School of Nursing

DNP in Nursing

The doctor of nursing practice (DNP) prepares graduates to provide the most advanced level of nursing care for individuals and communities. This includes the direct care of individual patients, management of care for individuals and populations, administration of nursing systems, and the development and implementation of health policy. The DNP program places emphasis on practice related consideration beyond what a student typically acquires during their master's level education. The DNP is designed to prepare experts in specialized advanced nursing practice and focuses heavily on practice that is innovative and evidenced-based, reflecting the application of credible research findings. The practice-focused DNP generally includes integrated practice experiences and an intense practice immersion experience. Students in the DNP program generally carry out a practice application-oriented "final capstone project" which is an integral part of the integrated practice experience.

The DNP course of study is targeted to individuals with a master's degree in nursing. (e.g., advanced practice nurses [nurse practitioner, clinical nurse specialist, nurse midwife, nurse anesthetist], nursing management/administration, clinical nurse leader, etc.). In the future students will enter the DNP through additional entry options including BS in Nursing to DNP and Option (second degree) to DNP.

The current DNP program is forty-three credits in length and can be completed on either a full-time or part-time basis. It is expected that students completing the program will attain a minimum of 1,000 clinical hours, which includes incorporation of 500 clinical hours from their master's program. This program is currently under revision. For more information, please contact the graduate nursing coordinator.

The DNP program is approximately five academic semesters in length for full-time students and seven academic semesters in length for part-time students. A total of forty-three credit hours are required for completion of the DNP program; the total credit hours may increase if additional credit hours are needed to complete the capstone project. The number of required residency hours (contact hours) during the doctoral program is a minimum of 500 hours; when added to the clinical hours obtained in the applicants master's program the total should be a minimum of 1,000 contact hours.

Status of RN License and National/State Certification in Advanced Practice Specialty (if applicable):

Once a student is matriculated into the DNP program they are required to notify the coordinator of the DNP and graduate nursing programs of any change in status of their RN license or state/national certification.

Program Policies

In addition to the general policies described in the University of Southern Maine Graduate Catalog Academic Policies chapter, specific policies for the DNP program are as follows.

Admission Credit

This credit, which has been earned at USM prior to matriculation, must be approved by graduate faculty prior to admission and is subject to the condition that a grade of B or better was received for the coursework. No graduate courses that are older than five years will be accepted for admission credit. The prerequisite graduate course in statistics will not be accepted for admission credit if older than five years at time of admission. A maximum of six credit hours may be approved for admission credit provided a grade of at least a B was earned in each individual course. Exceptions to the maximum credits allowed at time of admission must be approved by the DNP Curriculum, Admission, and Advancement Committee (DNP/CAAC).

Transfer Policy and Credit

This credit, which has been earned at an institution other than USM, must be approved at the time of admission and request for approval included as part of the admission application. No graduate courses that are older than five years will be accepted for transfer credit. The prerequisite graduate course in statistics will not be accepted for transfer credit if older than five years at time of admission. Up to a total of nine credit hours may be approved as transfer credit provided a grade of at least a B was earned in each individual course. Transfer credits will be noted on the student's USM transcript and counted toward the student's degree.

  • For each graduate course the student wishes to be considered for transfer credit, the student must:
    • Have completed the course in question no more than five years prior to beginning doctoral study in nursing at USM.
    • Have submitted, as part of the application file, a transcript that indicates completion of the course under consideration for transfer, with a minimum grade of B.
    • Have submitted a complete syllabus (course name and number, course description and objectives, reading lists, etc.) and supporting documentation (evaluation information, papers/reports, etc.), and indicated the USM course name and number to be considered as equivalent.
  • The request will be reviewed by the DNP admissions committee and referred to the faculty designee who has expertise in the area of instruction. The faculty designee may ask for additional information from the student, including an official transcript, or consult with the previous instructor or other sources.
  • The designee will then make a recommendation to the DNP admissions committee, and the committee members will vote to determine whether the course(s) is/are considered equivalent.
  • The student will be informed of the decision by the chair of DNP admissions committee.
  • The result of the request will be documented in the student's SON academic file, and the appropriate information will be filed in the registrar's office.
Background Check Requirement

Students must pay for and complete a comprehensive background check prior to starting graduate clinical courses. In addition, students must sign a disclosure agreement allowing the school to provide access to this background information to our clinical affiliates. Affiliates have the right to deny clinical placement based on criminal background. Denial of clinical placements will stop progression in the graduate nursing program.

