The Georgia Regents University College of Nursing has launched two new doctor of nursing practice degrees to prepare family and pediatric nurse practitioners, becoming what it says is one of the first nursing schools in Georgia to offer doctoral degrees in those fields. The programs will begin in the fall.
The programs will accept students with bachelor's or master's of science degrees in nursing. Students who have a bachelor's degree can complete the program in three years with full-time study and can work part-time during their first year to gain clinical experience. Other students have tailored programs of study.
The university's original post-master's, traditional DNP program was the first in Georgia and most of the 106 graduates remain in the state. GRU has offered a DNP degree for acute care nurse practitioners since 2010, the first doctoral degree of its kind in Georgia. Previously, the family and pediatric programs were offered at the master's degree level, but are expected to be phased out.
"There is a national trend to move the education of advanced practice nurses to a doctor of nursing practice level," said Marguerite Murphy, DNP, RN, director of the GRU DNP Program. "The rationale is that as healthcare has become more complex, gone are the days when a nurse practitioner would just take care of a patient. In addition to more knowledge and skills for clinical practice, they have to be able to work within a system, communicate with administration, and understand finances and the impact of economics and policy. The DNP program takes the nurse practitioner to the level that they need to function well in the upcoming years in our changing healthcare environment."
The new DNP doctoral programs will educate nurse practitioners in evidence-based practice, requiring them to consider whether certain types of care lead to the best healthcare outcomes. They will learn to provide evidence that a health problem exists, identify factors contributing to the problem and then review research to find the best solution to address the problem.
Because so much new information is available, nurse practitioners must be able to evaluate it and make changes in their practices accordingly, Murphy said.
"Master's-prepared nurse practitioners have excellent outcomes, but as we move forward in this ever-changing healthcare environment, they're going to have to have some additional tools to help them function in this environment effectively," she said.