Advancing Science and Practice to Improve Patient Care

By Milenko Martinovich

The School's Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program emphasizes applying science to improve patient care while the PhD program develops innovative researchers to unearth scientific discoveries. (Photo credits: Barbara Ries, Anastasiia Sapon)

As the number of people living with complex health needs grows, so does the need for pioneering nurse researchers and leaders to innovate positive change.

To answer the call, the UCSF School of Nursing is expanding its Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program. The School is opening admissions to non-advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) and creating new pathways that will take registered nurses directly to a DNP degree in under four years. At the same time, the School’s PhD program continues to develop innovative nurse scientists whose research will improve care and services for those in critical need.

Meeting the Demand for Nurse Leaders

As health care systems have become more complex, the roles for nurse practitioners have evolved. Quality direct patient care remains a priority, but NPs are seeking proficiency in additional areas such as data analysis, health economics and policy.

"Whether you’re on the frontlines in the ICU or in primary care, NPs need to have a better understanding of the process of health care that goes far beyond clinical management,” said professor Mary Lynch, interim director of the Master of Science Program. “It must incorporate an understanding of pharmacology, immunology and health care policy. Historically, that understanding of complex systems was only a small part of NP preparation. Now, NPs need to understand how the superseding factors impact this behemoth of a health care system and where they fit into that system.”

The DNP program, which was open to APRNs since its 2018 launch, will welcome non-APRNs starting this spring, paving the way for nurses with a master’s in health care administration and other areas to earn their DNP degrees. The expansion was the result of a groundswell of interest from non-APRNs who inquired about the program.

“This change is in response to our partners in the community who want to be leaders in improving patient outcomes, which is critically important for organizations all across the country,” said Associate Dean for Academic Programs Maureen Shannon. “As part of our continuous quality improvement, we are constantly evaluating our programs and asking ‘does it meet the needs of our graduates and the communities we serve?’”

The School will expand the DNP program even further by creating new pathways through its Master of Science Program. Beginning in fall 2022, the School plans to offer DNP tracks in adult gerontology acute care (AGACNP) and acute care pediatrics (ACPNP). A neonatal track is being explored, and additional pathways through other specialties could be added in the future.

Read the full story in our Science of Caring online publication.

(Posted: Jan. 19, 2021)