SHU to Inaugurate Doctor of Nursing Practice Program for Fall 2010

News Story: December 19, 2009

Sacred Heart University will launch a new Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program in September 2010. It will combine doctoral education that is focused on practice with innovation and practical clinical research and scholarship. It is designed to serve academically talented nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, midwives, nurse anesthetists, nurse executives, and educators. Only the second such program in Connecticut, this offering solidifies the University’s prominent position in the development of health care leadership. The DNP is the University’s second doctoral-level curriculum: SHU opened the state’s first Doctor of Physical Therapy program in Fall 2004. It has been ranked by U.S. News & World Report as the state’s best program and one of the best in the nation.

This cohort program is designed to be completed part-time in three calendar years. The curriculum offers two different career tracks: The Doctoral Clinical Practice in Health Care track is designed for the advanced practice nurse who wants to remain in clinical practice and have influence on health care outcomes at multiple levels.

The Doctoral Leadership in Health Care track is for the graduate who wants a career in executive nursing management, but who still prefers a nursing doctorate with a connection to clinical practice. Students in this track may take nursing education electives if they aspire to have a career in an academic setting.

According to Dr. Patricia W. Walker, dean of the University’s College of Education and Health Professions, "The launching of Sacred Heart University’s second professional doctoral program is a great occasion for the College and for the University and an indication of the reputation we have earned for nursing education in the state. I'm very proud of this latest achievement of our nursing faculty and very pleased that the University is serving society by educating highly skilled nurses for clinical and academic settings.”

DNP graduates will be prepared to teach, lead and engage in practical, clinically focused scholarship and research. The Doctor of Nursing Practice degree is a clinical doctorate requiring the completion of a practice dissertation focusing on clinical nursing practice. The practice dissertation is structured to be completed in one year preparing the student to utilize research for the improvement of clinical care delivery, patient outcomes, and system management. It will be suitable for publication in a peer-reviewed journal or a book. Graduates will be expert in designing, implementing, managing, and evaluating health care delivery systems and will be prepared to lead at the highest clinical and executive ranks.

This unique hybrid/intensive program is specifically designed to maximize the number of potential career roles the doctoral nursing graduate may assume, whether in academic life, advanced clinical practice, or executive healthcare leadership. Classes are taught online, and students are required to attend two on-campus residencies per semester. This cohort program is 39 credits and is designed to be completed in a three-year part-time sequence.

The Doctor of Nursing Practice degree was first proposed by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing in 2004. The AACN, which is made up of leaders in higher education from across the country, sets the standards for professional nursing education. It has issued a position statement that after the year 2015, all advanced practice nurses must graduate with a DNP.

The Sacred Heart University graduate nursing program continues to be a leader in advanced practice education with a current enrollment in excess of 150 graduate students. DNP candidates must be master’s-level nurses in the proposed field of study or its equivalent.

Three open houses are planned for those interested in the new program. They will be on Thursdays, from 5:30-7 P.M., on January 28th, February 18th, and March 18th. For further information, contact Kathy Dilks at 203-396-8259 or