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Decker to award doctoral degree for nurses

The Decker School of Nursing will introduce a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) program in the fall, offering advanced-practice nurses the opportunity to gain clinical and leadership expertise beyond the master’s degree level.

The program, which has been in development for more than three years, comes on the heels of a recommendation from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing that the DNP degree be the level of entry for all advanced-practice nurses by 2015.

“This degree not only puts us on the leading edge of nursing, but it will expand the Decker School of Nursing’s reputation for developing advanced- practice nurses for this region,” Provost Mary Ann Swain said.

“We are a very strong nurse practitioner program,” Decker Dean Joyce Ferrario said. “We’ve been preparing nurse practitioners since 1976 and they are at primary care offices all across the southern tier of New York and northern tier of Pennsylvania. It makes sense for us to bring the educational level of our program up to this expectation.

“This will add a new set of skills to the role of the advanced-practice nurse that should have a direct impact on improving people’s lives,” added Ferrario, who credited Theresa Grabo, Decker’s director of graduate programs, with much of the plan’s development.

Examples of the specialties obtained from the DNP program include increased research skills; enhanced knowledge to improve nursing practice and patient outcomes; and enhanced leadership skills to strengthen health-care delivery.

Binghamton will be the second SUNY school to offer the DNP, Ferrario said. Others in New York state include the University of Rochester, Columbia, St. John Fisher and Stony Brook.

Binghamton’s DNP program will offer two tracks — nurse practitioner or clinical nurse specialist. The program will begin this fall for students already holding a master’s degree. Those students will need to complete 38 credits to graduate. Ferrario expects 25 full-time and 25 part-time students to start the program. Enrollment could eventually climb to about 100.

“It’s going to be very popular and competitive,” she said, adding that students and alumni are excited about the program.

Students holding a bachelor’s degree in nursing can apply for admission to the program for fall 2011. They will need to complete 77 credits to graduate. A master’s degree will still be awarded, Ferrario said.

The curriculum has already been developed, Ferrario said, and includes proficiencies in areas such as organizational and systems leadership for quality improvement; patient care technology in the improvement and transformation of health care; policies for advocacy in health care; clinical prevention; and advanced nursing practice.

The fall start of the program will see three new courses and one revamped course. Decker has enough faculty to begin and sustain the program, Ferrario said.

“We developed the program so that (DNP students) are taking courses with our PhD students,” she said. “It’s not a huge investment of faculty time.”

The community will soon see the benefits of nurses who have obtained the DNP, Ferrario said.

“I think it will mean that they’ll have the opportunity to hire a nurse practitioner with a different set of skills who can make a different kind of contribution to the agency or practice,” she said. “They will be much more analytical in terms of looking at issues in the practice setting.”

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Last Updated: 10/14/08