University of Arkansas’ Doctor of Nursing Practice degree was granted a five-year accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. The U of A offers two DNP concentrations: family nurse practitioner and the adult-geriatric acute care nurse practitioner, and it also offers post-baccalaureate and post-master's study programs.

"The American Association of Colleges of Nursing recommends the DNP as the terminal degree for advanced practice nurses, including nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, clinical nurse specialists, nurse informatics specialists and health care systems administrators," according to Julie Hoff, director of the university’s Eleanor Mann School of Nursing. She says the Doctor of Nursing Practice degree was developed to meet the changing demands of the nation's complex health care environment and that "given the demands of an increasingly complex health care system, accreditation of this DNP program will contribute to improved health outcomes in Northwest Arkansas and beyond."

Last year, the school got a Health Resources and Services Administration (a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) grant for $1,081,735 to support the development of a clinical training program that increases the number of advanced practice registered nurses and helps meet the health and wellness needs of Arkansas' medically underserved populations.

"Ultimately, this project will provide 30 DNP-prepared, practice-ready nurse practitioners for rural Arkansas," says Anna Jarrett, assistant professor of nursing who oversees the development of the program. "We are recruiting clinical partners and have signed a memorandum of understanding with our first clinical partner in this effort: Community Clinic of Northwest Arkansas, which is affiliated with Community Health Centers of Arkansas."

Over three years, the goal is to develop at least seven clinical partners. Each clinical partner will be assigned a cohort of six DNP students. "The idea is that the DNP students will undergo clinical training in the same system for three years, not necessarily with the same preceptor or clinic, but within the same system," Jarrett explains. "After that, the partners may choose to hire these nurse practitioners who already know the system, the community it serves, its organizational priorities and goals as well as its electronic health records.

"From a clinic's standpoint, it's tough to recruit a family nurse practitioner or acute care nurse practitioner when you need one," Jarrett says. "Now, the clinics will have six of them they have been able to interact with for a three-year period. There is no requirement to hire them, but these are employers who won't have to outsource to find qualified DNP prepared nurse practitioners."