FNU welcomed its first DNP students in October 2008. In the 15 years since the first class enrolled, FNU’s DNP program has continued to grow and excel. In 2022, 190 students graduated from the DNP program, while 202 more students enrolled in the DNP.
FNU completed a re-accreditation process for the school’s DNP program in 2022 through the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). ACEN site visitors issued their recommendation for re-accreditation, along with special recognition for the strength of FNU’s DNP program, including the Frontier mission, faculty, and organizational capacity.
“ACEN’s thorough re-accreditation process is a great opportunity for us to measure the successes of the program while also gaining valuable expert external recommendations for areas of improvement,” said FNU Dean of Nursing Dr. Joan Slager, CNM, DNP, FACNM, FAAN. “We are very proud to have earned re-accreditation with high praise from ACEN and are excited to see the continued growth and success of the DNP program at Frontier.”
The decision to add the DNP to FNU’s program offerings in 2008 came in response to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing’s endorsement of the Position Statement on the Practice Doctorate in Nursing, which called for advancing the level of preparation for advanced nursing practice roles from the master’s degree to the doctorate level by 2015.
The DNP is the highest degree for clinical nursing practice and is designed for clinicians who want to expand upon their leadership skills and clinical expertise. FNU’s DNP curriculum provides education in evidence-based practice, quality improvement, and systems leadership.
“One of the advantages to a DNP is that it specifically sets you up to be a change agent and a leader,” said clinical faculty Dr. Diana Jolles, Ph.D., CNM, FACNM. “This degree specializes in preparing people to make a change in their community and to serve the needs of the people, which is very, very complicated. Our program is designed to help mentor, support, nurture, and really build resilience and grit so that people have the skills and the tools to make the changes that need to happen in this healthcare environment that we know is so broken.”
“Our expectation is to teach you leadership and quality improvement skills that you can apply to any other problem you see in your environment,” said DNP Program Director Dr. Khara’ Jefferson, DNP, APRN, FNP-C, CHC. “I think that’s what makes us really special.”
Dr. Jefferson’s passion for FNU’s DNP program comes naturally, as she herself completed the program in 2017.
“I enjoyed my entire experience so much that I’ve never left,” she said.
As part of the curriculum, DNP students complete an eight-week Quality Improvement Project, generally in the hospital or clinic where they are currently working. This allows the student to tailor their project to their practice and the patient population which it serves.
“Students implement their Quality Improvement Project for the larger community that they live in, but the unique thing for our students is that probably 98% of them are actually doing their project at the place where they work,” Dr. Jefferson said. “They know the inherent problems that they see every day. By collaborating with the quality department and other key stakeholders, they are able to really narrow in on what is needed, not just something that they’re passionate about, but something that can truly drive change and impact care.”
Learn more about FNU’s DNP program in this Q&A video:
FNU alumnus Dr. Elizabeth Akinyemi, DNP (Class 39), FNP, said that the DNP program opened her mind to a different way of thinking. Her DNP quality improvement project focused on improving hypertension in patients at the family medical clinic in which she worked.
“The way I think about healthcare has definitely been transformed, and this is a result of going through Frontier’s very objective DNP program,” Dr. Akinyemi said. “I came out of the program feeling more confident about my ability to contribute positively to any clinical quality improvement initiative. The DNP helps you become more analytical and a problem solver who tries to figure out root causes and solutions.”
Dr. Akinyemi’s analytical mindset directly aligns with FNU’s data-driven, evidence-based approach to program and curriculum development. The success of the DNP program is an important part of FNU’s mission “to provide accessible nurse-midwifery and nurse practitioner education that integrates the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion. We transform healthcare by preparing innovative, ethical, compassionate, and entrepreneurial leaders to work with all people with an emphasis on rural and underserved communities.”
“As a DNP student, you don’t just leave Frontier Nursing University with a DNP degree,” said Dr. Jefferson “You leave it with your DNP degree, quality improvement and leadership skills, new friends, and a whole community of support.”
To learn more, visit the DNP program page on our website.
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