UNCG’s School of Nursing received the greenlight Friday for a new Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program, which administrators say will mean more career opportunities for graduates and fill a huge demand in the healthcare field.

The post-baccalaureate DNP, to start in the fall of 2015, will offer separate tracks for nurse anesthetists and adult/gerontological primary care nurse practitioners. Students must hold baccalaureate degrees in nursing, be licensed registered nurses, and have nursing practice experience related to their track.

“Demand by employers for DNP graduates is expected to be very high,” says Dr. Eileen Kohlenberg, associate dean for graduate studies in the School of Nursing. “We currently have 90 to 100 percent of our master’s nurse anesthesia and nurse practitioner graduates who are certified and employed in healthcare positions. The added preparation at a DNP level will enhance their potential for employment in a variety of settings.”

DNP programs are designed as frontline, clinical alternatives to research-focused doctoral programs, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN). DNP-prepared nurses are equipped to fully implement the science developed by nurse researchers.

The UNC Board of Governors approved UNCG’s DNP proposal Friday. UNCG Chancellor Linda P. Brady applauds that move as a win-win-win situation for the university, program graduates and the community.

“I am pleased that the UNC Board of Governors recognizes the significance of this much-needed program for nursing education,” Brady says. “The Doctor of Nursing Practice program will fill a growing demand for advanced-level nurse practitioners in our community and beyond, serving both graduates of the program and the citizens of North Carolina well.”

In addition to UNCG’s program, four other schools in the UNC system were approved Friday to offer the DNP for various advanced practice nursing tracks. Other universities approved to offer the degree were East Carolina, UNC Chapel Hill, Winston-Salem State, and UNC Charlotte and Western Carolina combined, says Kohlenberg.

Tracks approved included nurse anesthesia, nurse practitioner and nurse mid-wife, she says. DNP graduates will be prepared to: provide evidence-based, patient-centered care through independent and interprofessional practice; demonstrate skills in technology and information literacy; and improve health outcomes, policy and delivery.

About 60 students will be accepted each year for UNCG’s nurse-anesthetist track, offered in collaboration with the Wake Forest Baptist Health School of Nurse Anesthesia and the Raleigh School of Nurse Anesthesia, Kohlenberg says. About 24 students will be accepted into the adult/gerontological primary care nurse practitioner track each year.

Students can complete the program full time over three years, Kohlenberg says. She anticipates launching a post master’s DNP program for the same two tracks after implementing the post baccalaureate option.

According to AACN, the need for a shift toward DNP programs stems from “the rapid expansion of knowledge underlying practice; increased complexity of patient care; national concerns about the quality of care and patient safety; shortages of nursing personnel which demands a higher level of preparation for leaders who can design and assess care; shortages of doctorally-prepared nursing faculty; and increasing educational expectations for the preparation of other members of the healthcare team.”

The AACN offers some intriguing statistics. For example:

  • 184 DNP programs are currently enrolling students at schools of nursing nationwide, and an additional 101 DNP programs are in the planning stages. DNP programs are now available in 40 states and the District of Columbia.
  • From 2010 to 2011, the number of students enrolled in DNP programs increased from 7,034 to 9,094. During that same period, the number of DNP graduates increased from 1,282 to 1,595.
  • Schools nationwide that have initiated the DNP are reporting sizable and competitive student enrollment. Employers are quickly recognizing the unique contribution these expert nurses are making in the practice arena, and the demand for DNP-prepared nurses continues to grow. According to the 2009 salary survey conducted by ADVANCE for Nurse Practitioners magazine, DNP-prepared nurse practitioners earned $7,688 more than master’s-prepared nurse practitioners.

For more information on UNCG’s emerging Doctor of Nursing Practice program, contact Kohlenberg at (336) 334-5261 or eileen_kohlenberg@uncg.edu.


By Michelle Hines