The University of San Francisco: School of Nursing

The Bridge - USF School of Nursing Newsletter

The Bridge - USF School of Nursing Newsletter

Summer 2009 - Vol IV Issue 1

First DNP Graduates Put Degree to Work

The School of Nursing’s Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree program graduated the state of California’s first class of DNP students in December and those graduates are already seeing the impact of the degree.

Cindy Day, for example, transitioned to a new job with Stanford Hospital and clinics because of her work on the DNP degree.

When she began the program, Day was a vice president for patient care and chief nursing officer and had decided to pursue the degree because she had always wanted a doctorate. She wanted to be challenged to think about nursing in a new way, but was not interested in a research degree.

“In the DNP program, I was able to really take a look at issues affecting health care and nursing beyond what was in my little domain and role I was in,” Day said.

For her final project, Day took a look around her and decided to design a proposal to start a PhD program in nursing at Stanford. She quit her job about six months before completing the DNP so she could focus solely on completing her project. She didn’t leave Stanford completely; instead, she transitioned into a different vice president role that focuses on creating the PhD program she proposed for her project.

“I’m now working on making that happen at Stanford,” Day said.

Elizabeth Cooper, an instructor in the School of Nursing and a clinical nurse at UC San Francisco, has also seen her DNP project put into practice. For her project, she focused on creating a culture of professional development and has a fellow nurse adding to it to make it something permanently used on her unit. Another unit already is using it. Both are developments Cooper calls “personally very gratifying.”

Although she hasn’t yet experienced a direct impact on her career because of the DNP, Cooper has no doubt it will help her professionally.

“Education always makes you look a little further, a little broader, it helps you look in a different direction,” Cooper said. “I think that’s why doors will open—I think I will see things I haven’t seen before.”

KT Waxman has also experienced a change because of the DNP degree—she’s much busier. Waxman is program director for the California Institute for Nursing and Health Care and focuses on clinical simulation.

“From the minute I graduated, my phone hasn’t stopped ringing,” Waxman said. “Multiple doors are opening for me.”

She’s now booked for national speaking engagements, a development she attributes to her degree. While Waxman never had anyone question her experience with working directly with patients or managing nurses, she has found that having the DNP adds a layer of credibility she previously didn’t have.

Like Day, Waxman had always been interested in a doctorate, but didn’t want a research-focused program. She wanted a program that would help her in practice, although she is not a nurse practitioner.

“The DNP with the health systems leadership track fit my needs,” Waxman said. “For the past several years, I had been working in the business aspect of health care and now I’m more in touch with the practice aspects of nursing.”

Other December DNP graduates include Marie Giarratana Young, Julie Maxworthy, and Susan Pauly-O’Neill.

Fewer than 20 universities nationwide currently offer the DNP degree, but it is quickly gaining acceptance as the preferred advanced degree in nursing, said Judith Karshmer, dean of the nursing school. In fact, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing has recommended that by 2015, the DNP replace a master’s degree for preparation in a nursing specialty. The change mirrors trends in other health-related fields such as pharmacology and physical therapy where a doctorate is now considered the standard advanced degree.

USF’s program is designed for nurses who provide direct patient care as well as those who provide indirect care through the leadership and administration of healthcare systems. The DNP program targets both nurses with a bachelor’s degree and those with a master’s degree in nursing. For those with a bachelor’s degree, the program lasts four years. Those with master’s degrees can finish the program in five semesters.

There are currently 44 students enrolled in USF’s DNP program.

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