4. MSN in Nursing Education: Applicants with an MSN or MN in Nursing Education must complete additional MSN level courses in Nursing and Healthcare Leadership as part of the DNP program and prior to enrollment in DNP courses, which lengthens the program of studies. A gap analysis will be conducted to evaluate completion of graduate level courses in Leadership, Finance, and Quality Improvement. The program length will be based on the individual gap analysis. After completing the MSN level courses, the student continues in DNP courses. Applicants may be awarded up to 500 clinical hours upon enrollment dependent on portfolio review, prior MSN clinical hours, systems practice experience, and national certification relevant to executive leadership practice.

Applicants to the Executive Leadership track must be certified or eligible for certification in one of the following:

Entry with MSN Adding Post-Master’s Certificate

Vanderbilt offers post-master's entry for advanced practice nurses who hold an MSN and wish to pursue additional advanced practice specialty credential. Applicants to the Advanced Clinical Practice track with an MSN or MN in majors such as nursing education or clinical nurse leader must complete a Post-Master’s Certificate in an advanced clinical practice specialty (Nurse-Midwifery or Nurse Practitioner) as part of the DNP program, which lengthens the program of studies. The program length will be based on the individual portfolio review. After completing the Post-Master’s Certificate portion, the student is eligible to take the national certification exam in the selected specialty, if required by the specialty, and continue in DNP courses. Applicants pursuing a new specialty should address their career goals for the new specialty as part of the DNP statement of professional goals.

Entry to BSN to DNP Track

The BSN to DNP track is available for the following specialties: Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (AGACNP) or Family Nurse Practitioner/Emergency Nurse Practitioner (FNP/ENP). The BSN entry to the DNP integrated program prepares students to provide an advanced level of evidence-based care to acute and critical care patient populations (AGACNP) or emergency care across the lifespan for all acuities (FNP/ENP). The program emphasizes the implementation and evaluation of evidence, systems-level thinking, care quality and safety, and the development of meaningful interventions that may improve outcomes of care for the selected patient population. The program prepares students to serve as leaders in their area of practice. 

The BSN entry to the DNP program gives registered nurses with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree the ability to earn a Doctorate of Nursing Practice degree in eight semesters, without first obtaining a masters-level nursing degree. The BSN entry to DNP program requires the completion of 65-67 (AGACNP) or 79 (FNP/ENP) semester credit hours. The program is structured so that students complete nurse practitioner specialty and core DNP coursework first, and then transition into DNP-specific practice courses. Students will be eligible to take the specialty certification exam upon completion of the degree and will be doctoral-prepared adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioners or family nurse practitioner/emergency nurse practitioners upon graduation. BSN entry to DNP students will complete a minimum of 1000 clinical/practice hours. 

The DNP curriculum places great intellectual, psychological, motor, and sensory demands on students. In accordance with Vanderbilt's non-discrimination policy, the DNP Student Admissions and Academic Affairs Committee (SAAA) is charged with making individualized determinations of the ability of each candidate for admission to successfully complete the degree requirements. Vanderbilt School of Nursing considers the Internet communication link an essential learning resource for doctoral students. DNP students will be required to have a home computer, printer, and Internet service provider that has high-speed, broadband Internet access.

DNP PROGRAM ADMINISTRATION


DNP Director Assistant Dean for Academics, Doctoral Nursing Practice

Terri L. Allison, DNP, ACNP-BC, FAANP
Office Location: 224 Godchaux Hall
Appointments with Dr. Allison may be scheduled by calling 615.343.7732 or by e-mail at terri.allison@vanderbilt.edu.

Program Manager DNP Program Manager 

Pam Pettis
Office Location: 223 Godchaux Hall
Telephone: 615.343.8419
pam.pettis@vanderbilt.edu 

DNP DEGREE REQUIREMENTS

DNP Advanced Clinical Practice Track, Advanced Systems Practice Track, and Executive Leadership Track.

