The degree track, a post-master’s Executive Doctor of Nursing Practice (D.N.P.), is the most recent example of the College of Nursing’s efforts at creating cutting-edge programs that give its graduates the ability to adapt and lead during challenging times in healthcare. The track will prepare students to shape practice, and their projects will make a difference in improving care for patients where they work.

“For busy nurse leaders, the program promotes out-of-the-box thinking to shake up what they are already doing, to support them in becoming change leaders,” said Associate Dean for Graduate Affairs and Professor Susan Chase. “They’re not just responding to new policies, but informing the policy and putting into practice the evidence that is there.”

The federal Institute of Medicine and other groups are calling for more advanced educational programs as the nation’s healthcare environment grows ever more complex and demands of nurses a higher scientific knowledge and practice expertise. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) and its member schools also support the growth of practice-based doctoral degrees to address national concerns about quality of care and patient safety. UCF’s program will prepare nurses to use the latest technologies, trends and research to address changing regulations and anticipated nursing shortages over the next decade.

Designed for working professionals, the part-time, flexible degree consists of online courses and an intensive three-day seminar at the start of each semester. The seminar brings together theory and practice to round out the comprehensive program.

Curriculum focuses on areas such as decision making, leadership and organizational analysis. In addition to opportunities for online collaboration with peers, the seminar will allow students to meet their professors and develop deeper relationships with faculty members and their colleagues. Nationally recognized leaders in healthcare will share their best practices during the seminars and in presentations open to interested nurses in the Orlando area.

The first group of students, who will stay together for the required nine semesters, starts coursework in January.

As nurse leaders and administrators plan for policy changes, the Executive D.N.P. will provide them with analytic skills they can use to actively impact the environments in which they work, be it acute care, clinics, community health programs, Magnet preparation, strategic planning or overall interdisciplinary leadership. Through study and testing of evidence-based practice strategies, students will learn how to evaluate and apply existing research to improve practice innovations and outcomes.

“It’s a new opportunity to prepare nurse executives from different backgrounds to change practice in ways which reflect their professional and personal interests,” said Diane Andrews, assistant professor and program coordinator.

Led by UCF’s outstanding practicing faculty who have been on the front lines of change, students will put what they learn to work. The degree culminates with a project that is completed during residency, which allows nurse executives to examine how to improve patient care and safety.

“We want them to think about the whole system of care, such as how to guarantee quality for outcomes, while letting people on their teams be creative,” Associate Dean Chase said.

Nurse executives who hold a M.S.N. in Nursing Leadership and Management are encouraged to apply. However, interested, registered nurse leaders with a non-nursing master’s degree also may apply.

An online application with all supporting application materials is due Oct. 1. Eligibility will be considered with a portfolio review to determine course equivalency and verification of completed practice/laboratory hours.

For candidates without a M.S.N., individual plans of study will be developed to include missing elements of the M.S.N. curriculum. Interested applicants may review additional program information and apply online at