Skip to content

Post-Master's Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Program: Curriculum

Curriculum Details

39 total credits required

Accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, the online Post-Master’s Doctor of Nursing Practice program can be completed in as few as three years, or as many as six.

As you prepare for nursing’s highest credential, you’ll learn to lead teams devoted to improving health care quality and patient outcomes and shape the future of nursing in roles that require scientific excellence, innovation and deep practical experience.

This program is distinguished by a focus on practice, with six individually designed clinical sessions guided by DNP mentors, nursing faculty and external advisors. You may need to travel to access clinical sites for these opportunities.

CORE COURSES

This course involves the study of knowledge shared among members of the nursing discipline, the patterns of knowing and knowledge development, criteria for evaluating knowledge claims, and the philosophy of science. The nature of theory, theory development in nursing, and significant conceptualizations of nursing will be discussed. Through guided search and discussion, doctoral students will become knowledgeable about the utilization of middle range theory to guide nursing practice.

This course will explore the interrelationship between policy, advocacy, and ethics on clinical practice and healthcare/nursing administration. The nurse’s role in healthcare policy and planning will be examined. An overview of issues in healthcare policy and planning, including the sociopolitical and economic context of health and health-seeking behaviors will be provided. Healthcare policy and planning at the local, state, and federal levels will be considered. Recurring issues in clinical practice will be examined for how legislation and regulation impacts care. This course will examine the structure and function of legislative and regulatory organizations, governance, public relations, and global healthcare issues. Broader social issues common to the care of underserved and vulnerable populations will be examined. Ethical dimensions of public policy formulations and implementation will be highlighted.

This course will introduce the fundamentals of patient safety and quality improvement (QI) in a variety of healthcare settings. Emphasis will be placed on the development, implementation, and evaluation/measurement of evidence-based healthcare QI practices. Management of complex system change within the healthcare environment will be reviewed as part of the QI process. Patient safety will be an important concept throughout this course in which key issues will be examined. Information Systems (IS) will also be addressed throughout this course for best application to the QI process along with daily practice needs. This course will allow the learner to identify key processes involved in optimal patient safety, outcomes, and the overall delivery of healthcare services.

This course reviews doctoral level practice scholarship and the principles of evidence-based practice. Students learn how to build a practice-based on clinical expertise, best current evidence, patient values/preferences/goals, and available resource.

The primary focus of this course is to equip students with a foundation in clinical prevention and population health. This course introduces students to the methods used by epidemiologists to assess factors associated with the distribution and determinants of health and disease in populations and to read, interpret, and apply literature using epidemiologic and statistical methods. Topics include a discussion of the historical background as well as practical applications of epidemiology, methods for identifying and evaluating sources of health applications of epidemiology, methods for identifying and evaluating sources of health information, calculation of key epidemiologic measures and investigation techniques, and an evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of different study designs. Current concepts of public health, health promotion, evidence-based recommendations, determinants of health, environmental/occupational health, and cultural diversity and sensitivity are integrated throughout the course. Specifically, this course examines methods for describing disease rates and other vital statistics; cohort, case-control, and cross-sectional studies; odds ratios, relative risks, their confidence intervals, and tests of significance; and concepts of confounding, effect modification, and bias. A basic understanding of introductory biostatistics is required for this course. This foundation will enable students to analyze epidemiological, biostatistical, occupational, and environmental data in the development, implementation, and evaluation of clinical prevention and population health.

This course is the second of two doctoral level research courses. Course content emphasizes the conceptual understanding of research design and methods, and measurements commonly used in research. Application of research methods and design, principles of measurement, and advanced biostatistics in order to contribute to improved clinical decisions and outcomes are presented. The use of biostatistical techniques, as well as how to apply them with confidence and interpret research findings and evidence in the literature, are discussed.

In this course, organizational and systems leadership skills for advanced leadership practice to improve clinical healthcare systems and promote excellence in care are enhanced. Focus is on transformational leadership, strategic visioning and planning, and collaboration with the healthcare team to make data-driven decisions at both the micro- and macro-systems level. Understanding of how healthcare is financed and the implications for healthcare organizations is applied. In this course, students will identify and build their terminal doctoral projects.

This course enables the doctoral student to refine and expand the diagnostic and management skills necessary to care for vulnerable and disenfranchised populations. The elimination of health disparities has been identified as an area of research emphasis by the National Institute of Nursing Research. This course examines health determinants and health disparities within the United States as well as in the global community. The student will examine health disparities and the burden of disease within social, cultural, political, economic, and environmental contexts using a systematic, multidisciplinary approach. Given the complexity of care, growth of information and biomedical technology, an aging and increasingly diverse population, and worsening disparities in care, this course will prepare the student to fill the growing societal need for expert clinicians. This course focuses on the complex management of healthcare problems experienced by special populations across the lifespan. Emphasis is placed on content specific to the special populations in the areas of infectious disease, psychiatric care, and care of medically underserved populations such as the homeless, refugee populations, and the incarcerated. Case examples and clinical experiences are provided that allows students to become increasingly independent in their own clinical practice with respect to critical thinking and problem-solving. Emphasis in role development is placed on effecting change and integration of the multiple roles for advanced practice nurses in an interdisciplinary, integrated health system.