Health Requirements

Students must comply with School of Nursing clinical health requirements and any additional requirements of those health care agencies to which they are assigned for clinical residency.

Prior to starting APRN clinical specialty courses, a copy of unencumbered RN licensure must be on file in the School of Nursing. Health insurance, equal to or better than the USM Student Health Insurance Basic Plan, and professional rescue-level CPR certification are required prior to beginning clinical coursework. CPR certification is only accepted from the American Heart Association.

Program Grade Policies

In the doctoral program, all students must achieve a minimum of a B grade (3.0) for all required courses. The first time a student earns below a B, the course must be retaken successfully (B or above) in order to continue with program progression. A course can only be retaken one time. Unsuccessful completion of the course retaken or of a second course will result in dismissal from the DNP Program and academic withdrawal from the University.

In any semester in which the cumulative GPA falls below 3.0 (B average) the student will be placed on probation. Failure to correct probationary status after one semester will result in dismissal from the DNP Program and academic withdrawal from the University. An incomplete grade in a prerequisite course must be satisfied prior to progression to the next sequential course unless an arrangement involving the student and the faculty of both courses has been agreed to in writing. A 3.25 GPA is necessary for graduation. Students may only count 3 credits of B- in an elective toward graduation. A cumulative GPA below 2.67 (B-) in any one semester will result in dismissal from the DNP program and academic withdrawal from the University.

General Enrollment

The DNP Curriculum, Admissions, and Advancement Committee (DNP/CAAC) and program faculty reserve the right to review a student's record to make recommendations regarding progression.

Student Appeals and Complaints

The School of Nursing follows the academic appeals and complaints policies in the USM graduate catalog.

Non-Academic Complaints

To provide doctoral students with assistance in resolving disagreements or complaints of a non-academic nature, the University has designated the Office of Graduate Studies (OGS) to respond to student inquiries. The mission of (OGS) is to provide impartial guidance to students in identifying the nature of their disagreement or complaint. OGS staff will guide students to the appropriate University policy or procedure to utilize in seeking resolution. The academic policies described below are not applicable to student complaints about unlawful discrimination or sexual harassment; however, an OGS representative can advise the student about the University policies and procedures to follow when student complaints of this nature arise. Please contact the assistant dean of Graduate Studies at (207) 780-4812 for more information on this process.

Academic Grade Appeal Policy

The purpose of the academic grade appeal policy is to provide a fair and speedy review of all student appeals of academic grades in graduate/professional programs at the University of Southern Maine; this policy will permit such appeals to be determined in a manner that reflects the interests of both the student and the instructor. The only matters reviewable under this policy are claims of prejudice on the part of an instructor in an academic exercise or activity for which a grade leading to academic credit is awarded, and/or evident and prejudicial error in the administration or grading method used for any paper, examination, performance, or other exercise or activity for which a grade leading to academic credit is awarded, provided that the academic judgment used in determining the merits of the grade to be awarded to such exercise or activity shall not be reviewable.

An appeal under this policy shall be carried out according to the following procedures:

The student should present his or her claim, in writing, to the instructor involved and shall seek to have the matter resolved by the instructor. In no event shall there be a right of appeal hereunder for a claim presented to the instructor more than thirty days after a final grade is posted to the student's record. The instructor must respond within fourteen days of receiving the appeal.

If the student remains aggrieved by the decision of the instructor under step one, he or she may, within fourteen days after formal receipt of the instructor's final decision, appeal, in writing, to the director of the program in which the course or other exercise or activity is offered. The program director must respond within fourteen days of receiving the appeal.

If the student remains aggrieved by the decision of the program director of the department under step two, he or she may, within fourteen days after formal receipt of the program director's final decision, appeal, in writing, to the dean of the college in which the course or other exercise or activity is offered.

