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UW Oshkosh DNP student Michael Wolf.

Since 1974, the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh College of Nursing has been a leader in Nurse Practitioner (NP) education. So when in October 2004 the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) recommended moving the preparation necessary for advanced nursing practice from the masters level to the doctorate level by 2015, the College of Nursing’s Graduate Program faculty and staff immediately set to work.

“Our program was one of the first Family Nurse Practitioner programs nationally.  We helped define the NP role, so moving the degree to the doctoral level was a natural progression and a reflection of the increasingly complex work NPs do,” said Kimberly Udlis, PhD, FNP-BC, Assistant Director, Advanced Practice Nursing, and herself a practicing Nurse Practitioner.

The college’s Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Program, the first doctoral degree offered on the UW Campus, recently achieved a significant milestone when CCNE awarded the DNP program a five year accreditation, the best outcome possible for a new program.

“The affirmation of our program’s high quality is important to our students, our graduates, and our health care partners. Students and future employers can be assured that UW Oshkosh is delivering top-notch education,” said Sharon Chappy, PhD, Graduate Program Director, Assistant Dean. In 2010, the Colleges Master’s and Baccalaureate Programs received the full 10-year accreditation from the CCNE, the best outcome for existing programs.

In May of 2012 the first cohort of DNP students will graduate.  These students are now actively engaged in their DNP capstone projects involving important health care issues such as falls prevention in the elderly, reducing emergency room visits, translating the best practice standards to cardiovascular disease evaluation and end of life care for incarcerated persons.

Chappy and Udlis have formed the college’s Graduate Program leadership team since July 2010.  In addition to the DNP Program launch, the team has also added offerings and made changes to existing Graduate Program emphases. Existing master’s emphases, Nurse Educator (NE) and Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL), are now completely on-line, as is a post-MSN CNL Certificate Program.  “A bachelor’s prepared nurse from anywhere in the state, and even across state lines, can earn a MSN without ever setting foot on the UW Oshkosh campus,” said Chappy.   The 14-credit CNL certificate program is designed for nurses who have a MSN and want to complete the requirements for CNL certification and practice.

In 2012 the college is set to offer a new BSN to DNP Program with Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) specialization.  The 74-credit hybrid program will utilize a combination of online and face-to-face classes and include over 1,000 clinical hours, an AACN requirement.  “We have undergone a complete curriculum review and revision to ensure that we are preparing our FNPs for the highest level of advanced practice nursing. We need to be moving nurses towards being doctorally prepared in a more streamlined fashion to meet the Institute of Medicine’s Future of Nursing report’s recommendation of doubling the number of nurses with doctoral degrees by 2020,” said Udlis.

The changes Chappy and Udlis have made are delivering results.  At a time when admissions to many Graduate Programs are down, the College of Nursing’s Graduate Program is experiencing solid growth.  Admissions to all College of Nursing Graduate Program emphases are up considerably and projections seem to indicate that growth will continue.

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