The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) has accredited UCF College of Nursing’s Doctor of Nursing Practice (D.N.P.) program for five years—the maximum allowed for a new program. The commission granted the accreditation with “no issues or concerns,” the best-possible grade, until December 31, 2015. UCF is among the first in Florida to achieve accreditation of a D.N.P. program.

“The five-year accreditation speaks to the fact that we have an excellent program, solid curricula, that we’re open to peer review and that we have outstanding faculty, staff and students,” said college Dean Jean Leuner.

The accreditation process, including preparations by the college, took more than a year. A team from the commission visited the college in April 2010 and spent several days reviewing the program and interviewing faculty, students, alumni, staff, administrators and members of partner organizations such as Orlando Health and Florida Hospital.

According to the commission, accreditation contributes to the overall improvement and protection of the public’s health. As a voluntary, self-regulating process, CCNE accreditation supports and encourages continuing self-assessment by nursing education programs and supports continuing growth and improvement of collegiate professional education.

Achieving the five-year status is also important because it assures applicants of the high quality and integrity of the D.N.P. program, Dr. Leuner said.

UCF College of Nursing launched its D.N.P. program in 2007 as a post-master’s clinical doctorate. This track prepares advanced practice nurses as leaders in the care of vulnerable populations with an emphasis on organizational and systems leadership, information systems, technology and health care policy for advocacy in health care, and clinical prevention and population health for improving the nation’s health. The first cohort of students graduated in Summer 2010.

“Because we sought early accreditation of our program, all graduates, including our first cohort, are earning degrees from an accredited program that meets national guidelines for excellence and scope,” said Dr. Susan Chase, the college’s associate dean for graduate affairs.

In accordance with the American Association of Colleges of Nursing’s recommendation to have all advanced practice nurses prepared at the doctorate level by 2015, the college began offering a post-baccalaureate D.N.P. track in Fall 2010. Previously offered as a master’s degree, students with a B.S.N. degree are now admitted directly into the D.N.P. program to prepare for advanced practice certification as either a nurse practitioner (adult/gerontology or family) or clinical nurse specialist (adult/gerontology).

The association asserts, “The changing demands of the nation’s complex health care environment require that nurses serving in specialty positions have the highest level of scientific knowledge and practice expertise possible.” Research supports this claim and shows a clear link between higher levels of nursing education and better patient outcomes.