Leading Initiatives

Exemplars of Collaboration Between Academic Institutions to Offer the DNP

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To date, two examples of academic collaboration exist. As more DNP programs are created, more exemplars of academic collaboration will be added to the tool kit.

A. The Saint Xavier University/Rush MSN-DNP Program

In May 2005, Rush University College of Nursing invited St. Xavier School of Nursing (SXU) in Chicago (which is not authorized to confer doctoral degrees) to explore the possibility of creating a partnership to make the DNP degree program a potential opportunity for their MSN graduates. At this juncture, this was a dean-to-dean discussion between the two private universities.

The collaborative process described above was initiated, and it was determined that collaboration with Rush would enable SXU to offer a facilitated admission into doctoral education for their MSN students. Two admission options would be possible: expedited and qualified. Expedited admission is for a student who meets all joint requirements, has maintained a 3.0 GPA at SXU, and has a strong leadership background and project proposal. A place will be held for one year while the student completes the SXU program. Qualified admission is for a student who has good potential, but the application process reveals that they need additional leadership preparation to be ready for admission into the DNP program. "Bridge" experiences would be created in which SXU faculty would work closely with students to mentor them and place them in situations where their leadership skills will grow. Upon completion of the SXU program, students would be reviewed for admission to Rush.

The Rush DNP program is designed for master's prepared nurses who wish to focus their careers on leadership and the business of health care. The program prepares students to be leaders able to effect change through system redesign and evidence-based decision making in a variety of clinical, organizational, and educational systems. The program is a two-year, part-time program offered online. Students complete a systems change project that is relevant to their career goals.

Facilitating the Process

Schools of Nursing that are authorized to confer the DNP and have demonstrated a timely, tested, and positive experience can seek out other institutions in the state that do not have authorization to award the DNP degree. The authorized institution can invite the latter institution to consider collaborating with them on a DNP partnership. The host school will need to examine its curriculum to determine the fit of its curriculum with that of the invited partner school. The invited partner will need to examine its curriculum and be willing to make changes to assure a better fit with the host school.

Alternatively, a School of Nursing that is not authorized to confer the DNP degree may contact an institution that is authorized and experienced in the DNP program with the request for a collaborative program. Different models of DNP collaboration may involve a number of schools and colleges. Resources will determine the number.

Overall Process

Planning the Partnership

  • Dean-to-dean discussion and agreement must occur at the outset to establish common ground.
  • Pending agreement, permission must be obtained from top administration of both universities supporting the initiation of this partnership.
  • The planning work should be conducted by a task force with key representatives from the respective institutions. The deans would make these appointments.
  • Subcommittees composed of members of the institutions in the process should be appointed to work on curriculum integration, admission procedures, financial aid, marketing, funding sources, necessary resources and evaluation.
  • A plan and process must be developed for the faculties of the involved institutions to assure their role as supportive resources of the DNP partnership. This could include frequent faculty forums, "town hall meetings," departmental meetings, and faculty senate meetings focusing on the new partnership and allowing question and answer sessions with leadership. Confidential surveys should be conducted to determine faculty support.
  • A detailed plan including the timeline and approval mechanisms of all institutions involved in the process must be developed.
  • A plan must be developed for introducing the partnership(s) and its implications to the public including local nursing professional organizations.

Win-Win for the Partners and Students

  • For the non-doctoral degree granting institution, the collaboration enables the school to offer a facilitated admission into doctoral education for its undergraduate or graduate students.
  • For the doctoral degree granting institution, the collaboration provides early identification of qualified students and increases the admissions to its doctoral program.
  • For the students, the collaboration provides a seamless way for focused students to achieve their career goals. In addition, through early identification and review of materials, students receive timely guidance on how to proceed. Application paperwork is reduced and students pay one application fee.


B. Minnesota State Colleges and Universities

The Journey in Minnesota: Future of Doctoral Education in Nursing
Winona State University

In the Beginning

Minnesota nurse leaders in the late 1990s were well aware of the registered nurse shortage based on openings that exceeded over 2,200 positions within the health care systems across the state. Concurrently, the demand to increase undergraduate educational capacity was hampered by a lack of fiscal resources, qualified faculty, and clinical placements for student learning opportunities. Minnesota's nurse leaders and educators, higher education, healthcare systems, communities and constituents rose to the challenge with the rest of the nation to reverse the declining enrollments in baccalaureate and higher degree nursing education. This response clearly placed heavy demands on nurse educators and higher education in the state. The nursing programs affiliated with the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) were aware of the aging of the nursing faculty population and the need for increasing the master's and doctoral prepared faculty to replace those retiring from the workforce. Nurse leaders in MnSCU realized that continuation of "more of the same" would not be prudent or sufficient to meet the need of a critical mass of doctorally prepared nurses needed for leadership roles in practice, research, and education.

