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Doctor of Nursing Practice

NursingThe Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree program opened at Samuel Merritt University in the Spring of 2011. The National Academy of Science in 2005 stated that "the need for doctorally prepared practitioners and clinical faculty would be met if nursing could develop a new non-research clinical doctorate, similar to the M.D. and Pharm.D. in medicine and pharmacy respectively." The American Association of Colleges of Nursing issued a position statement stating that it has as a goal to transition all advanced practice nursing programs from the master's to the DNP by 2015.

New models for education and practice in nursing are necessary due to many factors including new areas of knowledge such as genetics and environmental health, increasing chronicity in pediatric and adult populations, growing diversity and the need for enhanced knowledge of the global health care system. The nursing profession is the critical link in the delivery of high quality, safe, effective and patient-centered health care. Doctoral education in nursing (the DNP) will produce the leaders of the profession over the next decade. The vision and curriculum of the DNP program at SMU will empower and challenge the next generation of leaders from nursing to break through all of the old expectations, limitations, constraints, and barriers. The outcome will be better for nursing and it will be transformational for the US health system.

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How does the DNP compare with the PhD? The PhD is a research role and discovers new data through organizational research. The DNP is a practice role that applies and evaluates data in clinical practice. The two roles are synergistic and complement each other. We depend on PhD-DNP teams to forward practice through research together. The DNP provides an advanced educational credential for those who do not need or want a research-focused degree. It also provides a better match of program requirements and credits/time with the credential earned

What are some of the benefits of the DNP ?

An individual with a DNP doctoral level education will be able to:

  • Design programs of care delivery that are effective, acceptable to patients and care providers, and economically feasible.
  • Significantly impact health care outcomes.
  • Critique and apply scientific clinical findings.
  • Transform health care delivery by applying best practices to the clinical care of individuals, families, and communities.
  • Develop needed advanced competencies for increasingly complex clinical and leadership roles-global health care, genetics, biomedical advances.

Are you uncertain about the type of doctoral program that is right for you? If so, visit the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, New Careers in Nursing website for the Doctoral Advancement in Nursing Student Toolkit. 

For more information on the DNP at SMU contact Michelle DeCoux Hampton, Interim DNP Director at


DNP Staff and Faculty

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