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Leaders in health care: a guide to earning a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree

Doctor Nurse with clipboard against a grey background

What is a D.N.P.?

At Illinois State University, the Doctor of Nursing Practice (D.N.P.) is an advanced nursing degree that is offered through a combination of fully online courses and yearly on-campus sessions. The program can be completed in seven to 10 semesters, and students graduate with the skills to succeed in the current complex and shifting health care environment.

Why earn a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree?

The program prepares nurses with advanced nursing practice specialties from a variety of backgrounds for leadership positions.

With its focus on practice, the D.N.P. prepares recipients to be clinical leaders in different health care settings. Because it builds on the education students received in their master’s program, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) believes that the degree is an effective way to keep up with the changing demands of the current health care environment.

In 2004, the AACN voted to recommend that advanced practice nurses be certified and have a doctoral degree in order to enter into practice, instead of simply a master’s degree. While state laws have not changed in accordance with the AACN’s recommendation, many organizations are beginning to implement it. For this reason, nurses with doctoral degrees are expected to be in high demand as this shift continues.

Different from other doctoral nursing degrees

Of the doctoral level nursing degrees, the two main ones in use are the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Nursing and the D.N.P. Teresa Valerio, assistant professor in the Mennonite College of Nursing (MCN) and D.N.P. program leader, says that a rapidly changing health care field will make having one of these degrees invaluable.

“The Ph.D. is mainly research focused, and the D.N.P. is clinical practice focused,” Valerio said. “As health care changes, nurses will need to go past getting a master’s and have more advanced knowledge to meet our patients changing and complex needs.”

Mennonite College of Nursing’s D.N.P. degree is particularly focused on clinical application of evidence to improve patient health outcomes. Students are exposed to health care leadership practices that are advanced, evidence-based, and have been developed from credible research. Students are required to have a minimum of 1000 clinical practice hours before graduating. These hours, which are a combination of 360 clinical practice hours in D.N.P. courses and 640 hours of prior graduate work, help students build upon their courses and develop advanced knowledge of the clinical environment.

A five-star nursing education

Mennonite College of Nursing has an established history of preparing nurses who excel at all levels of the changing health care environment, and the Doctor of Nursing Practice curriculum is no exception! Our program allows students to complete their degree online, delivering the flexible schedules that working-adults need. MCN students get the “best of both worlds” with small class sizes but large university opportunities.

The program also offers financial assistance through

All of these are reasons why U.S. News & World Report ranked Illinois State University’s D.N.P. degree as one of the best in the nation.

Online Doctor of Nursing Practice admission

Applicants to the Doctor of Nursing Practice degree program must have a master’s degree in nursing with a specialty in leadership or advanced practice nursing. Additional requirements can be viewed at the Mennonite College of Nursing website. All submission materials are due by April 1. Students begin in the summer session.

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