USF approves second nursing doctorate program

The Board of Trustees has approved a second doctorate program for the College of Nursing. It is a doctorate of nursing practice (DNP), and USF is one of the first 10 schools in the country – and the first in Florida – to offer the program for next spring.

The DNP program will give students the opportunity to pursue the new practice-based doctorate instead of USF’s research-based doctorate, which has been the norm in nursing.

Much has been made of the national shortage of bedside nurses; however, the shortage of nurses in teaching positions and management is even greater. This is why the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) has pushed this program so heavily and why many schools are starting these programs.

“It will benefit the community because the long-term goal is to improve the health of the citizens of this community,” said Mary Webb, who will be running the program. “We anticipate that the DNP is going to – give us state and national recognition.”

According to Associate Dean Judy Karshmer, USF will be the first university in the state to adopt the DNP program.

“That will certainly increase our graduate II-level enrollment, which always helps the university,” Webb said.

Karshmer added that USF will be one of the first 10 schools in the country to implement the new program. The University of Florida will be starting its program in spring 2007.

Earlier this year, the Florida Legislature created the SUCCEED Florida Career Education Grants Program to help colleges in the state develop programs for advanced degrees for those pursuing careers in education, particularly nursing. USF received a grant of $1,280,794 to start this program.

According to Webb, this money will cover the first year of the program, and the funds regularly allocated to the College of Nursing will take over from there.

The DNP will specifically train nurses who want to continue in the areas of education and management.

“Our DNP program offers an alternative to many of the very intelligent nurses out there who would like to obtain a doctoral degree but would prefer to work in a practice setting where they can apply research as opposed to doing research,” Webb said.

In the past, if a nurse wanted to go into medical practice, he or she would stop at the master’s degree. The doctoral program is tailored for those interested in research. The AACN has stated that the highest level of nursing practice should be at the doctorate level.

The DNP program is an idea that is quickly gaining momentum. Columbia University in New York became the first school to have a DNP program, which was approved in June 2004. Now, most schools in the country are in the process of getting this program approved and started, Karshmer said.

The DNP program received the final seal of approval from the Board of Trustees on Nov. 10 after a short presentation. Webb said the decision has already created a lot of outside interest, and she has received many phone calls asking about it.

Until the program’s creation, a master’s degree was the top degree for a nurse not interested in research. According to Karshmer, this caused the master’s program to reach up to 50 credit hours, where most masters’ programs at other colleges are about 30 credit hours. She said that the doctorate would ease the master’s program of a lot of this burden.

Webb stated that the DNP program will involve 40 credit hours of coursework, 10 hours of residency in an educational setting and an applied research project.