Three post-master’s entry tracks for the DNP degree are available. The curriculum includes 36 hours of required coursework and can be completed over five or six semesters. Courses are delivered using a combination of formats with one on-site intensive experience each semester, comprised of 3-4 days each, with the remainder of the coursework completed using distance learning technologies. Requirements for the degree include successful completion of advanced coursework to include a minimum of 500 hours of practice integration and the successful completion of a project. All degree requirements must be completed within five years of enrollment. 

Course Load: The unit of measure of the student's work load is the semester hour. All references to credit hours are semester hours. The normal full-time schedule is 6 hours per semester. The student's status is defined as follows:

  • Full time: Enrolled in 6 or more credit hours.
  • Three-quarter time: Enrolled in 4 to 5 credit hours.
  • Half time: Enrolled in 2 to 3 credit hours.
  • Less than half-time: Enrolled in at least 1 hour.

CURRICULUM OVERVIEW

The program requires 36 credit hours of study. The 36 credit hours required for graduation are detailed below. Nurse Faculty Loan recipients may be required to take additional credit hours.

Required Courses

Credit Hours

NURS 8010

Evidence-Based Practice I: The Nature of Evidence

2

NURS 8012

Informatics for Scholarly Practice     

2

NURS 8064

Scholarly Writing

1

NURS 8014

Statistics in Health Sciences

3

NURS 8022

Evidence-Based Practice II: Evaluating and Applying Evidence

3

NURS 8024

Epidemiology

3

NURS 8032

Health Care Economics and Finance

3

or NURS 8034

Advanced Health Economics and Finance

 

NURS 8042

Quality Improvement and Patient Safety

3

NURS 8044

Management of Organizations and Systems

3

or NURS 8045

Evidence-Based Mgmt in Health Care Organizations and Systems (required for Executive Leadership Track)

 

NURS 8052

Health Policy

2

NURS 8054

Legal and Ethical Environment

3

NURS 8105

Integrative Application of Evidence-Based Practice 

4

NURS 8069

Lean Methodology (required for Executive Leadership Track)

2

 

Elective Courses

2/4

 

Total

36

PRACTICE HOURS

VUSN DNP graduates are scholars expected to collaborate in complex health environments with diverse populations, translate and apply evidence to clinical decision making; lead the development, testing, and dissemination of care standards; and advocate for policy and initiatives with stakeholders, to improve health outcomes. Informed by The Essentials of Doctoral Education for Advanced Nursing Practice (AACN, 2006), practice experiences are designed to provide opportunities to expand on proficiency and mastery of APN or systems competencies.

All VUSN DNP students are required during their course of study to complete a minimum of 500 DNP practice hours within their professional practice setting or in practice sites created through collaborative partnerships with students, faculty and agencies.

  1. Students entering the program with a MSN in an advanced nursing practice specialty (APRN, leadership/administration, informatics) are required to complete 500 practice hours, for a total minimum of 1000 post-baccalaureate hours.
  2. Students entering the program with a BSN and a Master's in a non-nursing, business- or health-related field or with a MSN or MN in Nursing Education to the Advanced Systems or Executive Leadership track may be awarded up to 500 practice hours prior to enrollment in DNP courses if certified by the American Association of Nursing Leadership (AONL), the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), or the American College of Healthcare Executive (ACHE); and are required to complete 500 practice hours for a total minimum of 1000 post-baccalaureate hours. 
  3. Students entering the program with a MSN and adding a post-master's certificate in a nurse practitioner or nurse midwifery specialty are required to complete a minimum of 500 NP or NMW specialty direct patient care clinical hours and 500 DNP practice hours. 
  4. Students entering with a BSN to the DNP Advanced Clinical Practice track in a specialty area are required to complete a minimum of 500 NP specialty direct patient care clinical hours and 500 DNP practice hours for a total minimum of 1000 post-baccalaureate hours. 

