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Nursing's DNP Program Offers Practice-rich Alternative to Ph.D.

Duquesne University’s School of Nursing has found success with its new online Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program, which is designed to advance the practice expertise and range of nurses with master’s degrees in nursing in a clinical specialty or a specific role.

The DNP program, an alternative to the school’s Ph.D. program, has doubled its fall 2009 cohort from last year and the school is aiming for planning on admitting 25 additional students. The current cohort for the 32-credit program includes 13 full-time and two part-time students who hail from as far away as Texas, California and Palestine.

In contrast to other DNP programs offered locally, Duquesne’s is totally online. Students are required to come to campus only for their initial orientation and subsequently when they complete the program after five semesters.

“This is a program that everybody says works very well because it’s distance education, and it is very convenient for them,” said Kate DeLuca, graduate advisor in the nursing school. “I think we’ll have another great class this year.”

While the school’s Ph.D. program is research-based, the DNP is grounded in the practice or specialty to which the student is already committed. Among the current DNP cohort are professionals who specifically work with Iraq veterans with closed-head injuries as well as nurses with forensic backgrounds dealing with incarcerated adolescents.

“One of our current DNP students is interested in helping the staff within an emergency room environment improve their skills in dealing with victims of sexual assault,” explained Dr. Eileen Zungolo, dean and professor of nursing. “Part of that would include educating that staff on all of the mechanics of being a sexual assault nurse but also developing policies and procedures regarding management of victims, creating a ‘service’ within the facility that wasn’t there before.”

Another specialty area represented among the current cohort is higher education, which inadvertently affects the current nursing faculty shortage in a positive way, according to Zungolo. “More and more DNP students are seeking jobs positions in higher education, so it is helping the nursing faculty shortage greatly,” she said. The degree, which can be completed in two years, is particularly appealing to master’s-prepared nurses who are on faculty and opt to complete doctorate degrees. 

Yvonne Weideman, an instructor in the School of Nursing, is a full-time student in the DNP program. “The program has been fascinating—I’ve learned so many different things,” said Weideman, who is focusing on the education of nursing students and curriculum design. “You have this new knowledge that is being developed, but now it’s ‘How do I take this knowledge and how do I apply it into something and bring it into reality? I love to create programs—I enjoy doing things like that, so that is where a DNP program was more apropos for me.”

“I think that we have a very flexible program,” said Zungolo. “And it’s one that takes individuals who have advanced practice experience and helps them advance the knowledge they have into new career goals.”

For more information on the DNP, call 412.396.4945 or visit www.nursing.duq.edu.

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and tradition of academic excellence. Duquesne, a campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, has been nationally recognized for its academic programs, community service and commitment to sustainability. Follow Duquesne University on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.