USM To Offer Region’s First Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Degree

The University of Maine System Board of Trustees has given the University of Southern Maine approval to launch a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree program. USM is accepting students for the fall 2011 semester.

The USM program will be the only one of its kind in northern New England at a time when the DNP is becoming an increasingly popular and sought after credential. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, from 2008 to 2009, the number of students enrolled in DNP programs increased from 3,415 to 5,165.  Currently, there are 120 programs in the nation that offer the practice doctorate in nursing, an increase of 103 such programs since 2006. Another 161 institutions are considering, or are in the actual planning stages, for development of a DNP program.

It also is anticipated that the DNP will be the required credential for all advanced practice nurses by 2015, according to a policy approved by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. The DNP is practice-focused, and consequently provides nurses with the advanced leadership and management skills needed as a part of day-to-day operations in healthcare delivery, unlike a Ph.D. in nursing, which prepares one for careers in research.

Those holding this terminal degree will be qualified to respond to the pressing need for advanced and specialized nurse professionals. These include professionals involved in direct care of individual patients, management of care, administration of nursing systems and the development and implementation of health policy.

“USM has a central role to play in educating nurses for the 21st century,” said USM President Selma Botman. “Given the growth of DNP programs and the ever-increasing complexity of health care, the launch of this program is a natural fit with our mission of shaping the future of this region.”

USM, home to the state’s largest nursing program, has 441 students enrolled in undergraduate nursing programs this fall and 120 students enrolled in

master’s nursing programs. The program is considered a national leader in offering different pathways to a nursing degree, among them a master’s degree program for those who earned an undergraduate degree in another discipline. USM Nursing also has been cited for its use of advanced simulation technology that helps prepares students for real-life, clinical experiences.

Krista Meinersmann, who joined USM last year as director and associate professor of nursing, has noted, “I have found the faculty, staff and students to be enthusiastic supporters of quality nursing education who are committed to providing quality health care. There’s a track record of innovation here that is exciting.”

For more information, contact the USM School of Nursing at 780-4505.

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