No DNP? No Problem. 2015 Deadline Not a Reality

Prospective nurse practitioner students are understandably stressed about the prospect of the 2015 DNP requirement. Guidelines, released about ten years ago by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), recommend that nurse practitioners be prepared with doctoral, rather than master’s degrees and that master’s programs for NPs be phased out by 2015. With 2015 right around the corner, we can now clearly see that the DNP will be postponed, and likely not pan out for a number of years.

As 2014 rolls on, nurse practitioner programs continue to actively market master’s level NP programs. Many schools have added a DNP curriculum to keep up with the times, but most have not, and don’t plan to phase out the MSN degree for prospective nurse practitioners by the recommended 2015 deadline. Changing curriculum and certification policies takes time and resources, and at this point, mandating a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree will not take place by next year.

In an interview earlier this week with Dr. Shelley Hawkins, Director of DNP and MSN programs at the University of San Diego, I got some further insight into the future of the DNP degree. Dr. Hawkins says:

“Given that 2015 is right around the corner, I don’t anticipate nor have I heard in any national meeting that we are literally going to shut down MSN programs. I don’t envision this will be a situation where they are no longer approved, accredited, and so forth. the deadline in itself is more of a motivational component. Many people will move forward with transitions or complete projects if there is a deadline attached to it. Having said that, I don’t think that we are going to achieve by the 2015 DNP mandate, a DNP only education for nurse practitioners. I do think we are well on our way to going there though. There is a growing proliferation of DNP programs and you are beginning to see that some schools have made the decision to close master’s programs. Or, they have their own timeline where they anticipate closing their masters programs. To a great extent this has to do with resources. We don’t have enough nursing faculty”.

My conversations with faculty from other NP programs have echoed this sentiment. Mr. Clay Hysell, Assistant Dean of Admissions at the University of Virginia, says that “for the foreseeable future, the MSN will remain a viable path to the nurse practitioner profession for most”. Dr. Richard Redman, Director of the DNP Program at the University of Michigan, offers a similar take on the DNP mandate calling the 2015 deadline an “ideal” but “not a feasible target date”. Yes, it is likely that in the distant future becoming a nurse practitioner will require a doctorate degree. That time, however is not now and likely won’t be for many more years.

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If you plan to become a nurse practitioner and are torn between DNP and MSN programs, Dr. Hawkins recommends choosing one over the other in relation to your career goals. “Bottom-line, there is a difference between a master’s and a doctorate degree regardless of subject” she says, “The role of a nurse practitioner is exciting and demanding and the DNP is giving nurses the opportunity to be clinical leaders“.


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5 thoughts on “No DNP? No Problem. 2015 Deadline Not a Reality”

  1. Edward Saint-Ivan

    If academic nursing keeps the MSN {and I won’t hold my breath} the PA profession gets a stay of execution. Organized nursing has been trying to totally own primary care using every underhanded trick in the book.

  2. In my region most of the MSN programs have already closed down forcing the issue. I have always been told if you plan on being in the workforce another 10 years you should seriously consider the DNP over the MSN. That makes sense to me for many reasons, but that’s easier said than done for some.

  3. Everyone should achieve the DNP. It is the terminal degree for nursing. From 2015 on, all nurses should be doctors. I am also a firm believer that all RN’s should have BSN’s. To achieve parity, we need to ensure all NP’s are equally prepared from an educational perspective.

    50 years of research show that despite the differences in education, that extra gross anatomy and organic chemistry don’t really mean anything in many specialties, and patients achieve the same outcomes with more satisfaction, when using NP’s instead of MD’s.

    The author should be aware that the NP position on titles is that we are called Nurse Practitioners, not “mid-levels,” an archaic term from the 90’s adopted by the DEA after lobbying from organized medicine. Any sensible, educated, and entrepreneurial NP should assertively correct anyone who is not aware that such a term is derogatory.

    An NP using the term not only does a disservice to NP’s, but makes this entire site laughable and not a source of information for any serious clinician.

  4. I don’t understand why the need for DNP. The amount of clinical hours and education at the MSN level should be enough. I feel that by doing this people will not be interested in being a nurse practitioner because getting a DNP financially would not be worth it.

  5. Until the DNP gaurantees independent practice and improved scope it serves not purpose outside of academia. If an Army medic ,with no degree, is a competent provider in truly austere conditions then forcing NPs to achieve a doctorate before providing similar care is laughable. If the DNP were a degree to allow specialized practice such as in Emergency Care as an independent provider then yes it would have true value. Anesthesia is a truly specialized realm with an expanded scope of practice. With their level of skill and responsibility it makes more sense. Our PA counterparts have Doctorate programs in these specialized areas. There is no fault in taking that cue to model future DNP specialties. Its a thought. Academia and reality rarely meet.

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