DNP Director: Summit Sparks Conversation on Value of DNP Degree

By Lydia Rotondo, DNP, RN, CNS Lydia Rotondo
Associate dean for education and student affairs
Director of the DNP program 

As the second school in the state to establish a Doctor of Nursing Practice program, the UR School of Nursing is playing a key role in national discussions about the value of doctorally prepared nurses in today’s complex health care system.

To help bring those conversations to Rochester, the school hosted an inaugural DNP Summit on Oct. 28. More than 100 individuals attended the event to learn from three national leaders about the DNP degree, a clinically focused doctorate for nurses practicing at the highest level.

Leading national nursing organizations including the American Association of Colleges of Nursing and the National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties (NONPF) have recommended that all advanced practice nursing programs transition from the master’s level to a doctoral degree, and other reports, including one from the Institute of Medicine, have called for the doubling of doctorally prepared nurses by 2020.

The school has heeded that call to action. We’ve taken steps to grow our program, and have encouraged nurses who are interested in becoming a nurse practitioner to enroll in our post baccalaureate to DNP program. As a result, the number of DNP graduates here in Rochester has continued to grow, while nationally, the number of programs has grown from 20 to 288 since 2006. 

Nurses prepared at the doctoral level remain underutilized in many communities and health care systems. Although these nurses have an advanced skill set and can help improve the delivery, quality, and outcomes of care for individuals, populations, and communities, we’re simply not taking advantage of their potential.

By bringing three national leaders in DNP practice and education to Rochester for this event, we hoped to highlight the value of the DNP degree to both nurses and our community so that we, together, can better utilize doctorally prepared nurses to address the health care challenges we are facing today.

Tracy Williams, DNP, RN, FNAP, senior vice president and system chief nursing officer of Norton Healthcare; Kim Tharp-Barrie, DNP, RN, vice president of Norton Healthcare’s Institute for Nursing; and Sheila Melander, PhD, APRN, ACNP-BC, FCCM, FAANP, the assistant dean of graduate faculty affairs and DNP program director at the University of Kentucky School of Nursing, as well as immediate past-president of NONPF, spoke at the event and showcased how they are forging a new path in the DNP arena.

Williams specifically discussed Norton’s Nursing 2020 Plan, which identified the need for more health care providers with advanced degrees. In addition to those needs, Norton undertook an initiative to transition approximately 150 of its nurses to the advanced practice level with doctoral-level education.

This visionary project is allowing Norton Healthcare to launch new, DNP-led innovative programs, including virtual care models, remote patient management, and 24/7 consult services by advanced practice registered nurses. More broadly, these nurses will be able to bring evidence-based practice to their patients and be true partners in redesigning health care across the state of Kentucky.

As Williams said at the summit, we can’t wait to demonstrate the value of the DNP degree to the transformation of health care. With sweeping changes in our health care system and growing national concerns about patient safety, we have to use the resources that are available to us — and one of our most underutilized assets is the advanced knowledge of doctorally prepared practitioners in our community.