The College of Graduate Nursing’s Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program continues to achieve new milestones and garner national support.

The DNP program, which began in January 2008, received a five-year accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education in June, the maximum accreditation length possible for a new program.

The site evaluators were very complimentary and found all four standards were met with no recommendations, said College of Graduate Nursing (CGN) Founding Dean Karen Hanford, EdD, MSN, FNP. The self-study document, the commitment of the students and faculty were also found to be noteworthy, she said.

“Accreditation assures the prospective student, as well as employers, that graduates are well prepared and held to the highest educational standards,” Hanford said. “Accredited programs also are eligible for external funding opportunities, which can add to program resources or provide student stipends, grants and forgivable loans.”

The College has been awarded a fourth year of support for the national Nursing Faculty Loan Payment (NFLP) program by the Health Resource and Services Administration’s (HRSA) Bureau of Health Professions. During the next academic year, the University will disperse about $370,000 in financial aid to nurses pursuing the DNP degree and preparing to become nurse educators. Through generous provisions of the program, applicants can eventually retire up to 85 percent of the tuition cost for becoming a DNP in return for serving as a nurse educator for four years. WesternU is one of about 125 schools participating in this program.

For the past four years, 10 to 16 students annually have benefited from this forgivable loan repayment program. Thus, CGN is further assisting with the faculty shortage by preparing faculty as well as graduates who will practice at the doctoral level, said DNP Program Director Jan Boller, PhD, RN. The challenges in health care require nurses educated at the highest level to lead and participate in health care teams to impact positive change and improve patient outcomes. The College has also benefited by having several faculty members complete the DNP program to increase the number of doctorally-prepared faculty, she said.

“Support from this program provides qualified faculty to colleges and schools of nursing, and is important step in alleviating the nursing faculty shortage that exists in the state,” Boller said. “Without sufficient faculty, nursing schools cannot admit and graduate an adequate number of nurses to meet the health care demands for California.”

Even with the downturn in the national economy, the demand for nurses remains strong, according to HRSA. One of the leading deterrents to having a sufficient number of nurses has been the lack of qualified faculty. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing reported that more than 58,000 students were turned away in 2011 because of insufficient faculty.

“The funds from this program will fully support tuition costs for 18 individuals over the next year,” said College of Graduate Nursing NFLP coordinator Rod Hicks, PhD, MPA. “Nurses who desire graduate education face many financial barriers, and this program removes one of the largest barriers. Having sufficient faculty will reduce the number of students turned away from colleges and universities.”