The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) says that many schools that offer advanced practice registered nursing degrees (APRN) are facing barriers to full adoption of the DNP, even though they recognize that the degree is necessary for nurses to better meet the nation’s healthcare needs. The AACN has identified this year as the target date for those member schools to move the level of preparation necessary for advanced practice nursing from the master’s degree to the doctorate.
In October, AACN released the findings from a national study conducted by the RAND Corporation, which examined the progress made by nursing schools toward offering the DNP. The study showed that more than 250 schools now have a DNP program, but many other schools face significant challenges in offering the doctorate degree. AACN is committed to addressing these challenges, said AACN President Eileen T. Breslin.
“The RAND study showcases widespread support for the DNP while pointing the way toward future action,” said Breslin. “AACN is pleased to see growth in the number of schools with the practice doctorate and will continue to work with stakeholders as we move toward the desired state of full adoption of the DNP by schools offering advanced nursing practice degrees.”
The DNP degree focuses on the clinical aspects of a disease process, with curriculum that includes advanced practice, diagnoses, and treatment of diseases. Designed to prepare a registered nurse (RN) to become an independent advanced practice provider, the DNP is intended to be on par with other healthcare doctorates, such as psychology, medicine and dentistry. Primary practice roles for nurses with the DNP include nurse practitioner, certified registered nurse anesthetist, certified nurse midwife, and clinical nurse specialist. Nurses seeking a DNP degree can choose to focus their study on advanced practice nursing or systems and organizational leadership.
The RAND study authors found that student demand is strong for all types of advanced practice nursing programs, but that many employers are unclear about the differences between master’s-prepared and DNP-prepared APRNs, and could benefit from information on DNP practice outcomes and capabilities. Further, schools cite a variety of reasons why they haven’t begun offering the DNP degree, including lack of faculty, costs, insufficient clinical sites and lack of resources. Even schools that do offer DNP degrees turn qualified applicants away each year. In 2013, AACN found 1,774 qualified applicants were turned away from doctoral programs. The primary reason for not accepting all qualified students was a shortage of faculty.
As the population ages and the demand for nurses increases dramatically, the nursing faculty shortage is creating a significant healthcare crisis. That shortage has prompted the AACN to aggressively pursue federal funding for faculty development programs, collect data on faculty vacancy rates, identify strategies to fill faculty vacancies, and focus media attention on this important issue.
The AACN says four major factors are contributing to the nursing faculty shortage:
What do you think can be done to remediate the nursing faculty shortage? Does your organization participate in special efforts or initiatives to recruit and educate future nurse educators? Do you think there are other factors that contribute to the nursing faculty shortage? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
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