The Growing DNP

In their seminal publication Crossing the Quality Chasm: A New Health System for the 21st Century, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) called for the redesign of health care delivery (2001). The IOM asserted that to ensure the patient safety, the education of healthcare professionals must be modernized. Interestingly, it wasn’t additional clinical hours that the IOM recommended, but instead the ability to translate knowledge into practice, apply new technology safety and appropriately, and work as a part of interdisciplinary teams (Institute of Medicine, 2003).

In response to the IOM’s call to action, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) developed a new practice doctorate for advanced practice nurses, the doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree (Dreher & Glasgow, 2010). The AACN created this degree to align directly with the IOM recommendations. To further demonstrate nursing’s dedication to improving patient outcomes, the AACN identified the DNP degree as the terminal degree for all areas of advanced nursing practice (AACN, 2004).

DNP Programs Across the Country 1

As of June 2015, there are 264 DNP programs across the United States with more in the planning stages.

Graphic - DNP Programs Per State in 2015

Number of Programs

2006: 20 Programs
2007: 53 Programs
2008: 92 Programs
2009: 120 Programs
2010: 153 Programs
2011: 182 Programs
2012: 217 Programs
2013: 241 Programs
2015: 264 Programs

Number of Students

2007: 1,874 Students
2008: 3,415 Students
2009: 5,165 Students
2010: 7,034 Students
2011: 9,094 Students
2012: 11,575 Students
2013: 14,688 Students
2014: 18,352 Students
2015: 22,563 Students*

Download the Growing DNP Infographic


A Brief History of the DNP 2


Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland opened the first clinical doctoral program in nursing, which offered a nursing doctorate (ND) degree.

Designed similar to the doctor of medicine degree, it didn’t require specialization. Rather, it provided an entry-level nursing education for students with a bachelor’s or master’s degree in another field.


The University of Kentucky College of Nursing opened enrollment for the first DNP program, which was a program model designed to prepare clinical executives only, not yet practitioners.


In February, there were 161 DNP programs in the planning stages.


This was the greatest single year increase, adding 52 new programs for a total of 194.


According to AACN, DNP programs are now available in 48 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.


Only 125 DNP programs have been accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

Download the Growing DNP Infographic


* Predictions based on current rate of growth of DNP programs against total number existing Advanced Practice Nursing programs.

1 For more information on the DNP initiative and a list of programs that offer DNPs, visit


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