Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)

Implementing the Science of Nursing

Health care innovation is constant – we are continually introducing new treatments, improved ways to deliver health care, and new policies to guide both patient care and system management. Nurses can … and should … lead health care systems and facilities in adopting and implementing leading-edge knowledge and strategies to improve the quality of care and patients’ lives. 

For decades, advanced practice nurses were required to hold a Master’s degree. As the field has grown more complex, the profession realized that such nurses needed more education, indeed that they should hold a doctorate. This type of practice doctoral degree, common across the health professions (Pharm D, MD), was endorsed by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) in 2004 as the degree required for entry into advanced practice. Other national professional organizations have advocated for the DNP degree including the National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties, the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists, and the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists

The DNP-prepared nurse will have the skills and knowledge to evaluate the evidence base – the most up-to-date research -- and to determine how to use outcomes in daily practice, implement new methods of treatment and health care delivery, and improve patient health both in terms of individuals and populations (groups of people who live in a specific area or who deal with a specific condition). 

Pitt Nursing introduced its DNP program in 2006, designing it to provide the required competencies and to meet the AACN’s mandate to incorporate “preparation with distinct specialties that require expertise, advanced knowledge, and mastery in one area of nursing practice.”  

Our Majors:

Core coursework explores topics in advanced evidence-based practice, organizational and systems leadership, clinical research and analytical methods for evidence-based practice, informatics and patient care technology, health care policy and finance, ethics, and inter-professional collaboration for improving patient and population health outcomes. Clinical experiences (wherever they take place) are carefully supervised experiences that hone competencies in the chosen area of study (administration, or nurse-midwifery, for example). 

There is a scholarly component to the DNP program of study – students will complete a culminating DNP project that synthesizes and applies knowledge gained to develop and test a solution to a significant quality improvement issue. The DNP is designed to prepare expert clinicians to USE the science developed by researchers to improve patient and system-level outcomes. Some recent DNP projects include :

Improving Health-Related Quality of Life and Reducing Hospital Admissions through Self-Care Management of Adult Patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Partnering with Healthy Patients to Understand and Decrease their Risk to Fall

Impact of Purposeful Leader Rounding on Patient Satisfaction Scores

Improvement in Colon Cancer Screening Rates with a Multi-Component Intervention in Three Satellite Community Health Centers: A Quality Improvement Initiative

Vaccination Pre and Post an Educational Web-Based Tool

Impact of a Modified Early Warning System (MEWS) on the Number of Rapid Response and Cardiopulmonary Arrest Calls in the Telemetry and Medical-Surgical Setting

Overcoming Breast Cancer Survivors Perceived Barriers to Physical Activity through the use of Tailored/Motivational Education

Evaluation of Rapid Shallow Breathing Index as an Indicator of Extubation Success in Adult Postoperative Cardiac Surgical Patients

The school has developed both BSN to DNP and MSN to DNP programs to benefit those with differing educational backgrounds. The MSN to DNP programs are also offered via Pitt Online, The online option is only available to applicants with a master’s degree in same focus except for Health Systems Executive Leadership (master’s degree may be in a related or same focus).  Pitt’s accessible distance learning platform which has won the Blackboard Catalyst Award four years in a row.

In Pitt’s DNP program, you will have the chance to learn from faculty members who have strong records of clinical, research, or administrative experience. Meet just a few of  the amazing people who teach in the DNP program: Donna Nativio, Margaret Rosenzweig, John O’Donnell, Judith F. Zedreck Gonzalez, Heeyoung Lee, Sandra Founds, and a  team of neonatal and pediatric nurse practitioners. 

Even though it is a relatively new degree offering, alumni of Pitt Nursing’s DNP program are already making a difference in their communities and in the profession. Pitt Nurses have risen to leading clinical roles across the nation. Here is a selected list of positions held by some of our recent graduates:

Certified Family Nurse Practitioner

North Country Healthcare


Chief Nurse Executive

Sutter Health Eden Medical Center


Nurse Practitioner, Urology

Children's Hospital of Orange County


Magnet Program Director & Performance Improvement Analyst

St. Cloud Hospital


Nurse Practitioner

Seymour Pediatrics


Clinical Nurse Specialist, Adult Critical Care

Spectrum Health


Chief Nurse Executive & Interim CEO

University Hospital


Director, Professional Practice

Holy Name Medical Center



Presbyterian Healthcare Services


Executive Director, Partnership for a Healthy Population

New York Medical College


Director, Professional Practice & Research

Valley Hospital of New Jersey


Neonatal Nurse Practitioner

Mount Carmel Health System


Director of Nursing Education, Practice & Research

Poconos Medical Center



The Heart Group Lancaster



Fox Chase Cancer Center


Clinical Leader, Woman Care Birth Center

UPMC Magee Women's Hospital


Chief Executive Officer

Select Specialty Hospital


Vice President & CNO, Patient Care

Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC


Lead Clinical Nurse Specialist - Critical Care Division

St. Luke's University Health Network


Executive Director

Mon-Yough Community Services


Adult Nurse Practitioner

VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System


Exec. Director, Medicine & Chronic Disorders Service Line

Pocono Health System



Advanced Surgical Hospital


VP of Inpatient & Emergency Service, Chief Nursing Officer

Western Psychiatric Institute & Clinic


Chief Clinical Officer

Clarion-Forest Visiting Nurses


Chief Nursing Officer & Chief Operating Officer

Baylor Medical Center at McKinney


Chief Nursing Officer

Bon Secours St. Mary's Hospital


Director, Institute for Nursing Practice

Bon Secours Health System


DNP Student Learning Outcomes

International Applicants

Graduate Academic Regulations and Student Responsibilities

View the DNP program brochure (PDF).

Academic Integrity Policy for Students