The dean, after discussion with the student and instructor, may resolve the grievance by agreement or render a decision within twenty-one days of receipt of the written appeal. The decision may be (a) that the appeal be dismissed, (b) that a grade be changed or the student be allowed an opportunity to retake an examination or other exercise, or (c) that another appropriate remedy be administered.

The student or the instructor may, within fourteen days of the receipt of the decision of the dean, appeal to the associate provost for Graduate Studies in writing, stating the reason for the appeal and delivering a copy of the writing to the opposing party and the dean. The opposing party may, within ten days of receipt of the reasons for appeal, reply in writing to the associate provost for Graduate Studies. The associate provost for Graduate Studies shall review the original claim, the written decision of the chairperson or program director and dean, and the written reasons for the appeal and reply. The associate provost for Graduate Studies shall, within twenty-eight days of receipt of the appeal and after reviewing the matter, prepare a written decision which shall uphold the decision of the chairperson, program director, or dean, or prescribe any other appropriate remedy. The associate provost for Graduate Studies' decision shall be final and not subject to further review. Copies of the decision of the associate provost for Graduate Studies shall be delivered to the student, the instructor, and the chairperson or program director and dean. The total time for resolution from the first appeal to the final decision shall be less than 120 days. If a faculty member/administrator fails to address the appeal within the specified time frame, the student may take the appeal to the next level.

Appeals of Dismissal or Withdrawal

All appeals of dismissal or withdrawal must follow the appeals process defined by the School of Nursing (refer to above Academic Grade Appeal Policy). The dean of the college must be included in this process. Within fourteen days following the student's receipt, in writing, of the decision by the School of Nursing Director, the student may appeal in writing to the associate provost for Graduate Studies. The decision of the associate provost for Graduate Studies shall be rendered within three weeks and shall be final. Please contact the assistant dean of Graduate Studies at (207) 780-4812 for more information on this process.

If a student withdraws or is withdrawn from the University during the first two weeks of the semester, there will be no courses or grades recorded. A student withdrawing or being withdrawn after the second week through the eighth week will receive a W grade for each course in which the student was enrolled. A student withdrawing or being withdrawn after the eighth week will receive regular grade designations as determined by the instructor(s). Under unusual circumstances, grades of W can be assigned after the eighth week if approved by the instructor and the director of the program, and with final approval of the associate provost for Graduate Studies.

General Enrollment Policies

When students have accepted admission to the DNP Program they must matriculate in the semester they were accepted or they will be withdrawn from the program.

Continuous Enrollment

Once matriculated into the DNP program, students must be continuously enrolled in the program unless a written, formal request for a leave of absence has been submitted to and approved by the coordinator of the DNP and Graduate Nursing Programs or the chairperson of the DNP/GCAAC. Continuous enrollment requires that every doctoral student must earn at least six credits toward his or her degree every calendar year from the time of the first registration until completion of all requirements for the doctoral degree. If the continuous enrollment policy is not maintained, a letter will be sent to the student, the advisor, and the Office of Graduate Studies from the coordinator of the DNP and Graduate Nursing Programs.

Leave of Absence

All doctoral students may request a leave of absence. The leave of absence waives the continuous enrollment policy for a period of one calendar year. Note that when a request for a leave of absence is made at midterm, USM's current grading policies apply. Approval of the leave of absence is the responsibility of the coordinator of the DNP and Graduate Nursing Programs or the chairperson of the DNP/GCAAC. Once a decision has been made regarding the leave of absence, a letter will be sent from the coordinator to the student, the advisor, the Office of Graduate Studies, and the registrar. To request a leave of absence, the student must:

  • Meet with his or her advisor to discuss the potential impact of the leave of absence on progression
  • Collaborate with the advisor and describe the terms of the request
  • Submit a written request to the coordinator or chairperson of the DNP/GCAAC with a copy to the advisor
  • Confer with the coordinator prior to the end of the leave of absence to ensure that the student can register
Background Check Policy

Affiliates have the right to deny clinical residency placement based on criminal background. Denial of clinical residency placements will stop progression in the graduate nursing program.

