Goshen College and Eastern Mennonite University are thrilled to roll out the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program, starting in January 2018. After a three-year process from initial conception to its impending implementation this winter, the online joint-college doctoral program is now open to applicants.

Dr. Ruth Stoltzfus, director of graduate programs in nursing at GC and co-chair of the DNP program, is excited by the unique accessibility the program allows. Besides two residency requirements, the courses are entirely online and, as Stoltzfus termed it, asynchronous.

“This means we will never meet together,” Stoltzfus said. “For example, we will never have a 3 p.m. class on a Tuesday.”

The program is distinct for two reasons: it is the only doctoral-level degree available in any discipline at a Mennonite college, and it builds on the collaborative model that GC has used in other departments. Already, Goshen significantly collaborates with various Mennonite universities in their sociology and business departments. The DNP program is a logical extension of this good-stewardship mentality.

Jo-Ann Brant, Goshen College’s interim vice president of academic affairs and academic dean, said that this collaboration “spells out a new era of broad and friendly collegiality.”

Not only does the joint approach encourage the use of shared resources and experts in the field, but it also enables stronger ties to be built between Mennonite institutions of higher education.

One strength of the program is its consideration of students’ learning styles and emphasis on holistic learning.

“For my PhD, I had to write a dissertation. For the DNP, there’s not a dissertation; there is a scholarly project that everyone will do,” said Stoltzfus. “What they have to decide is whether they want that project to be at the patient level or at the systems level. Each one of the courses builds towards that DNP project.”

The program is currently accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), which is an overarching accreditation for doctoral programs in general. Once the program gets started, it will be eligible for accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), under which Goshen’s undergraduate nursing program is already accredited.

On the accreditation process, Ken Newbold, interim president, said, “The CCNE looks at whether what we anticipated actually happened. That accreditation gives us a certificate that people can look [at] to say, ‘That is a high quality program. If I’m going to spend my resources at this place, I’m going to have something valuable when I leave.’ It is the merging of professional standards with student needs.”

The 22-month program educates students on both individual patient outcomes and the larger healthcare systems at work in society.

“There is a great need to make sure that patient outcomes are improved and that money is spent wisely. That’s how this program will help,” said Stoltzfus.

The initiators of the program look forward to the January start date.

“It’s an exciting, scary time,” Stoltzfus said. “Really, this is a huge undertaking. Who would have thought that GC and EMU would dare think about offering a terminal degree?”

It is also a vital step in recognizing the importance of non-traditional students to GC’s community.

“Just in the fall, we had an incoming 85 [nontraditional] students,” said Brant. “They’re not as visible because they’re not using services at the same time or to the same extent as the 18 [to] 22-year-old traditional students, but they are a significant part of our community.”

The Doctor of Nursing Practice program is just another way for both Goshen College and EMU to meet the diverse needs of their student bodies.