Frequently Asked Questions

What is a DNP? 

The Doctor of Nursing Practice, or DNP, is a clinical doctorate degree for nurses, and represents the highest level of academic and clinical education for advanced nursing practice. In preparing for the future of advanced nursing practice, the DNP includes advanced coursework in leadership, research translation, clinical knowledge and skills. 

On October 25, 2004, schools affiliated with the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) voted to endorse the Position Statement on the Practice Doctorate in Nursing. This decision called for moving the current level of preparation necessary for advanced nursing practice from the master’s degree to the doctorate-level by the year 2015. This endorsement was preceded by almost three years of research and consensus-building by an AACN task force charged with examining the need for the practice doctorate with a variety of stakeholder groups. 

In the transition to the DNP, nursing is moving in the direction of other health professions. Medicine (MD), Dentistry (DDS), Pharmacy (PharmD), Psychology (PsyD), Physical Therapy (DPT), and Audiology (AudD) all offer practice doctorates. 

Why choose the DNP for preparation as a nurse practitioner?

The changing demands of this nation's complex healthcare environment require the highest level of scientific knowledge and practice expertise to assure quality patient outcomes. The Institute of Medicine, Joint Commission, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and other authorities have called for re-conceptualizing educational programs that prepare today’s health professionals. 

Some of the many factors building momentum for change in nursing education at the graduate level include: the rapid expansion of knowledge underlying practice; increased complexity of patient care; national concerns about the quality of care and patient safety; shortages of nursing personnel which demands a higher level of preparation for leaders who can design and assess care; shortages of doctoral-prepared nursing faculty; and increasing educational expectations for the preparation of other members of the healthcare team.

A 2005 report titled - Advancing the Nation's Health Needs: NIH Research Training Programs, the National Academy of Sciences called for nursing to develop a non-research clinical doctorate to prepare expert practitioners who can also serve as clinical faculty. AACN's work to advance the DNP is consistent with this call to action. 

In many institutions, advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), including Nurse Practitioners, Clinical Nurse Specialists, Certified Nurse Mid-Wives, and Certified 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 position statement calls for educating APRNs and nurses seeking top systems/organizational roles in DNP programs. 

The clinical doctorate is designed for nurses seeking a terminal degree in advanced nursing practice and offers an alternative to the research-focused doctorate. DNP prepared nurses are well-equipped to fully implement the science developed by nurse researchers prepared in PhD, DNSc, and other research-focused nursing doctorates. 

What is the difference between a PhD program and a DNP program?

The DNP program at Elms College integrates course work with practice immersion experiences to prepare our future practice scholars to bring knowledge-based evidence into clinical practice, improving health care outcomes and strengthening nursing’s role in the care.

What is an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN)?

An Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) is a registered nurse who has completed a graduate degree or post-graduate program and successfully passed a national certification examination to practice in one of four roles including that of a nurse practitioner. The APRN has the advanced knowledge and skills to provide direct care in the continuum of health promotion and maintenance of care.

What is the DNP Immersion and Capstone?

A hallmark of the Elms College’s practice doctorate is a capstone project. The DNP Capstone is a scholarly project designed to address a practice issue affecting groups of patients, health care organizations, or health care systems. The successful completion of a scholarly project demonstrates the synthesis of the student’s immersion experiences. This scholarly project will embrace learning from both coursework and clinical practice application. Prior to graduation each student will prepare a manuscript describing the scholarly project and publicly present their project findings.

How long will it take me to complete the DNP program?

The first step in determining the DNP degree includes identifying your area of interest in nursing practice. Our recommendation for full-time students with a BSN is to complete the program in approximately 3 years; MSN students in approximately 2.5 years. 

Will I need to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE)?

No, the GRE is not required for the Elms College DNP.

My technology skills are not current. Are technology supports available?

Skills you need for graduate study include, but are not limited to, word processing and PowerPoint skills, online database searching, library database searches, and E-learning navigation skills for the educational learning platform. It is recommended students take NUR 601 - Technology: Methods and Tools for Graduate Study if a technology skills refresher is needed. Elms College provides on-campus and off-campus support (by telephone and e-mail where you can ask questions from our technology experts). 

Do I need computer and web access?

Yes, you will need a computer and a high-speed Internet connection. Computer systems are constantly changing so we will gladly work with you for a list of computer hardware recommendations. 

How often do I need to come to campus?

Using a hybrid model of education, students will be expected to be on campus for face-to-face classes on a scheduled basis through the semester. Face-to-face class sessions are scheduled late afternoon or evening. The online educational process is conducted through the college’s on-line platform, Moodle. The clinical practice residencies will be faculty guided through practicum experiences. This may include local and regional clinical agency placement. Elms College DNP faculty in collaboration with the student will determine clinical placement as part of the faculty mentorship toward completing the DNP Program.

What is a practicum?

The purpose of a clinical practicum is twofold. First, the experience provides for direct clinical observation and second provides an opportunity for advanced clinical practice under the direct supervision of a preceptor. Students have an opportunity to apply theory learned in the classroom and advanced skills learned in the skills lab/simulation into practice in approved clinical settings. The practicum fulfills required course and practice hours while providing a real-life opportunity to work as a future APRN. 

Are FNP and Adult Acute Care Gerontology DNP students required to find their own practicum placements?

Students will be mentored by nurse practitioners and physicians while completing their clinical practice hours within specific populations across the lifespan. Our local hospitals serve as preceptor site placements for students commuting within the Elms College geographic area. The clinical practice residencies will be faculty guided through practicum experiences. The director of advanced clinical practice in partnership with the student will offer assistance in clinical placement as part of the faculty mentorship toward completing the DNP Program.