Inactivation Policy

Student admission, matriculation, and/or progression will be inactivated under the following conditions:

  • Failure to maintain continuous enrollment as outlined above
  • Absence of written communication with the advisor and/or coordinator regarding matriculation/progression plans (e.g., no request for leave of absence).

The School of Nursing will advise the registrar of the student's inactive status. Students, whose file has been inactive for greater than or equal to one calendar year, may be required to repeat courses or reapply for admission. Students who have been placed on inactive status must meet with the coordinator or the DNP/GCAAC chairperson to determine what requirements must be met to activate registration.

Time Limit

All requirements for the degree must be completed within six years from the date of first matriculation.

Professional Licensure

Students are required to maintain current registered professional nursing licensure and state and national certification in their specialty. Students are required to notify the graduate program coordinator of any change in status of their RN license.

New England Regional Student Program

The University of Southern Maine Doctor of Nursing Practice program is a participant in the New England Regional Student Program. For further information contact the Office of Graduate Admissions, University of Southern Maine, 96 Falmouth St., Portland, ME 04103, (207) 780-4386.

The School of Nursing's Baccalaureate and Master's Programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. For additional information contact: the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, One DuPont Circle, NW, Suite 530, Washington, D.C., 20036; (202) 887-6791.

The DNP Program of the School of Nursing is subject to change at any time without advance notice.

Commitment to Civility

The concepts of community and social justice are central to the mission and philosophy of the USM School of Nursing (http://usm.maine.edu/nursing). Faculty, students, and staff are committed to promoting a healthy and just environment that supports transformative learning, academic integrity, open communication, and personal and professional growth among the diverse members of our academic community. We believe that these commitments are grounded in intellectual openness, in personal and professional accountability, and in the democratic values of inclusivity and mutual respect which are guided by rational discourse and by a relational ethic of care.

We are grateful for the opportunities to learn and work with peoples of diverse ethnic, racial, religious, cultural, political, social, and economic backgrounds as well as with people who are disabled and people of different gender, sexual orientation, and age. Acknowledging the ethics and values that underlie the health professions, it is our belief that these ethics and values should be recognized, practiced, and cultivated in our learning and work environments. Our goal is to increase the awareness of students, staff, and faculty to the importance of civility, its implications, and the behaviors that are acceptable and not acceptable in our learning community.

Civility is the art of treating others, as well as ourselves, with respect, dignity, and care. Civility is apparent when we are sensitive to the impact that our communications, practices, and behaviors have on others, and when we acknowledge each person's self-worth and unique contributions to the community as a whole.

As members of the School, we are committed to learning and practicing in ways that support a caring and socially just community. The following are examples of how we create and sustain civility.

  • Support the autonomy and just treatment of self and others by facilitating an open, respectful, and caring environment.
  • Accept responsibility and accountability for one's own behavior when interacting with students, faculty, and staff.
  • Respect and protect the rights and property of others.
  • Speak or behave in a manner that does not disrupt or interfere with the learning or work of others.
  • Practice personal and academic integrity and expect it from others.
  • Demonstrate respect for others by actively discouraging discriminatory conduct, violence, coercion, or intimidation against any member of the academic community.
  • Demonstrate a willingness to listen and be open to hearing the perspectives of others. This includes actively seeking to hear from and making a safe space for voices of dissent.
  • Explore controversial issues through open dialogue and respectful deliberation.
  • Respect freedom of expression while recognizing that such tolerance does not require agreement with expressed ideas.
  • Engage institutional resources and persons to resolve conflict when necessary.

We will not tolerate harassing or discriminatory conduct of any kind. Everyone has the responsibility to foster a safe and supportive learning and work environment. This can include any individual asking others to stop disrespectful or abusive speech and/or disruptive behavior. Collectively, faculty, staff, and students in the School of Nursing are responsible for ensuring a safe and supportive learning and work environment.

