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WCU Launches Doctorate of Nursing Practice

Nurses who want to take their practice to the highest level have a new educational avenue to explore in pursuit of a terminal degree: West Chester University's Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP), is launching later this fall.

This practice-oriented doctorate will enable advanced practice nurses to fully implement the evidence-based findings developed by nurse researchers and scientists holding Ph.D.s, D.N.Sc. and other research-focused nursing doctorates. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing is advocating that the DNP become the level of preparation necessary for advanced practice nursing beginning in 2015.

The DNP at West Chester is the first doctoral program of this kind in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE). It was made possible by the 2012 passage of the Commonwealth's Higher Education Modernization Act, which gives all 14 PASSHE universities the ability to offer applied or professional doctorates and has been approved by the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) Board of Governors.

Intended to prepare working advanced practice nurses to meet the demands of the increasingly complex healthcare environment, the DNP focuses on skills such as collaboration, innovation, evaluation and educating clinical leaders who are an integral part of an interdisciplinary healthcare team. Advanced practice nurses who earn their DNP will demonstrate leadership, provide improvements in health care and effect policy change for individuals, families and underserved or vulnerable populations.

West Chester's 35-credit program is online, meeting the needs of the region's working nurses while allowing for individual advising and interaction with faculty, says Charlotte Mackey, chair of WCU's nursing department. One two-credit residency experience on campus at the outset establishes connections among the cohort, which will be between 15 and 20 nurses. Students can complete the program either as part-time or full-time. Courses will be taught by qualified WCU nursing faculty, many of whom are advance practice nurses.

"Our program is responsive to the regional needs of both learners and health care industries. The DNP provides an affordable option and a resource that is currently in high demand and is projected to continue in high demand for years," Mackey continues. "There will always be a need for health care delivered by highly educated and qualified health care professionals."

A feasibility study conducted by the WCU Center for Social and Economic Policy Research in 2011 identified the University's geographic advantage. Situated within a 75-mile radius of the University are 60 percent of all Pennsylvania-licensed advance practice nurses, and approximately half of the Commonwealth's hospitals. Within that radius are also 82% of the hospitals in Delaware, 48% of the hospitals in New Jersey, and 35% of the hospitals in Maryland. The study did not estimate the potential students that the distance education program would reach both nationally and internationally.

"The program will enable us to expand community services, professional networks and collaborations with regional health care and educational entities," says Mackey, "in order to foster collaborative research, create entrepreneurial endeavors and create new revenue streams, a further reflection of the mission and goals of WCU in serving the regional needs of our community.".

For more information, contact the graduate coordinator.