First Doctoral Nursing Program in SUNY

Students in the nursing simulation lab running a simulation

Brockport’s Doctorate of Nursing Practice program gets underway as the first of its kind among SUNY comprehensive universities. 

At first, the task of implementing a doctoral program in nursing seemed nearly impossible to faculty members in the Department of Nursing at SUNY Brockport. No other comprehensive college in the State University of New York (SUNY) system had done it.

“We knew the need for the program was there and somebody needed to take the initiative,” said Professor and Chair of the Department of Nursing Kathleen Peterson.

Motivated to take that initiative, Peterson and Professor of Nursing Elizabeth Heavey developed the Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) program for SUNY Brockport, which was approved by SUNY more than five years ago. Since then, Peterson and Heavey have garnered support within the College, SUNY system, and local community in order to prepare for its implementation.

“Beth (Heavey) and I would not have been able to get this done if it wasn’t for the unwavering support of President Heidi Macpherson and our administration,” said Peterson.

The Doctorate of Nursing Practice is 100 percent online to accommodate nurse practitioners that are currently working full time. The 30-credit post-master’s program consists of courses that heavily focus on leadership within the field of health care systems and culminates with a clinically based project in which students choose an issue within the healthcare system and work towards the goal of improving the issue.

“We believe the clinical project is one of the biggest advantages of the program,” Heavey said. “It allows each student to work on something that is meaningful to them and their own clinical process.”

Fulfilling SUNY’s program approval process required Brockport to prove that the institution was prepared to offer a high-caliber program. High-quality facilities, academic resources, local partners for clinical placements, and professional faculty and staff were among the specificities. More importantly, Brockport needed to prove the need for graduates with a DNP in the field of nursing.

“The greatest determinant in a patient’s future health is the zip code they are born in,” Heavey said. “DNPs are trained to look at the health system as a whole and to learn how we can improve on them. One of our local partners told us that they would hire every single DNP graduate if they could because the need is so high in our area right now.”

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) suggests that the DNP be a terminal degree that all advanced practice nurses work toward in order to best serve the field of nursing. Nursing faculty saw a similar suggestion from the AACN to change legislation to require a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) for all registered nurses, and New York State later passed this legislation. This recommendation eventually changed the landscape of the field, requiring a higher baseline of education in order for nurses to qualify for specific careers.

“Our RN-BSN program was an answer to this change,” Heavey said. “We are doing the same process with our DNP program. We want to ensure that we can offer a high quality clinical doctorate for nurse practitioners and that this training is not limited to only those who can access a private education.”

The approval of Brockport’s first doctoral program by SUNY is a pivotal moment in the institution’s history, coming a long way from its beginning as a teacher preparation college in 1835.

“The (Doctor of Nursing Practice) brings both recognition and prestige to SUNY Brockport,” Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Katy Heyning told the Rochester Business Journal. “But more importantly it provides students access to an affordable degree in a highly needed and important field.”

Due to COVID-19, the launch of the DNP program has been pushed to the Spring 2021 semester. Applications are currently being accepted through October 15, 2020.

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Author: Anthony Arnone

Posted: August 04, 2022