Application Deadlines

March 15th for fall admission

  • Candidates should submit all application materials to: USM Office of Graduate Admissions, P.O. Box 9300, Portland, ME 04104-9300 by the application deadline.
Admission Information

Admission to the DNP program is on a competitive basis. The doctoral program in nursing seeks candidates whose master's preparation, scholastic achievement, professional experience, interest, motivation, and references are predictive of successful doctoral study. Applicants with a master's degree in nursing (e.g., advanced practice nurses [nurse practitioner, clinical nurse specialist, nurse midwife, nurse anesthetist], nursing management/administration, clinical nurse leader, etc.) are eligible to apply to the DNP program. Each student's application for admission will be evaluated based on a composite of the following recommended standards.

  • A master's degree in nursing from a degree program accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education or the National League for Nursing.
  • A minimum graduate cumulative grade point average of 3.25 on a 4.0 scale.
  • A graduate course in statistics taken within five years at time of application with a minimum grade of B or taken during the first year of matriculation into the DNP program.
  • Test Scores: MAT or GRE taken with five years of application submission
    • Miller Analogy Test (MAT): A score that ranks in the 45th percentile or higher for intended major.
    • Graduate Record Examination (GRE):
    • Taken prior to August 1, 2011 - combined aptitude scores of 1,000 (V.Q.) or higher.
    • Taken after August 1, 2011 - a verbal reasoning score of 153 or higher; a quantitative reasoning score of 147 or higher; and, a minimum of 4.0 on the analytic writing sample.
  • Submission of official TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or IELTS scores in addition to GRE scores if English is not first language.
    • Applicants whose native language is not English must have earned a TOEFL score of at least 550 on the paper-based test, 79 or higher on the Internet-based test, or 213 on the computer-based test, or an IELTS score of 6.5 or higher.
  • The completed DNP application must include an essay describing the candidate's motivation for pursuing this degree and the vision he/she has for the role. The essay is an important part of the application since it demonstrates the applicant's ability to think, organize ideas, and express him/herself well in writing.
  • Special essay instructions: maximum three typed double-spaced pages
    • Discuss your specific career goals for pursuing the DNP.
    • Identify prior experiences that have contributed to your decision to apply to a DNP program
    • Discuss how the goals, objectives, and curriculum of USM's program will enable you to meet your post-DNP career goals.
    • Identify a specific clinical problem or issue that could be the focus of your capstone project.
  • Current resume.
  • A scheduled formal interview with graduate faculty from the School of Nursing will be required following a preliminary review of all required admission materials. Individual consideration will be given to each applicant based upon the total profile presented.
Application material

In addition to the material described in the Admission Information section, applicants must also submit:

  • A completed online USM graduate application and application fee.
  • Three letters of reference reflecting professional practice and/or academic achievement.
  • Evidence (photocopy) of unencumbered current RN licensure as a registered professional nurse.
  • Evidence (photocopy) of current national certification in advanced practice specialty and state certification in which currently practicing if applicable.
  • Completion of the "Verification of Post-Baccalaureate Clinical and Practice Hours" form.
  • Two sets of official transcripts from all colleges or universities attended, including USM if applicable.

 For forms and additional application information, please visit the Graduate Admissions web page

Sample: Full-Time Program Sequence (43 credits)
FALL ICredits
     NUR 700 Genetics and Immunology: Scientific Foundations for Practice4
     NUR 702 Informatics Technology3
     MPH 525 American Health System3
          or Graduate Elective (600 or 700)3
     Total credits10
  
SPRING I 
     NUR 701 Ethical Approaches to Practice Dilemmas3
     MPH 670 Quality Improvement3
     NUR 625 Principles of Health Care Finance3
          or Graduate Elective (600 or 700)3
     Total credits9
  
FALL II 
     NUR 703 Professional Communication3
     NUR 704 Models of Care: Transforming the Practice Environment3
     AMS 535 Epidemiology3
     Total credits9
  
SPRING II 
     NUR 705 Clinical Residency & Capstone I6
     Graduate Elective (600 or 700)3
     Total credits9
  
FALL III 
     NUR 706 Clinical Residency & Capstone II6
     Total credits6
  
SPRING III 
     GRS 701 Doctoral Continuation1-3
     Total credits1-3

The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Courses - All NUR designated courses are "blended" format