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Nursing Department Introduces PLNU’s First Doctoral Program

Amongst the recent changes within the nursing department, perhaps the most significant is a new program that could be the first of many on PLNU’s campus. The Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) is PLNU’s first doctoral program, and includes both a two-year completion option for students with an M.S. in nursing and a four-year completion option for students with a B.S. in nursing. According to program co-director Dr. Larry Rankin, development of the program had been ongoing for many years.

“About 15 years ago, the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) decided that nursing students should have an option to continue their education up to a doctorate degree,” said Dr. Rankin. “By 2015, we were supposed to have that option available. It took a couple extra years, but we managed to get through the processes required, including marketing and surveys, university approval… a lot of documentation… and a proposal to the CCNE.”

While the program is currently underway, Dr. Rankin elaborated that the development, which began nearly a decade ago, is still ongoing and about a couple years away from full completion.

“We are going through this accreditation process with CCNE. They’ll be coming back on campus to see how it’s going for this first year,” said Dr. Rankin. “It takes awhile… [but] it’s really appropriate for our school to move in this direction.”

In a July interview with PLNU’s Viewpoint Magazine, Dr. Rankin explained some of the key aspects of PLNU’s DNP program.

“The DNP is a clinical practice degree,” Rankin said. “There are certainly basic criteria every DNP program has to have, including curricula in research and evidence-based practice, advanced health assessment, informatics, ethics, and others… What differentiates us is our hybrid format, designed for nurses working full-time. It also allows instruction, and some face-to-face time.”

One student, junior nursing student Ari Diaz, is unsure about whether or not she will be a part of the program, but feels that it could have an impact on PLNU.

“I am trying to get through the next two years and start working and gaining experience before I think about earning a DNP,” said Diaz. “I believe that the program will impact PLNU because of how highly ranked the DNP program is here.”

In addition to the new program, the nursing department has also undergone other significant changes. Classes and faculty were from the main campus to Liberty Station. Dr. Rankin said that size constraints were the primary factor in the move.

“For the school of nursing, it made sense because we needed larger facilities to work in. Our labs are three times, maybe four times as large as what we had on the PLNU campus,” Rankin said. “Here, undergraduate students can actually interact with our masters and doctorate students. It was a really good opportunity for us, and the space was here, compared to the limitations on the main campus.”

While the change has its purpose, it hasn’t been an easy adjustment for every student.

“The recent shift of the nursing department to Liberty Station has been a challenge at times,” said Diaz. “We either have to drive there or take the shuttle. If we take the shuttle and class gets out early, then we are basically stranded until the shuttle arrives… Some nursing students, including myself, have had to drive to Liberty Station just to attend department and advising chapel which has been very inconvenient.”

While change can be difficult, there’s always a reason for it. In the case of the nursing department, a critical option is being provided to nursing students beginning this semester. Such an option may be a possibility in other departments in the near future.

“We’re just the first ones here,” said Dr. Rankin. “And we won’t be the last ones to continue this process.”

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Griffin Aseltine

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