New graduate-level program to transform nurses into doctors

The Harris College of Nursing and Health Sciences welcomed students from across the nation to TCU’s first online Doctorate of Nursing Practice program.Paulette Burns, dean of the Harris College of Nursing and Health Sciences, said the nursing school originally only offered a master’s degree in nursing and nurse anesthesia. Now, with the two-year DNP, Burns said students can take one step further in their academic careers.

“It’s a doctorate of nursing practice which is a terminal practice degree,” Burns said. “In (physical therapy), you have a physical therapist doctorate. It’s a practice doctorate, not a research doctorate.”

Burns said the nursing faculty had been working on bringing the program to TCU for two years and finally made the dream a reality.

Dennis Cheek, a nursing professor teaching the Emerging Science for Advanced Practice course in the program, said it was easier to bring the DNP to a private university than a state university.

The 37 students enrolled in the doctorate program, including five TCU alumni, attended an orientation and began their classes Aug. 20 with the rest of the TCU campus, Burns said. She said she expected about 10 students to enroll.

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, there are 48 universities that offer the DNP. TCU is the second university in Texas to add the DNP to its curriculum, the University of Texas at Houston was the first, Burns said.

Burns said there are four types of advanced practice nurses who can apply for the DNP and TCU accepts all four. The University of Texas at Houston accepts only two, she said. “We think we’re on the cutting edge of the future by offering this degree,” Burns said. “We think this degree has the most potential in changing health care.”

Burns said the nursing school implemented the DNP to stop the increasing nurse shortage and improve the quality of America’s health care.

Cheek said the AACN wanted to raise the level of education needed for advanced practice nursing from a master’s degree to a doctorate by 2015.

The tuition for a 17-week semester is $865 per hour, Burns said. The doctorate consists of 10 courses and two projects over the two-year program, and with the online capability, students can work on their degrees from the comfort of their own homes, Cheek said.

Stephanie Mangan, a senior nursing and music major, said she was not interested in graduate studies but thinks the change is good.

Mangan said the DNP “will help the school of nursing recognition-wise. (The college will) prepare you for the real world so well and all the instructors are amazing and have worked a long time. It’s helpful to hear their stories.”

Burns and Cheek both said they are excited and have high hopes for their students and the program.

Their only concern was having enough faculty and resources for next year’s incoming students, Cheek said.