February 8, 2013

UW School of Nursing re-envisions Doctor of Nursing Practice curriculum

School Of Nursing

Ashley Wiggin

Doctor of Nursing Practice student Ann Pedack performs an examination on fellow student Desiree Wood. Sam Li, also a Doctor of Nursing Practice student, acts as an “advisor” in this setting. Students perform simulated examinations as part of their training in the program.

The UW School of Nursing is re-envisioning and restructuring the curriculum in its Doctor of Nursing Practice program with an initiative that builds on the school’s long history of national distinction in preparing advanced practice nurses for a variety of careers.

The program, which had its first class of students beginning in 2007, prepares nurses for independent practice and leadership in careers such as community nursing, critical-care nursing, psychiatric mental health nursing, adult, gerontology, family and pediatric nursing, and nurse-midwifery.

As the program has grown, specialty tracks developed independently, which created a complex model that was ultimately unsustainable fiscally. To address these issues, a faculty work group collaborated during the summer of 2012 to re-envision the program.

The group proposed a consolidated program that upholds the foundations of advanced practice, clinical inquiry and leadership within a delineated structure. This increased core creates consistency for students while maintaining their ability to sit for national certification in role and population tracks, allowing appropriate levels of clinical experience, and ensuring flexibility for future program changes. The consolidation reduces costs by 26 percent, better aligning with current resources and tuition affordability.

The faculty committee aligned the curriculum with the current national standards for accreditation in doctoral education and with the expectations of state boards of nursing and national task forces on advanced practice nursing, while trying to ensure that students are prepared for certification exams and for practice. Students in the Doctor of Nursing Practice program have achieved nearly a 100 percent passing rate on national certification exams to date, and School of Nursing faculty want to maintain that performance and enhance students’ doctoral education and foster their success after graduation.

The new program model was approved by school faculty in fall 2012 and its implementation is planned for the class entering the fall of 2013.

At last month’s American Association of Colleges of Nursing Doctoral Forum in San Diego, three peer-reviewed papers, each co-authored by several UW faculty members, were presented. They outlined how the school  redefined the existing program, reaffirmed program goals, developed a consistent core curriculum, and made the program more financially sustainable.

Gail Kieckhefer, professor of family and child nursing; Cindy Dougherty, professor of biobehavioral nursing and health systems; and Cindy Perry, associate professor of family and child nursing, gave presentations at the conference, which was attended by national nursing leaders.

Dougherty said the work at UW will benefit others trying to incorporate program changes in a resource-challenged environment. Following their presentations, several other schools asked the UW faculty members to share information on how to “systematically change their curriculum” and integrate a program similar to the UW’s at their own schools.

“Faculty from the University of Wisconsin and Rush University spent time with us to talk about how we are merging our tracks in core coursework. They were also interested in our plans for inter-professional education,” said Kieckhefer.

“It was pretty clear, from listening to the 700 plus AACN doctoral conference attendees, that the UW School of Nursing is staying abreast of issues around doctoral education and, in many ways, leading,” said Maggie Baker, interim associate dean for academic services in the School of Nursing. “For example, our work to revise the (Doctor of Nursing Practice) curriculum and our work around doctoral-level recruitment and retention is clearly on par with that our peer institutions and, in many ways, cutting-edge.”

The UW School of Nursing is consistently a top-rated nursing school, according to U.S. News & World Report surveys and analyses, and is ranked No. 2 in research funding from the National Institutes of Health in 2011.

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