Frequently Asked Questions for School of Nursing

We believe that our program is exceptional due to the strong emphasis on the student. Our program is online and accessible to meet the needs of busy professionals. Graceland University has a long history of offering quality online graduate nursing education programs. In fact, we were one of the pioneers in distance learning, so we know how to develop programs with the distance learning student in mind. All faculty teaching in the program are doctorally prepared (PhD or DNP) and experienced educators. Plus, many of our students come to us based on recommendations from previous students or from administrators who have seen Graceland graduates in action. We also work hard to create a caring community dedicated to providing meaningful educational experiences. Students report feeling encouraged and supported by faculty, staff and peers at Graceland (our latest student survey indicated a satisfaction rate in the high 90s).

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), the DNP prepares nurses for the future. Healthcare is becoming increasingly complex, and there is a critical need for clinicians prepared to design, evaluate and continuously improve healthcare delivery systems. Nurses prepared at the doctoral level with a blend of clinical, organizational, economic and leadership skills will significantly impact healthcare outcomes.

DNP graduates are likely to seek practice leadership roles in a variety of settings, management of quality initiatives, executives in healthcare organizations, directors of clinical programs, and faculty positions responsible for clinical program delivery and clinical teaching.

Some DNP degree programs do prepare graduates for APRN certification; however, our Post-MSN Organizational Leadership DNP does not. Our current MSN and post-MSN certificate programs prepare students for the family nurse practitioner certification. A BSN-DNP pathway designed to prepare students for certification as a family nurse practitioner is planned for the future (whenever the DNP becomes the required credential for APRN certification).

Provides development of advanced skill in the areas of evidence-based practice and organizational leadership. The DNP will not alter the current scope of practice for APRNs but will better prepare them for their current roles given the calls for new models of education and the growing complexity of healthcare. We recommend that MSN-FNP and DNP students interested in faculty appointments complete the 12 s.h. nurse educator certificate program as part of their documented preparation for the faculty role.

A doctorate is considered the appropriate degree for a faculty role; however, the DNP is not designed to prepare educators any more than a PhD does. AACN recommends that graduates from all doctoral programs (PhD of DNP) who wish to be educators should have additional preparation that adds teaching skills to their base of clinical practice. We recommend that our MSN-FNP and DNP students complete the 12 s.h. nurse educator certificate program as part of their documented preparation for the faculty role. Many academic institutions require a PhD for faculty wishing to pursue promotion and tenure.

The DNP Practice Project may take a number of forms. Evidence-based practice is the common methodology that supports all of the varied capstone project forms. All projects are designed to improve either clinical outcomes or to resolve the gap between evidence and implementation of the evidence in clinical practices and community policies. The DNP Capstone Project is “end-of-program practice immersion experience designed to support students in the achievement of learning objectives related to the DNP Essentials and specialty competencies” (DNP Essentials, 2006). Students select a specialty practice site to fulfill practice hours and complete the capstone project under the supervision and mentorship of a practice expert in the student’s home community and an assigned faculty advisor. The specialty practice site may be any healthcare practice setting, including but not limited to, a clinical agency, school, health department, private provider practice setting, educational institution or government organization. An Agency Affiliation Agreement and Statement of Mutual Agreement are required prior to beginning any practice hours. The DNP practice improvement project requires a minimum of two trimesters to complete.

Project completion includes a total of 500 practice hours. Both direct hours (hours spent at the practice site with the practice expert) and indirect hours (hours spent working on the DNP Capstone Project, but not necessarily in the practice site) are counted within this total. The nature of practice hours is mutually agreed upon between the student, faculty advisor, practice mentor and cooperating agencies. Students should expect to log an average of at least four to five clock hours per week across the 16-week trimester for each semester hour in which they are enrolled. DNP practice hour logs are submitted to and approved by the DNP project faculty advisor on a regular basis. Satisfactory completion of “a tangible and deliverable academic product” documents completion of practice hours.

Additional practice hours in primary care are not a part of the Organizational Leadership DNP. All practice hours in the DNP program are directly related to the development of the student in the DNP Essentials. A practice expert is selected by the faculty-advisor-approved student. The faculty advisor and practice expert collaborate to mentor and support the student in the practice setting to complete the approved practice improvement project.

No. The Post-Graduate FNP Certificate program must be completed to be eligible to sit for the FNP certification exam.

Yes. We are fully approved by the Missouri Department of Higher Education (MDHE) and the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) and nationally accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education(CCNE). Full approval has been granted by the Iowa State Board of Nursing.

Currently, 15-20 students per cohort are admitted once a year in the fall semester.

Yes. This is required for approvals and accreditation.

This is unknown. In 2004, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) published a position statement endorsing the DNP as the preferred credential/level of preparation for APRNs by 2015. However, this was/is an academic initiative. Master’s level preparation remains the current required credential for APRN certification. Credentialing (AANP & ANCC) and licensing (state boards of nursing) agencies determine eligibility criteria, not academic or accrediting institutions. At this time, neither credentialing agency nor any state board of nursing has set a specific date for establishing the DNP as the required credential for APRN certification/licensure eligibility. It is important to keep current with the specific requirements for APRN licensure in the state where you plan to practice as an APRN. It is anticipated that when/if a date is set, it will be for five to six years after the announcement to allow students currently enrolled in MSN programs to complete their program of study.

In many states, there is debate and controversy surrounding the use of the title "Doctor" by anyone other than a physician. Every student needs to stay well informed about the requirements in the state where they will be practicing.

It takes 2 years to complete the DNP program as a full-time student.