MADISON, Wis. – For the first time, two University of Wisconsin System comprehensive campuses could offer doctoral degrees. The new programs would address changing professional requirements in the field of nursing and help meet growing workforce demand for healthcare professionals.

The Board of Regents will consider this week requests from UW-Eau Claire and UW-Oshkosh to offer a doctorate of nursing practice – or DNP – at the campuses, which have historically offered only baccalaureate and master’s degrees.

If the Regents approve the request, UW-Eau Claire and UW-Oshkosh would become the first of the 11 UW comprehensive campuses to be granted the authority to offer a stand-alone doctoral program. Others have worked with UW-Madison and UW-Milwaukee on collaborative advanced degrees.

Increasing the System’s capacity to provide more graduate education for nurses and nurse educators is one important way to meet the workforce needs in this field, according to a UW System task force report presented to the Regents in February.

“These proposed programs respond to both the state’s workforce needs and our students’ educational needs,” said Rebecca Martin, UW System senior vice president for academic affairs. “This is another good example of how our UW institutions are meeting the university’s Growth Agenda for Wisconsin strategic goals to grow people, jobs, and communities for the benefit of the entire state.”

Increasingly, advanced practice nurses require doctoral degrees, according to recommendations from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. As colleges and universities across Wisconsin work to enroll and graduate more nursing students, the need for nursing instructors with advanced educational credentials is also growing.

“Our strong College of Nursing and exceptional faculty were innovative and forward-thinking when they identified the need several years ago for us to offer this degree,” said E. Alan Hartman, interim provost at UW-Oshkosh.

“The DNP program is essential if the university is to help advanced practice nurses in Wisconsin meet new educational recommendations,” said Dr. Mary Zwygart-Stauffacher, interim dean of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences at UW-Eau Claire.

Basic research doctorates, such as PhDs, will continue to be limited to the UW System’s two doctoral campuses, UW-Milwaukee and UW-Madison.

The DNP degree is a professional doctorate, which is a terminal degree for those engaged in a specific profession. Other professional doctorates include Medical Doctor (M.D.) for physicians and Juris Doctor (J.D.) for lawyers.

The Board’s education committee will review the campuses’ request Thursday, with the committee’s recommendation being reviewed by the full board on Friday. If approved, the DNP programs at UW-Eau Claire and UW-Oshkosh will begin in summer 2010.

Media Contacts

Michael Rindo UW-Eau Claire 715-836-4742
Jaime Hunt UW-Oshkosh 920-424-1398
David Giroux UW System (608) 262-4464