Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education Moves to Consider for Accreditation Only Practice Doctorates with the DNP Degree Title

WASHINGTON, DC, October 20, 2005 – In a move consistent with other health professions, the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), the autonomous accrediting body of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), has decided that only practice doctoral degrees with the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) title will be eligible for CCNE accreditation. The CCNE Board of Commissioners reached this unanimous decision on September 29, 2005 as part of its continuing work to develop a process for accrediting clinically-focused nursing doctorates.

“Consistent degree titling will help to reduce confusion among health care consumers about the qualifications of doctorally-prepared nursing clinicians,” said Dr. Mary Margaret Mooney, Chair of the CCNE Board. “With dozens of practice doctorates now in the development stage, CCNE deemed it important to articulate a position that may assist programs in adopting a common degree name.” Dr. Mooney represents CCNE on the AACN task force that has been charged to develop the DNP Essentials that will outline curricular expectations for practice doctorates in nursing. Represented on the CCNE Board of Commissioners, which is separate and distinct from the AACN Board of Directors, are nursing deans, nursing faculty, practicing nurses, professional consumers (employers of nurses), and public consumers.

CCNE's decision to consider for accreditation only practice doctorates with the DNP title is consistent with good accreditation practice and with similar actions taken by accrediting organizations for the other health professions. The nationally recognized organizations responsible for the accreditation of doctoral degrees in allopathic medicine, osteopathic medicine, optometry, podiatry, pharmacy, and chiropractic, as examples, require a specific degree title in order for the doctoral programs to qualify for the accreditation process. “This requirement helps to assure consistency in degree titling, which, in turn, helps to protect consumers and the general public – a primary goal of CCNE accreditation,” said Dr. Jennifer Butlin, Director of CCNE. “In other health professions where degree names have not been an issue, practice doctorates are consistently titled. For example, all of the accredited practice doctorates in physical therapy and occupational therapy are titled DPT or OTD, respectively.”

In response to numerous requests, CCNE is in the process of developing an accreditation process for DNP programs that will help assure educational quality and provide public protection. More than 40 nursing practice doctorates are now in development nationwide following AACN’s decision in October 2004 to endorse a position statement which called for moving the current level of preparation necessary for advanced nursing practice roles from the master's degree to the doctorate level by the year 2015. Included in this statement were the recommendations that all practice doctorates carry the same degree title, namely the Doctor of Nursing Practice or DNP, and that an accreditation process be developed to assess the quality of these programs.

Learn more about CCNE here. For details about the movement toward the practice doctorate in nursing, see here.