Enrollment in Doctoral Nursing Program Increasing

In the 2009-2010 school year, enrollment in doctoral nursing programs increased by 20.8 percent, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing’s study "2009-2010 Enrollment and Graduations in Baccalaureate and Graduate Programs in Nursing." This is good news for those in the nursing community who are concerned about the growing need for Advanced Practice Registered Nurses, or APRNs, to work in practice-focused and research-focused nursing positions.

Research-focused enrollment programs increased enrollment by 5.1 percent, adding 201 students, resulting in a total student population of 4,177. Research-focused doctoral degrees include a Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing and a Doctor of Nursing Science. A Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing is considered an academic degree that will prepare one for teaching as well as research positions. The purpose of this degree is to develop one’s ability to significantly contribute to nursing knowledge and equips them with the skills necessary to improve health organizations. A Doctor of Nursing Science is a professional-level research degree that focuses on research methods and clinical practices. The purpose of this degree is to prepare one for the administration of nursing services and to be able to extend nursing research through clinical applications and experiments. According to the study, the number of available doctoral programs is increasing with 120 currently enrolling students and eight others in development.

Practice-focused enrollment programs experienced a much higher increase, 51.2 percent, adding 1,750 students, resulting in a total student population of 5,165. Practice-focused doctoral degrees, such as a Doctor of Nursing Practice, focus on nursing’s clinical aspects including leadership, advanced practice, and application of clinical research. The main purpose of a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree is to prepare registered nurses for advanced practice roles. These roles include that of a certified registered nurse anesthetist, clinical nurse specialist, certified nurse midwife, and nurse practitioner. Practice-focused doctoral programs provide the advanced educational credentials one needs to practice nursing at a higher level, enhances one’s knowledge of how the nursing practice and how it can be improved, and develops the advanced skills one needs to take on clinical, faculty, and leadership roles. According to the study, there is a total of 120 Doctor of Nursing Practice Programs, 28 of which were opened in 2009. Additionally, 161 programs are currently in the planning stages. Of the nursing schools with Advance Practice Registered Nursing programs, 79.1 percent are either currently offering, or planning to offer, a Doctor of Nursing Practice Program.

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