case western reserve university



Case Western Reserve University's Bolton School of Nursing establishes Ohio's first doctor of nursing practice degree

Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing
Frances Payne Bolton
School of Nursing

Sweeping changes in nursing education and practice are happening around the nation and Case Western Reserve University's Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing remains a leader at the forefront of these changes. The Bolton School has completed the transition from the nation's first doctor of nursing (ND) program, established in 1979, to the new doctor of nursing practice (DNP), a program of full-time doctoral study in advanced levels of nursing practice that provides an alternative terminal degree to research-focused doctoral programs. This change in degree designation from Case's current ND program, approved recently by the Ohio Board of Regents, will be one of the first available in the United States.

All graduates of Case's DNP program will receive the DNP degree beginning in August.

In October 2004, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), a national voice for higher education programs in nursing, adopted a new position which recognizes the doctor of nursing practice degree as the highest level of preparation for nursing practice. AACN member institutions, including Case, voted to support the concept of a practice doctorate, which they have named the Doctor of Nursing Practice program.

Currently, advanced practice nurses (APNs), including nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, nurse midwives and nurse anesthetists, are prepared in master's degree programs that often carry a credit load equivalent to doctoral degrees in the other health professions. AACN's newly adopted position calls for educating APNs and other nurses seeking top clinical roles in DNP programs.

The DNP program responds to alleviating a critical shortage of faculty at American nursing schools by preparing expert clinicians who mentor and develop nursing students throughout their clinical preparation. Despite a 14 percent gain in enrollment in entry-level nursing baccalaureate programs in 2004, AACN reports that more than 32,000 qualified applicants were turned away from nursing programs last year because of a shortage of nursing faculty, including almost 3,000 students who could potentially fill faculty roles.

Some of the factors behind the nurse educator shortage parallel those of the staff nurse shortage: an aging workforce, the after-effects of hospital downsizing and salary issues. Because the shortage is fueled by many factors, nurse leaders say that solutions to boost the ranks of nurse educators must be broad in scope and include short- and long-term strategies.

"Implementing the doctor of nursing practice degree program as the highest level of preparation for nursing practice is critical to meeting our national faculty shortage and support recognition of the high educational preparation of advanced practice nurses," said May L. Wykle, dean and Florence Cellar Professor of Nursing at the Bolton School. "This program is a rigorous practice doctorate that will provide the practitioner with the advanced skills and knowledge needed to elevate the level of advanced nursing education and practice. Individuals with this practice doctorate are the most highly educated and qualified practitioners in their fields. Nurses prepared in practice doctorate programs use their education and expertise in clinical and educational leadership roles on the front lines of their profession."

The DNP is a viable alternative to the research-focused degrees for preparation of faculty teaching and advanced practice nurses working in the practice arena, Wykle added. "Our program meets the current requirements for preparing nurses at the doctoral level with a blend of clinical, organizational, economic and leadership skills," she said.

Examples of practice-focused degrees in other disciplines include the doctor of medicine (MD), doctor of dental surgery (DDS), doctor of psychology (PsyD) and doctor of physical therapy (DPT).

In addition to Case, eight other universities in the United States are currently accepting students into new DNP programs.

"This courageous move on the part of nursing education represents a milestone in the evolution of the nursing profession," said AACN President Jean E. Bartels. "This bold first step puts in motion a future that recognizes and validates the unique expertise of nurses engaged in clinical practice at the highest level."


About Case Western Reserve University

Case is among the nation's leading research institutions. Founded in 1826 and shaped by the unique merger of the Case Institute of Technology and Western Reserve University, Case is distinguished by its strengths in education, research, service, and experiential learning. Located in Cleveland, Case offers nationally recognized programs in the Arts and Sciences, Dental Medicine, Engineering, Law, Management, Medicine, Nursing, and Social Work.