Board of Governors Approves DNP Curriculum for the SON

UPDATE: Please read the DNP FAQ to learn about our DNP Program, Application Requirements, and find out who is eligible to apply now. Please click here.

In a letter to the SON community, Dean Kristen Swanson announced that the SON will be adding a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree to the school’s educational program. The following message was sent to students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends of the SON:

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

I am delighted to share with you that this morning the University of North Carolina Board of Governors approved the School of Nursing’s proposal to add the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree to our school’s graduate clinical offerings.

As of today, Carolina and five other state-supported nursing programs (Winston-Salem State University, East Carolina University, UNC-Greensboro, UNC-Charlotte, and Western Carolina University) have all been authorized to offer a clinical doctorate in nursing. With today’s decision, as recommended by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), nurses throughout NC will now have access to the highest level of education available to nurses for clinical practice.

I am also pleased to announce that Dr. Debra Barksdale, PhD, RN, FNP-BC, ANP-BC, CNE, FAANP, FAAN has agreed to serve as our inaugural DNP Program Director. Dr. Barksdale is a nationally certified family and adult nurse practitioner. She has worked as an FNP in urgent care, primary care, and home health care. Since joining the SON in 2002, Dr. Barksdale has pursued innovative research on stress and cardiovascular disease in Black Americans. She is also currently serving as President of the National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties and is actively shaping national standards for DNP curricula as well as influencing the roles DNPs will be expected to fill in health care.

In addition to coursework and clinical training in advanced nursing practice, students in DNP programs study population health, patient safety, clinical leadership, health policy, systems change, and learn the skills needed to translate research findings into best-care practices. This broad-based education enables nurse practitioners and executives to serve as leaders and change agents, be it at the bedside, the board room, or in the legislature. DNP education prepares nurses for direct care, leadership, and health advocacy.

According to the 2010 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation/Institute of Medicine report The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health, it is essential that nurses have access to highest level of education that enables them to join physicians, pharmacists, and other healthcare providers in improving health care by making it more accessible, affordable, safer, culturally relevant, and patient/family centered. Preparing nurses at the doctoral level is a vital step in preparing a workforce ready to care for the 32 million Americans who will be newly eligible for care through the Affordable Care and Recovery Act. DNP-prepared nurses have the knowledge and skills needed to provide primary care, partner with other providers to manage chronic illness, and to design, lead, and evaluate care delivery systems.

Additional details about the admission process are forthcoming. We plan to admit our first cohort of DNP students in Fall 2013.

I am so very grateful to the faculty whose efforts and vision for the DNP have led us to this day, to the Graduate School, the Provost, and the Chancellor who have enthusiastically endorsed the importance of a clinical nursing doctorate, to the General Administration who supported all six schools in their pursuit of the DNP, and to the Board of Governors for their historic vote to approve access to DNP education for nurses throughout NC.


Kristen M. Swanson, PhD, RN, FAAN
Dean and Alumni Distinguished Professor