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VCU first Virginia university to offer Doctor of Nursing Practice degree focused on quality and safety

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The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia this week approved Virginia Commonwealth University School of Nursing to offer a post-master's Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. The school is the first in the commonwealth to offer a D.N.P. degree primarily focused on quality and safety in health care. Classes are scheduled to begin in the fall semester.

An alternative to the school’s existing research-focused Ph.D., the D.N.P. is the highest academic degree in nursing with a focus on clinical practice. The degree prepares nurses to translate research into evidence-based practice and to lead teams of health care professionals toward improving patient outcomes.

“The American Association of Colleges of Nursing and other nursing authorities have recommended that nurses in advanced practice be prepared at the highest academic level to address the increasing complexity of patient care,” said Ann Hamric, Ph.D., professor and associate dean of academic programs, VCU School of Nursing. “We are excited to be addressing the demand for more D.N.P.-prepared nurses who can take on greater leadership roles and implement quality and safety improvements in the health care system.”

The new program consists of 10 courses that are structured in a hybrid format of mostly online courses with minimal on-site experiences. Courses will be taught by doctorate-level faculty who are nationally recognized for contributions to education and advanced practice. Students will attend classes on campus three times a year for two-to-three days at the beginning of each semester, with the remainder of instruction being offered online. The degree can be completed in five semesters full time and in eight semesters part time.

Although the focus is on quality and patient safety, the D.N.P. curriculum also covers leadership, health policy and organizational systems to equip graduates with the skills they need to improve health care in a wide variety of settings. In addition, the D.N.P. program will have a unique partnership with the Langston Center for Quality, Safety and Innovation, which opened at the School of Nursing in October with a mission to support and disseminate innovative practices leading to enhanced quality and safety in health care.

“Degree candidates will have the opportunity to participate in the Langston Center’s programs and projects, giving them access to the latest advances in health care quality and safety,” said Jean Giddens, Ph.D., dean, VCU School of Nursing.

D.N.P. students will also benefit from the VCU School of Nursing being a part of an academic health sciences campus anchored by the VCU Health System. The VCU Health System is designated by the American Nurses Credentialing Center as a magnet hospital, the most prestigious honor and level of recognition awarded for nursing excellence in national and international health care.

Applicants should be master's-prepared advanced practice registered nurses or nursing administrators. The application deadline for priority consideration for the fall 2015 semester is July 3. For more information or to apply, visit nursing.vcu.edu/programs/dnp/.

About VCU and VCU Medical Center

Virginia Commonwealth University is a major, urban public research university with national and international rankings in sponsored research. Located in downtown Richmond, VCU enrolls more than 31,000 students in 226 degree and certificate programs in the arts, sciences and humanities. Sixty-seven of the programs are unique in Virginia, many of them crossing the disciplines of VCU’s 13 schools and one college. MCV Hospitals and the health sciences schools of Virginia Commonwealth University comprise VCU Medical Center, one of the nation’s leading academic medical centers. For more, see www.vcu.edu.