Introducing the Doctor of Nursing Practice

Donna Hathaway, PhD, RN, FAAN


April 07, 2006


This feature requires the newest version of Flash. You can download it here.

By the year 2015, all new advanced practice nurses in the US will be educated at the doctoral level. That is the vision of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) and a growing number of nursing schools throughout the country.

In a historic action taken October 2004, AACN member institutions voted to recognize the doctor of nursing practice degree (DNP) as the desired credential for future nurses prepared for specialty practice, including, but not limited to, nurse anesthetists, nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, and nurse midwives.[1] This decision came in response to discussions with stakeholders inside and outside of nursing who called for a transformation in health professions education.

This move will put nursing on par with the other health professions that require a doctorate for the highest level of clinical practice. It also will convey the appropriate credential to advanced practice nurses who are currently graduating from masters degree programs with a credit load equivalent to doctoral preparation in many other fields. Nursing schools across the country are moving forward to establish DNP programs, and dozens of new practice doctorates are now under development.

Of course, this evolutionary change is not without controversy, and many questions have been raised about how this transition will actually occur. Many are concerned that enrollments in PhD programs that prepare nurse researchers will decline, while others worry that practice settings will not accommodate large numbers of doctorally prepared nurses. Early data show that these concerns are unfounded.

AACN has created 2 task forces to address these concerns, collect information from stakeholders, and chart a course to make this vision a reality. Those wishing to find out more information about the transition to the doctor of nursing practice are invited to visit AACN's Web site at

That's my opinion. I'm Donna Hathaway, Professor and Dean, University of Tennessee Health Science Center, College of Nursing and Chair of the AACN Task Force.

Contacts should be directed to:

Sign Up now for a free monthly email that brings you the top features from MedGenMed.

Readers are encouraged to respond to George Lundberg, MD, Editor of MedGenMed, for the editor's eye only or for possible publication via email:


Comments on Medscape are moderated and should be professional in tone and on topic. You must declare any conflicts of interest related to your comments and responses. Please see our Commenting Guide for further information. We reserve the right to remove posts at our sole discretion.