A Q&A about the Doctor of Nursing Practice Program at UIW

The Ila Faye Miller School of Nursing and Health Professions at UIW offers the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program to nursing students. We spoke with Dr. Diana Beckmann-Mendez, BSN-DNP track coordinator/FNP concentration leader, about this program at UIW.

UIW: Tell me more about the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program.

Beckmann-Mendez: The DNP is a terminal professional degree in nursing practice, an alternative to the research focused doctoral degree. The curriculum for the DNP degree builds on traditional master’s programs by providing education in evidence-based practice, quality improvement, and systems leadership.

The DNP program at the Ila Faye Miller School of Nursing and Health Professions began in 2011 with the MSN to DNP track.  Initially, the program was for students who already had a master’s degree in nursing and were recognized by the State of Texas as an Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRN).  (APRNs are registered nurses educated at either a masters or doctoral level and in a specific role/patient population. APRNs are prepared by education and certification to assess, diagnose/treat patient problems, order tests, and prescribe medications. Types of APRNs include Nurse Practitioners (NP), as well as Certified Nurse Midwives (CNM), Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA), and Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS)).

In 2014, the school opened the BSN to DNP track within the DNP program that prepares registered nurses who have a bachelor’s degree and are seeking to advance their education by earning a doctorate in nursing.  Moreover, this track prepares students to become APRNs who are then eligible to sit for the board certification exam depending on their concentration (Family Nurse Practitioner or Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner).

The outcomes of both tracks within the DNP program are to develop expert practitioners to improve patient outcomes and health.

UIW: Can you explain more about the two fields of study in the DNP program?

Beckmann-Mendez: As was described above, there are two different tracks within the DNP program.  However, within the BSN to DNP track, students can choose which concentration they would like to prepares themselves in for their future role as an APRN.  The Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) is a registered nurse with specialized educational and clinical training in family practice. FNPs are trained to work with both children and adults, most often in the context of a family practice or clinical setting. FNPs work with patients on maintaining health and wellness over the long term with a particular focus on preventative care. Many FNPs serve as the patient’s primary care provider since their scope of practice is very broad and they can treat patients of all ages.

Similar to the FNP, the other concentration that students may choose is that of a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP).  PMHNPs are advanced practice registered nurses who are trained to provide a wide range of mental health services to patients an their families in a variety of settings. PMHNPs work with patients with patients across the lifespan who have mental health issues requiring treatment.

UIW: How can this program be beneficial to current nurses?

Beckmann-Mendez: Completing a doctoral degree in nursing will help nurses advance their career on the clinical side.  Different from the PhD in nursing that focuses on research, the DNP degree will prepare the student for a leadership role in nursing while maintaining an emphasis on clinical practice.  There is a growing need for highly-trained nurses and enrolling in a DNP program will make the student more marketable to future employers.  Furthermore, with advanced education, nurses prepared at a doctoral level can positive impact their local community, improve patient care/treatment, and affect patients’ healthcare outcomes.

UIW: What type of person is best suited for this program?

Beckmann-Mendez: This program is best suited for highly motivated and dedicated nurses who would like to advance their careers.  The BSN to DNP program is an extremely rigorous program offered on a full-time basis only and takes 3 years to complete.

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