Practice hours are designed to demonstrate synthesis of expanded knowledge acquired within the DNP curriculum. The practice portion of the curriculum demonstrates the student's capability to meet the core competencies of the DNP degree, and the advanced nursing practice specialty, as appropriate. The practice hours are documented in the specialty-related clinical hours (BSN to DNP, PMC) and the DNP Practice Hours Log. 

Practical learning experiences are structured in a 4-credit Integrative Application course completed over 4 semesters that includes course objectives for meeting overall program outcomes. This course is taken over four semesters. One credit is awarded each term a grade of Satisfactory is earned, for a maximum of four credits. The course provides the student the opportunity to develop, propose, implement and defend the project, the hallmark of the VUSN practice doctorate. Completion of the project demonstrates synthesis of the student’s knowledge from curriculum courses and unique practice experiences, achievement of competencies, and unique expertise in the student’s specified area of practice.

The hours can be demonstrated through a variety of methods including:

  • In-depth work/mentorship/collaboration with experts from nursing, as well as other disciplines
  • Student engagement within practice environments
  • An opportunity to build and assimilate knowledge for advanced specialty practice at a high level of complexity
  • An opportunity for further synthesis and expansion of learning
  • Experience in the context within which the final DNP project is completed
  • An opportunity to integrate and synthesize the DNP Essentials and specialty requirements necessary to demonstrate competency in an area of specialized advanced nursing practice. 

Practice hours are self-reported and documented in the student’s DNP Practice Hours Log and the specialty-related clinical hours log, as appropriate. 

RATIO OF CREDIT HOURS TO CLOCK HOURS

Didactic

Courses offered in a blended format with one or more required face-to-face class sessions and one or more required online sessions. VUSN documents these activities through the class schedule or syllabus assuring that DNP students are meeting the minimum semester-hour, credit-hour requirement for the credit awarded. One credit hour for one hour of activity per week – 1:1.

Independent Study

Independent learning or experience involving self-directed learning under indirect supervision by course or clinical faculty (credit varies according to type of activity).

Practicum

Practica are designed to demonstrate synthesis of expanded knowledge acquired within the DNP curriculum. For doctoral level courses, one credit hour reflects nine hours of activity per week – 1:9. Practicum hours are not substantiated by the students’ expertise in the health-care system demonstrated prior to the DNP program nor by time spent working on classroom assignments. The practicum hours signify the capability of the student to meet The Essentials of Doctoral Education for Advanced Nursing Practice (AACN, 2006). A minimum of 1,000 hours post BSN or 500 hours post-master’s is required.

Students may complete practice hours at their site of employment as an advanced practice nurse, health system leader, or nurse informaticist. VUSN will execute affiliation agreements with specified agencies for the student's practica course work, if required. All requirements for practica should be completed and on file (see Registration) at the time of enrollment or prior to enrollment in NURS 8105, Integrative Application to Evidence-Based Practice.  Practice mentors and/or agencies may require drug screening, fingerprinting, additional criminal background checks or other requirements specific to that site. Costs associated with these processes are the responsibility of the student.

Clinical experiences and Practica for AGACNP and FNP/ENP BSN to DNP specialty level courses: See VUSN catalog: MSN Ratio of Credit Hours to Clock Hours. (https://www.vanderbilt.edu/catalogs/documents/nursing.pdf

Intensive Sessions

All students are required to attend an on-campus intensive session at the beginning of each semester. Time on campus may vary depending on individual programs of study. Detailed intensive schedules are distributed to students and made available on the VUSN Web site at least 4 weeks prior to each intensive session. Attendance is required for successful completion of the DNP program.

2022-23 Intensive Dates

  • Fall: August 29-September 1, 2022 (Monday-Thursday)
  • Spring: January 9-12, 2023 (Monday-Thursday)
  • Summer: May 15-18, 2023 (Monday-Thursday)