PROJECT COURSES

In the first of six clinical seminars, Doctor of Nursing Practice students will—under the guidance of DNP-lead faculty mentors, nursing faculty, and external advisors—synthesize, integrate, and translate newly acquired knowledge and skills in the implementation and evaluation of their selected project over the course of the DNP program. This first seminar will assist DNP students in developing the abstract, problem statement, evidence review plan, and evaluation.

In the second of six clinical seminars, Doctor of Nursing Practice students will—under the guidance of DNP-lead faculty mentors, nursing faculty, and external advisors—synthesize, integrate, and translate newly acquired knowledge and skills in the implementation and evaluation of their selected project over the course of the DNP program. This second seminar will assist DNP students in developing the methodology including but not limited to: setting, sample size, description of measures with reliability and validity, procedures for implementation, and plans for data analysis or evaluation.

In the third of six clinical seminars, Doctor of Nursing Practice students will—under the guidance of DNP-lead faculty mentors, nursing faculty, and external advisors—synthesize, integrate, and translate newly acquired knowledge and skills in the implementation and evaluation of their selected project over the course of the DNP program. During the semester, students will present their proposals in an oral format for the three members of their DNP project team.

In the fourth of six clinical seminars, Doctor of Nursing Practice students will—under the guidance of DNP-lead faculty mentors, nursing faculty, and external advisors—synthesize, integrate, and translate newly acquired knowledge and skills in the implementation and evaluation of their selected project over the course of the DNP program. During this fourth seminar, DNP students will be required to complete research ethics education through the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI). The lead faculty mentor will guide the students in Institutional Review Board (IRB) policies, procedures, and approval process both at Sacred Heart University and from all institutions where they are conducting data collection and analysis.

In the fifth of six clinical seminars, Doctor of Nursing Practice students will—under the guidance of DNP-lead faculty mentors, nursing faculty, and external advisors—synthesize, integrate, and translate newly acquired knowledge and skills in the implementation and evaluation of their selected project over the course of the DNP program. During this fifth seminar, DNP students will be in the implementation phase of the research, including data collection and data analysis. Students will report results of the DNP project using appropriate statistics and analysis.

In the last of six clinical seminars, Doctor of Nursing Practice students will—under the guidance of DNP-lead faculty mentors, nursing faculty, and external advisors—synthesize, integrate, and translate newly acquired knowledge and skills in the implementation and evaluation of their selected project over the course of the DNP program. During this sixth seminar, DNP students will be summarizing the conclusions of the DNP project. Students will conclude with recommendations for future research and a final summary. Lastly, during this final semester, students will publicly present their DNP projects in an oral format for the three members of their DNP project team.

Under the guidance of their DNP Project Lead advisor and clinical mentor, students will synthesize, integrate, and translate newly acquired knowledge and skills in the implementation and evaluation of their selected project. Seminars will focus on guiding the student through all aspects of implementation and evaluation of their DNP project. Critique and peer review will be a major focus of the seminars. A role transition colloquium will assist the student in preparing for expanded roles and self-reflection. Clinical residency experiences will be individually designed within the context of the focus of the student’s track selection and scholarly interests.

Under the guidance of their DNP project dissertation advisor and clinical mentor, students will continue to synthesize, integrate, and translate newly acquired knowledge and skills in the implementation and evaluation of their selected project. Seminars will focus on guiding the student through all aspects of evaluation. Critique and peer review will be a major focus of the seminars. A role transition colloquium will assist the student in preparing for expanded roles and self-reflection. Clinical residency experiences will be individually designed within the context of the focus of the student’s track selection and scholarly interests.

ELECTIVE COURSES

This course is an introduction to palliative care nursing within a quality-of-life framework. The emphasis is on symptom management and care for the patient and family experiencing a life-threatening illness with a focus on end-of-life care. The student will explore the role of the advanced practice nurse on the interdisciplinary palliative care team. Nursing leadership responsibilities in palliative care as it relates to policy, research and practice to improve patient and system outcomes are discussed. This course is an elective 3-credit course for the post-MSN DNP student.

Ongoing transformation of the healthcare environment requires that nurse leaders develop capacities in new arenas in order to address aggregate health, system, and global needs. Guided by various leadership models in health care, this course explores advanced leadership development opportunities in data analytics, entrepreneurship, and globalization. The focus will be on understanding leadership models as guides to influence behavior, data analytics as a strategy for improving outcomes of care, entrepreneurship for professional autonomy and meeting social needs, and globalization for improving global health. This course is an elective 3-credit course for the post MSN DNP student.