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Section X: Doctor of Nursing Practice Degree Specific Program Option Information

Program Purpose

The DNP program was established in 2009. The program was developed in response to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) Position Statement on the Practice Doctorate in Nursing. The position statement supported moving the preparation of advanced practice nurses from the MS in Nursing to the Doctoral level by the year 2015.

The purpose of the DNP program is to prepare Advanced Practice Nurses (APRNs) to transform clinical practice as expert clinicians and leaders with a special focus on rural and underserved populations.

In addition to delivering evidence-based direct patient care at an advanced practice level to individuals across the lifespan in primary care settings, graduates of the DNP program will learn skills needed to produce and implement valuable evidence to guide practice and are prepared to work collaboratively with rural communities in an effort to reduce health disparities.

Program Outcomes

  1. To prepare graduates as clinicians and leaders with a special focus on rural and underserved populations.
  2. To prepare graduates to deliver evidence-based direct patient care to individuals across the lifespan in primary care settings.
  3. To prepare graduates to produce and implement scientific evidence to guide practice.
  4. To prepare graduates to work collaboratively with frontier, urban, and rural communities in an effort to reduce health disparities.

Student Learning Outcomes

At the completion of the program, the graduate will successfully demonstrate the following student learning outcomes: 

  1. Integrate theoretical and scientific underpinnings of nursing and other disciplines to address emerging healthcare and practice issues.
  2. Engage in health policy at all levels to influence healthcare delivery concerns, such as health disparities, cultural sensitivity, ethics, access to care, health finance, and quality of care.
  3. Demonstrate leadership at the organizational and/or systems level to address health outcomes of individuals and populations though evidence-based initiatives.
  4. Utilize advanced nursing knowledge and information systems/technology related to clinical prevention and health promotion to address gaps in healthcare.
  5. Collaborate with the interprofessional team in the translation, implementation, analysis and dissemination of evidence-based practice to improve healthcare outcomes. 
  6. Doctor of Nursing Practice Specialization specific Student Learning Outcomes:
    1. BS-DNP-Family Nurse Practitioner: Employ evidence-based practice and advanced clinical judgment to comprehensively assess, design, and deliver care for individuals across the lifespan.
    2. BS-DNP/Family Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner: Employ evidence-based practice and advanced clinical judgment to comprehensively assess, design and deliver mental health care for individuals across the lifespan.
    3. Post Master’s DNP: Employ evidence-based practice and advanced clinical judgment to comprehensively assess, design, and deliver care for individuals or populations

Academic Advisor

At the time of admission, each Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) student is assigned to the academic advisor for academic guidance.

Faculty Advisor

All students will also receive guidance from the DNP Specialty Coordinator. The Coordinator will assist with student inquiries specific to the area of specialty.

DNP students will select a qualified faculty member with Graduate Faculty Status to develop their plan of study according to program guidelines and to serve as the DNP project advisor. This will be completed during the Nurs 850 course.

The student is expected to contact their project chair at least once per semester. It is the responsibility of the academic advisor to:

  1. advise the student concerning the selection of coursework;
  2. assist in planning and submitting the plan of study;
  3. provide counsel in other matters pertinent to successful completion of graduate study;
  4. monitor the progress of the student and report as needed to the associate dean for academic programs;
  5. advise the student with regard to the selection of committee members including the graduate faculty representative;
  6. For M.S. option a (thesis), DNP and Ph.D. students only: the thesis committee chair, the DNP project chair(s) or the Ph.D. dissertation chair will be the person who will chair the final oral examination.

Students may request to change the faculty advisor by submitting a written request to the Graduate School.

Challenge Exams

The College of Nursing does not offer challenge exams for graduate nursing courses

Program Options and Graduation Requirements

Program of Study Options / Course Requirements

The Bachelors to DNP program requires completion of 75-78 graduate credits. The number of actual credits will vary based on the chosen specialization.

The postmaster's DNP program requires 31-69 graduate credits beyond the masters' degree. The number of actual credits will vary based on the graduate degree specialty completed prior to start of the DNP program.

Up to 40% of the credits can be transferred in from other universities with approval of the Associate Dean of Graduate Nursing.

Program Length / Time Limitations

Once admitted, DNP students have eight (8) years in which to complete the program from the program start date. If the DNP degree is not completed during that timeframe, a form to request an extension of the graduate program must be submitted to the Graduate School. The request will be reviewed and a decision as to whether the student may continue in the program will be made by the Graduate School Dean.

Plan of Study Requirements

The student, in collaboration with the academic advisors and project chair will develop an initial Plan of Study following the formation of the student’s DNP project committee. The Plan of Study will be approved by the academic advisor and DNP Project Committee prior to filing with the Graduate School. The Graduate School Dean will review for approval or denial.