A Note on a Minnesota Statute

Doctoral nursing education in Minnesota was provided by one public institution as authorized by legislative statute. It was clear to leaders in the state that the future demand for doctoral prepared nurses in education and the healthcare systems will be great and there will need to be an increase in the state's capacity to prepare more nurses at the doctoral level in order to meet health care and education needs in the state. The Minnesota Association of Colleges of Nursing members, Minnesota Nurses' Association, MnSCU Health Care - Industry Partnership, MnSCU Office of the Chancellor, State University Presidents of MnSCU, graduate deans, and other academic officers joined together to influence Minnesota legislators about the urgent need for the MnSCU system universities to offer doctoral programs. After three plus years of multiple constituents advocating for a statute change, the passing of a 2005 statute provided for MnSCU to offer applied doctoral degrees in education, business, psychology, physical therapy, audiology and nursing.

The Doctorate of Nursing Practice Program Plan Begins

The deans and directors of the MnSCU's graduate nursing programs convened three meetings in Summer 2005 to plan a collaborative DNP program to be delivered in the state among four geographically separate, yet system united universities. Participants determined that no one institution would or could offer the degree, but the combine human, fiscal, university and system resources would be feasible. This approach found favor among legislators, University Presidents, and the Office of the Chancellor and was one of the key factors in promoting statute approval. Participating universities include Winona State University, Minnesota State University-Mankato, Minnesota State University-Moorhead, and Metropolitan State University-St. Paul. A MnSCU Office of the Chancellor special initiative grant was awarded to the four partner universities for program planning that was led by the four graduate program directors and an elected faculty member from each of the nursing graduate programs. This work group has met monthly with full day work sessions focused on curriculum development and organizational structure for the delivery of the collaborative DNP program.

Delivery of doctoral education will require new and revised MnSCU system policies, procedures and guidelines. Subsequent to the approval of the system policies and procedures by the Board of Trustees, all four collaborating institutions will need to revise their institutional mission, vision and purpose as well as its university policies and procedures to prepare for the submission of an Application for System Approval for the DNP. This is the first of the proposed doctorate in the system. The application will allow for consultation, assessment, and evaluation of the application with feedback in an orderly and timely manner to meet the requirements and procedures for program approval by the MnSCU Board of Trustees. Concurrent with program approval, the Office of the Chancellor and each of the degree granting institutions will be consulting with the Higher Learning Commission: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (HLC) to prepare for a focus visit seeking action on change of affiliation status. A new working draft dated February 2006 from the HLC Task Force on the Professional Doctorate has recently been released and may hold some interesting challenges for future HLC reviews and focus visits.

Development at Present

A shared governance model is in development capitalizing on the strengths of the MnSCU System and the respective collaborating institutions that include a Governing Council of Administrators to address administrative/organizational functions and a DNP Coordinating Council that will be composed of graduate faculty with academic appointments who work with the graduate schools at each of the collaborating institutions on matters of admission, progression, and graduation requirements. It is anticipated that a minimum of five students will be admitted to each of the four collaborating institution for a total of 20 students. A process for faculty selection (and/or recruitment) based on selected criteria will be used to determine program faculty among all four institutions. Program delivery will be closely matched with the required
faculty expertise to deliver the program using a variety of technology mediated approaches. Lastly, fiscal models are under consideration and study to promote fiscal stability, high quality program outcomes, and program sustainability.

A Work in Progress

The journey in Minnesota is a work in progress that has a focus on MnSCU system development to authorize the granting of doctoral degrees; multiple collaborating institutions undergoing mission change and program offerings; nurse leaders and educators stepping up to the challenge of meeting the critical need of doctoral education in Minnesota; health systems awaiting the first graduates to make a difference in our world; and potential students ready to apply to the first cohort. There is great passion and commitment to the development and creation of the DNP within the MnSCU system.