WKU looks to get nursing doctorate

Officials hope that by next school year, students will be able to pursue a Doctorate of Nursing Practice from WKU.

The DNP program would be the second doctoral program offered by WKU, said Gordon Emslie, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs. The university also offers a doctorate in educational leadership.

WKU students can already get bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing, but the American Association of Colleges of Nursing recommended in 2004 that any advanced practice nurses – such as nurse educators, nurse administrators and psychiatric nurse practitioners – have a DNP by 2015, said Eve Main, assistant professor and lead nurse practitioner in the Masters of Science in Nursing program.

The DNP will be a clinical doctorate, similar to the kind physical therapists and pharmacists earn, said Mary Bennett, director of the WKU School of Nursing.

Main said that after the recommendation by the AACN was made, officials decided to pursue getting a DNP program approved because they believe enrollment in the nursing program may slow if they don’t offer a doctorate degree.

“We have graduates that go to University of South Alabama for this degree – that’s how important they think it is,” Main said. “We want to offer this program so students can stay here.”

Main said there’s tremendous interest in the program from graduates and others.

Despite interest and enthusiasm for the new program, there is a long process the school must go through before it becomes a reality.

Curriculum and courses for the degree must be approved by all the levels of the university, the Kentucky Board of Nursing must set regulations that the program must adhere to, and the Council on Postsecondary Education must approve the program before it will be available, Main said.

Main stressed that the program was just in the preliminary stages.

“There has been a committee formed by the Kentucky Board of Nursing to discuss regulations for statewide DNP programs, but we don’t know when regulations will come through or when the program will be approved by the CPE,” she said.

At last week’s administrative council meeting, Emslie said there is a clear need for a DNP program at WKU. President Gary Ransdell agreed.

“We want to significantly grow our nursing program to fill the needs of this area,” Ransdell said.