Curriculum Models for the Practice Doctorate in Nursing

Lucy N. Marion, PhD, APRN, BC, FAAN; Ann L. O'Sullivan, PhD, CRNP, CPNP, FAAN; M. Katherine Crabtree, DNSc, APRN, BC, FAAN; Marva Price, DrPH, RN, FAAN; Susan A. Fontana, PhD, APRN, BC


Topics in Advanced Practice Nursing eJournal. 2005;5(1) 

In This Article

Model 1: The Traditional Model

The Traditional Model, otherwise known as the ladder model, reflects no major changes to the existing NP curriculum models but adds (or "layers on") the practice doctorate ( Table 1 ). The student can begin at the baccalaureate level, which is standard in our educational system today, and move forward to the APRN master's specialty degree. Then the APRN can complete his or her education with the practice doctorate and gain new knowledge with an emphasis on a higher level synthesis through a scholarly practice "capstone project." The capstone project is similar to a dissertation, in that the student conducts substantial independent study with an advisor and committee members, all of whom have expertise to support the capstone. While the dissertation focus is the development of knowledge, the capstone focuses on improving clinical outcomes through clinical leadership, translational studies, and the development of evidence-based guidelines. To understand this model, one must understand each rung of the ladder:

  • BSN -- At this level, we expect the student to have preprofessional preparation. It usually consists of a 2-year general education program with the following 2 years spent in basic nursing education. At the end of this time (typically 4 years), the student takes the registered nurse licensing exam and either enters practice as a registered nurse or continues with his or her education.

  • Master's -- At this graduate level, the leadership role is strengthened and advanced for the student. As well, the student gains an advanced specialty role, such as NP, clinical nurse specialist, nurse midwife, or nurse anesthetist. This level usually takes 2 to 3 years in today's educational programs.

  • Practice Doctorate -- The doctoral competencies and some subspecialization could be provided at the end of the master's degree. This would require about 2 years of study beyond nursing master's degrees, according to the competencies gained in the master's programs. Additional options might even be postdoctorate and joint PhD preparation for students who also wish to pursue a knowledge/theory-building research career.


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