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New White Paper on the DNP: Current Issues and Clarifying Recommendations

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Report from the Task Force on the Implementation of the DNP
August 2015

Download the White Paper [PDF]


The AACN Position Statement on the Practice Doctorate in Nursing (AACN, 2004) changed the course of nursing education by recommending that advanced nursing practice education be moved to the doctoral level. A decade later, the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) is widely recognized as one of the discipline’s two terminal degrees and the preferred pathway for those seeking preparation at the highest level of nursing practice. Across the nation, the number of DNP programs continues to grow as more schools transition advanced nursing practice programs to the doctoral level. A recent national study commissioned by the AACN Board of Directors and conducted by RAND Corporation found that there is near universal agreement among the nursing community on the value of DNP education in preparing nurses to meet future healthcare needs (Auerbach, 2015).  Despite this strong support for the practice doctorate, variability exists among DNP programs, which are currently offered in 49 states.

The national dialogue about the DNP has amplified the need to clarify and restate how advanced nursing practice is defined. Advanced nursing practice, (defined in the Glossary) is any form of nursing intervention that influences healthcare outcomes for individuals or populations, including the provision of direct care or management of care for individual patients or management of care populations, and the provision of indirect care such as nursing administration, executive leadership, health policy, informatics, and population health. Also, it is important to remember that the DNP is an academic degree, not a role.

Considering the changing landscape in health care and higher education over the last ten years as well as the dramatic growth of DNP programs, the AACN Board of Directors convened a task force to review the current state of DNP programs, clarify curricular and practice expectations as outlined in the Essentials of Doctoral Education for Advanced Nursing Practice (DNP Essentials), and highlight practice scholarship and academic partnership opportunities. Naturally, a professional transition of this magnitude has generated many questions and provides an opportunity for reflection.

The DNP Implementation Task Force presents this white paper as an important resource for the evolution of the practice doctorate in nursing. The paper includes recommendations to describe and clarify the characteristics of DNP graduate scholarship, the DNP project, efficient use of resources, program length, curriculum considerations, practice experiences, and collaborative partnership guidelines.  Following the task force’s recommendations are a glossary, references, a list of task force members and appendices to provide examples that support the individual recommendations.

Download the full report from the Task Force on the Implementation of the DNP