If a student has not filed a Plan of Study and changes are made to the program and/or specialization curriculum plan, the student must file a Plan of Study that adheres to the new requirements. Students who have already filed a Plan of Study may choose to adhere to the existing approved Plan of Study or may choose to file a Change of Plan of Study that reflects the program and/or specialization curriculum plan.

Plan of Study Changes

Any change in an approved Plan of Study is to be initiated by the student in consultation with the academic advisors and DNP project chair. The student, with assistance of the academic advisor, will complete the Change of Plan of Study Form and submit the form to the advisor for approval.

Changes in the Plan of Study must be filed when the student and the advisor request any change(s) to the Plan as it was originally approved. This includes substitution of courses due to low enrollment or when the course number has changed.

Obsolete Coursework

Courses completed more than eight (8) years prior to completion of the requirements of the doctorate degree are regarded as obsolete coursework. Such courses may be used in the doctoral degree program if validated. Validation is allowed at the discretion of the advisory committee and department involved and can be accomplished by passing validation requirements in the subject matter area and submitting the validation form to the Graduate School.

Validated coursework cannot exceed fifty (50) percent of the total coursework (excluding thesis and research paper credits) listed on the plan of study and must be certified by the advisory committee.

Course validation may be subject to a processing fee. Only courses taken at SDSU may be validated. Therefore, if a course taken at another institution was originally approved at the time of admission to the program and outdates prior to completion of the student’s program, the SDSU course equivalent will need to be completed since courses from other institutions are not eligible for validation.

Procedure for Updating/Validating Outdated Course Work

The following guidelines are designed to assist the student, advisor, and instructor in completing the update process:

  1. During the semester preceding the semester of the update, the student initiates the process with her or his academic advisor. The advisor will notify the current instructor of the course needing updating of the student's request.
  2. The advisor will notify the student of the name of the instructor who has agreed to complete the update. It is the student's responsibility to contact the instructor. The student must complete arrangements the semester preceding the update. Delay in arrangements may result in delaying the updating process, as the agreement is based on time and faculty assignment in that particular semester.
  3. It is the responsibility of the instructor to determine the requirements for a successful update, based on the current course requirements. Copies of updated exams are filed with the Graduate School.

In consideration of faculty guidance, should a student’s behavior continue to be unsafe in a clinical course and the student has chosen not to drop the course, the faculty member can choose to remove the student from the clinical area. The faculty should advise the student that they will fail the course; however, the student has ultimate responsibility to drop the course.

Payment of a fee is required by the Graduate School and additional documentation may also be required.

DNP Project

The Doctor of Nursing Practice options require the completion of a DNP Project (NURS 880). Additional information on this process can be found in the DNP Project Handbook in D2L, Nurs 114.

DNP Project Committee & Committee Chair Guidelines

DNP Committee

Each DNP student will have a committee to guide and evaluate the DNP Project. The committee will include the Major Advisor (chair), 2 South Dakota State University (SDSU) College of Nursing Faculty members who hold graduate faculty status, and a SDSU graduate representative.

  • BS-DNP students, Post-Master’s DNP /FNP or PMHNP students  who do not have Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) certification must have one committee member with APRN certification in the specialty in which the student is seeking a degree.
  • Post-Master’s-DNP students who are certified as an APRN (CNP, CNM, CRNA or CNS) do not need to have a faculty member on the committee with the same APRN certification as the student.
  • Students with the assistance of the DNP project chair and graduate school will secure the graduate faculty representative (GFR) to serve on their committee. The FGR must be a faculty member (external from the student's major department) and also hold graduate faculty status. If the student does not indicate a GFR, the SDSU graduate school will assign a graduate representative (at random) to ensure the quality and fairness of the DNP project process including the final oral exam.
  • The DNP student will identify a stakeholder int he clinical setting who will serve as an expert in the DNP project topi area. The stakeholder will guide project implementation in the clinical setting. The stakeholder is encouraged to participate in the DNP proposal and defense, but is not required to attend the proposal and defense.

DNP Major Advisor

Each DNP student will select a Major Advisor based on the following guidelines.

  • The DNP student is guided to select a Major Advisor who holds a terminal degree, a practice focus, and associated APRN certification or educational background (e.g., CNP, CNS, CNM or CRNA). This guideline is based on standards set by the Graduate School, the 2015 American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) DNP White Paper, and the CON Standards (2014) for Clinical Track Faculty.
  • DNP students are provided with a table of information for chair selection that includes eligible faculty, faculty practice expertise, terminal degree, clinical project interests, and APRN certification. This table represents the first tier for Major Advisor selection.
  • A DNP student may want a Major Advisor who is not APRN certified or educated but who holds a terminal degree and whose practice or content expertise aligns with the DNP student’s project topic. In this case, the DNP student and the DNP Specialization Coordinator, must ensure APRN specialty representation by one or two of the other committee members.
  • The DNP project adviser process begins in NURS 850. The DNP Specialization Coordinator explains the process verbally during class and in a follow-up email.