Next Level Nursing – Morningside’s first doctoral program helps nurses advance their career and education

Find this story and more in the Morningsider (2019 Winter/2020 Spring)

In the fall of 2019, Morningside revealed that it would begin offering classes for its first-ever doctoral program – the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). Delivered primarily online and featuring tracks in Direct Patient Care and Transformative Leadership, Morningside opened the door for working nurses seeking advancement to take the next step in their career.

But what exactly is a DNP? And why should nurses consider it? According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the DNP is designed to prepare nurses to meet the ever-changing demands of the healthcare industry, the growing complexity of patient care, and concerns about the quality of care and patient safety. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the growth rate for nurse practitioners with graduate education is expected to grow by 26% between now and 2028, a demand largely driven by the need for healthcare professionals like family nurse practitioners to supplement the shortage of family doctors and by the desire to improve health and safety outcomes for patients. In other words, the healthcare industry has a fever and the prescription is more nurses with a DNP. 

Jackie Barber, Dean of Morningside’s Nylen School of Nursing, says a DNP can help nurses become leaders in their field and fill the need for healthcare practitioners, especially in rural areas where hospitals and clinics may be few and far between. In addition to these needs, adding a DNP program was the natural next step for Morningside’s renowned nursing program which already offers a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). Jackie Barber speaks with Amanda Haverhals

Both tracks in Morningside’s DNP program offer unique opportunities for nurses looking to grow in their practice and advance their career. Direct Patient Care is for nurses who want to be Family Primary Care Nurse Practitioners, Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioners, or those who are already Advanced Practice Registered Nurses. This means that they would provide care for acute and chronic conditions, health promotion, and coordination of patient care. The Transformative Leadership track is designed for nurses interested in pursuing or already working in leadership or teaching positions. In these roles, nurses can help drive healthcare change through action and collaboration with leaders in their field concerning policy, public health, patient safety, and more. Both tracks provide the opportunity for nurses to make an impact in their field and influence positive change for the healthcare industry.

“Like our other nursing programs, our DNP program will set high standards of excellence in nursing education that will benefit our community and the healthcare industry as a whole,” said Barber in the announcement for the program. “Adding the DNP will also encourage more of our students to consider an advanced nursing degree because they will have the ability to seamlessly continue their education right here at Morningside.”

The opportunity to complete a nursing education from BSN to DNP is invaluable and in-demand as more nurses pursue their terminal degree. With innovative curriculum and one-on-one mentoring delivered in an online course format, Morningside’s DNP program is designed to be accessible for working nurses with full schedules. The curriculum focuses on step-by-step application of relevant concepts to today’s nursing practice, and the courses encourage collaboration between faculty and students with adaptive plans of study individually tailored to student needs. This level of personalized attention can be rare to find, but it’s a common occurrence at Morningside. Jackie Barber with student

“Morningside’s DNP program maintains that small school feeling of personal faculty support and connection that its on-campus programs have,” says Amanda Haverhals ‘03, a student in the DNP program and assistant professor of nursing at Morningside. Haverhals chose to pursue her DNP at Morningside to strengthen her knowledge of the practice and grow as an educator.

“I chose Morningside’s DNP program because it prepares nurse leaders at the highest level to translate research into practice. As a nursing educator, I am preparing BSN students to become practicing nurses and understanding how to drive healthcare improvements, navigate policy changes, and participating in scholarship will improve my ability to teach the next generation of nurses in the field.”

Now that the program is up and running, Barber is looking ahead to the future of nursing at Morningside with the goal of making the Morningside Nylen School of Nursing the first choice for nurses looking to continue their education. She sees the creation of new track offerings that meet the changing demands of healthcare as a crucial part of this evolution, including pathways like RN-MSN and specialized content like certifications and micro-credentials.

“I hope that our program can meet nurses at every point in their professional career and provide opportunities to expand their body of knowledge to impact practice,” says Barber. “By providing different pathways for nurses to achieve their career goals in a seamless, efficient, and quality manner that is personalized to each student, we can empower nursing students and practicing nurses to make a difference in the field and the classroom.”