Dean of Faculty Parris Watts, Dean of the SON Claudia Horton, Associate Dean for Graduate Programs Jan Rice and President John Sellars
By Melissa Shephard
Jan Rice, Graceland School of Nursing Associate Dean for Graduate Programs, knows that the health care field is always changing. Because of this, she says strong nursing programs must be visionary, thinking ahead and preparing for the future.
And Graceland’s School of Nursing (SON) has been doing just that.
With a history that goes back to 1910, the SON has continually evolved and responded to change. For over half a century, students would begin college with a year at Graceland, and then transfer to a three-year program at the Independence Sanitarium and Hospital Diploma School of Nursing. In 1968, Graceland redesigned the nursing program and began to offer bachelor degrees. In 1988, the university was among the first in the nation to offer nationally-accredited distance nursing education programs. In 1997, the SON added the Master of Science nursing degree.
And in August of 2011, Graceland took another major step, now offering a postgraduate Doctor of Nursing Practice program.
Celebrating the DNP: A Deeper look at Graceland’s first doctoral program
The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) is Graceland’s first doctoral program. With 12 students from 7 different states beginning the program last August, the program promises to help students develop meaningful careers.
“The DNP isn’t just beneficial for the SON, but for health care in general,” said Rice. “This program is also beneficial for Graceland. It elevates our level of degree offerings.”
The inaugural cohort students at the Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) program celebration last October. (From front left) Hilde Graham, Pam Dalzell, Cathy Akker and Regina Ledford. (From back left) Lisa Vance, Dustin Williams, Kendra Blythe, Lori Mathis, Kecia Cowden, Peggy Kestler and Haley Kickland.
Rice helped celebrate the program last October with Claudia Horton, Dean of the School of Nursing, University President John Sellars, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty Parris Watts, and, of course, the 12 members of the DNP’s inaugural cohort. Next year, the SON would like to enroll 15 new DNP students.
With a long history of online graduate nursing education programs, it was natural to make the DNP an online, more accessible program. Students attend Graceland’s Independence campus during their residency.
The program comes at a time when health care is changing quickly, and nursing programs must evolve to keep pace. Horton explains that the DNP was necessary due to new expectations by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN). The AACN wants to see an academic movement by 2015 that calls for advanced practice nurses to have a doctoral level education, not just a master’s. These advanced practice nurses include nurse midwife, nurse anesthetist, clinical nurse specialist and nurse practitioner.
“We strive to facilitate goal achievement for our students. Offering them the opportunity to earn a doctoral degree will enhance their status and parity with other health care professionals,” Horton said. She points out that the DNP is a practice doctorate, which is the same type of degree that other health care professionals such as pharmacists, medical doctors and physical therapists earn.
For Pam Dalzell of Fort Davis, TX, it was advantages like these that made her choose Graceland’s DNP program.
“I had been searching for options and most schools didn’t offer a comprehensive distance learning program. When I saw Graceland had one, I jumped at the chance!” said Dalzell.
Dalzell acquired her Bachelor of Nursing from Graceland in ’97 and her Master in Science of Nursing (MSN-FNP) from Graceland in 2003. Eleven of the 12 initial cohort members have acquired either a bachelor’s or master’s degree from Graceland. Dalzell says her experience with the program so far has been both “fulfilling” and “wonderful”.
Admission to the DNP program requires a Master of Science degree in Nursing. Students must complete coursework online, residencies on campus, and a capstone project in their own community.
Building a Better Forever: What a Doctoral Program Means for Graceland
This doctoral program adds to Graceland’s list of graduate degrees. In addition to the master degree in nursing Graceland also offers a Master of Arts degree in Religion and a Master of Education degree.
“Graceland continues to create and expand strong academic majors and programs. Adding new undergraduate and graduate programs, such as the new DNP, allows us to enrich the academic experience of every Graceland student. It also allows each student to more successfully enjoy the ‘Graceland Experience.’”
Graceland has recently added a number of undergraduate degrees to its list of programs, including Agricultural Business, Web Design, and Film, Theatre & Performance Studies, and more.