Gannon University’s Villa Maria School of Nursing will offer a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree starting in the Fall 2013 Semester.

The addition of a doctor of nursing practice degree reflects the evolving nature of the healthcare industry and of the nursing profession specifically, said Kathleen Patterson, Ph.D., assistant professor and director of the Villa Maria School of Nursing.

“The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) has mandated that we begin to educate advanced practice students at the doctoral level by 2015,” Patterson said. “The Villa Maria School of Nursing long has been an established leader in nursing education and a terminal practice degree is a logical and very exciting next step.”

The doctor of nursing practice degree will be 26 credits and will be focused on “immersion” or “experience,” as opposed to many doctoral degree programs, which tend to focus on research. The program also will be offered as a “bridge” program, or “add-on,” from the Villa Maria School’s existing master of science in nursing (MSN) degree.

Gannon University will host an Open House for the program from 4-6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 5 in the Patient Simulation Center in the Morosky Academic Center, 150 West 10th St.

Advanced practice registered nurses who hold a master of science degree in nursing and are certified in their specialty may apply.

The DNP can be completed in three academic semesters if taken full time, or in four to six semesters if taken part time. In addition, weekend and online courses will be offered, providing students an added degree of flexibility.

The curriculum also will include courses designed to meet core content and core competencies as outlined by the AACN.

Earning a doctor of nursing practice degree will be an important step in helping nurses more effectively influence changes in patient safety and develop best practices for hospitals and other clinical settings. Nurses with a DNP degree will be better able to act as advocates for individuals and populations of varying diversity and socioeconomic levels.

Graduates of the program also will be better positioned to make use of existing medical research, technology, large databases and information systems so as to promote health and wellness, prevent disease and improve patient outcomes.

There is a need in the nursing profession, as previously identified by the AACN, for a higher level of “knowledge and skills for clinical and administrative leadership across services and sites of healthcare delivery.” In addition, the Institute of Medicine has recognized the need for the “best prepared clinical nursing leadership at the most senior levels.”

The AACN also noted that the shift toward more schools of nursing offering a terminal degree is designed to produce the “most competent nursing clinicians possible” to help meet the nation’s healthcare needs. The AACN has maintained that education does make a difference in clinical practice.

As recently as 2010, however, the AACN noted that fewer than one percent of nurses in the United States had earned doctoral degrees. The association’s members have approved 2015 as the target date for the transition to the doctor of nursing practice.

A number of nursing organizations, including the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), stated formally, “The DNP degree more accurately reflects current clinical competencies and includes preparation for the changing healthcare system.”

Gannon University is a Catholic, Diocesan university offering nearly 100 academic programs, including doctoral programs in physical therapy and organizational learning and leadership. Gannon enrolls more than 4,000 academically talented and diverse students.

Gannon is ranked in the top tier in the new edition of “America’s Best Colleges” for the ninth consecutive year and is included in the annual guide’s list of “Great Schools at Great Prices” for the seventh time.

This article was originally published on Sept. 28, 2012 on