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Walden’s DNP program provides students with the opportunity to pursue a doctoral degree in nursing practice. Walden offers a flexible, relevant, evidence-based program of study that prepares students in advanced specialty nursing knowledge and skills for healthcare practice at the doctoral level. The program provides rich and varied opportunities in practice settings aimed at assisting graduates to achieve the required outcomes and competencies for advanced specialty practice. Graduates engage in practice in such areas as administrative, informatics, leadership/management, and population-based specialties, and they focus their practice on aggregates, such as populations, systems, organizations, and state or national policy. These specialties do not have direct patient care responsibilities but must define actual or emerging issues and design appropriate aggregate health interventions (American Association of Colleges of Nursing [AACN], 2006).

The practicum experience helps students deepen their specialty area practice knowledge as they continue to enhance their leadership and nursing skills. To achieve this, students develop and engage in a relationship with an approved preceptor. During the practicum, students focus on skills at the aggregate, systems, and organizational levels; achievement of individualized Learning Objectives; and building and assimilating advanced specialty practice knowledge, as conceptualized by students and their preceptors and as approved by their practicum course Faculty Member. The practicum requires students to apply the knowledge, concepts, and competencies that they have acquired during their program of study, particularly in relation to their area of nursing specialization. During the practicum, students undertake a course assignment that gives them an opportunity to engage in and provide leadership for evidence-based practice in their chosen practice setting.

The primary objective of the practicum is to “build and assimilate knowledge for advanced specialty practice at a high level of complexity” (AACN, 2006, p. 19). Students should, therefore, focus on expanding their specialty practice knowledge at the aggregate level and their socialization to roles they are interested in occupying after the completion of the DNP program, as described in the following examples:

  • Leadership and management students: If students practice or desire to practice nursing as a nurse-manager, they should seek to learn about and gain experience pertaining to organizational and system issues in healthcare.
  • Nursing informatics students: After finding a preceptor in informatics, students might focus their new knowledge and expertise on community-, system- or organization-wide information systems development and implementation in a healthcare setting.
  • Advanced practice nursing students: After finding a preceptor in their specialty area, students may focus their practicum experience on developing and applying new knowledge and expertise in their specialty area along with expanding their responsibilities for managing the care of individuals, families, and communities within systems or organizations. In addition, students may examine the following areas based on their area of expertise: practice trends; possible systemic changes to improve healthcare quality and safety at the organizational or policy level; or improvements in evidence-based practice settings.

Note: The practicum experience should not include any direct, hands-on patient care or be at an academic site.

Additional Costs Associated With Practicum

Walden wants all students to be aware of the costs associated with practicum, which may vary depending on a number of factors. Generally, students will incur—and are responsible for—paying costs associated with completing practicum. Examples of costs include, but are not limited to, the following: travel to/from practicum site; relocation costs; living costs during practicum; books; course materials; professional liability insurance; onboarding/administrative fees required by practicum sites; health insurance; costs associated with completion/renewal of onboarding requirements (e.g., immunizations, physical exam, CPR certification, HIPAA and OSHA training, etc.); state licensing fees; photo ID badge; additional onboarding requirements of practicum site; lab coat if required by practicum site; stethoscope (NP courses); additional equipment costs, etc.

Walden does not expect students to pay preceptors, practicum sites, or site placement agencies and discourages students from doing so, due to conflicts of interest that can arise. Students who enter into payment arrangements with preceptors, practicum sites, or site placement agencies do so at their own risk.

Students who have questions about costs associated with practicum should contact Nursing Field Experience Office.

DNP Individualized Practicum Course Learning Objectives

Walden expects that the practicum experience will allow students to focus on developing and expanding their advanced nursing knowledge and skills at the aggregate, organizational, or policy level and will allow students to integrate a range of skills into a coherent professional identity as a nurse scholar-practitioner. General Practicum Objectives and outcomes are aligned with course and Program Objectives and outcomes. In addition, students are asked to set specific goals for their practicum experience that are consistent with their professional preparation and coursework. These goals will inform the evaluation of student competencies at the end of the practicum courses. These individualized Learning Objectives are developed by the students related to their areas of specialization and the relevant issues identified to engage within the healthcare environment and are intended to articulate with Course Objectives and outcomes.

In the first week of each practicum course, students will be asked—based on their previous assignments, experiences, practice setting(s), and interests—to formulate two to three individualized Learning Objectives that they wish to achieve during their practicum experience. As students approach their practicum, they should reflect on their coursework and identify two to three areas in which they feel the need for further growth in their area of specialization. There are myriad areas and activities in which students can participate. Students should discuss their Learning Objectives with potential preceptors prior to submitting their practicum applications to ascertain if the necessary resources are available at the identified practicum sites. Finally, students should prepare a set of measurable Learning Objectives, using Bloom’s Taxonomy, that specifies what they seek to achieve in their practicum experience. Practicum course Faculty Members will review and approve student self-developed Learning Objectives.

Practicum Guidelines

  • Within the practicum, students should define actual and emerging problems as they relate to aggregate systems in the delivery of healthcare. What are the key problems or issues related to the student specialization? Students may consult the literature, as well as their preceptors and practicum-setting leaders.
  • Students should review current professional practice standards, as identified in coursework, and determine those they would like to address during their practicum experiences.

Required Activities

Students must satisfactorily complete all the requirements of the practicum courses (Table 1A or 1B in accordance with the information provided in the course Syllabi. The DNP practicum consists of a series of the courses outlined in the tables below, which are taken one per term in the following sequence. The courses cannot be taken concurrently and must be taken in the prescribed sequence. The DNP Programs of Study (POSs) and course descriptions with prerequisites are found in the student catalog.

Completing DNP Practicum Hours

Students must complete the combined advanced specialty practice and course assignment hours during each DNP practicum course. 

Please Note: Students may NOT log any hours before the start of the course or before they receive approval.

All practicum hours must be completed by the end of Week 10 of the practicum course. Students may log hours independently; not all practicum hours need to be completed in person with the preceptor.

The practicum experience assists students in deepening their specialty area practice knowledge as they continue to enhance their leadership and nursing skills. To achieve this, students develop and engage in a relationship with an approved preceptor, and they focus on:

  • Acquiring skills at the aggregate, systems, and organizational level
  • Achieving individualized Learning Objectives
  • Building and assimilating advanced specialty practice knowledge—conceptualized by themselves, their preceptors, and their practicum Faculty Members—which is then approved by their individual practicum Faculty Members

The practicum experience and didactic course assignments provide an opportunity for students to apply advanced knowledge and leadership skills in the development of practicum projects at the organizational level. All work is completed under the guidance of an approved clinical preceptor at the practicum site.

Practicum courses and the corresponding course assignments are separate from the scholarly DNP Project. Students are encouraged to begin work on the DNP Project after completing NURS 8302: Leading Organizations for Quality Improvement Initiatives with a goal of earlier project completion (see Section 6. Doctor of Nursing Practice Project). The primary focus of practicum hours should be on achieving the goals and individualized Learning Objectives set for the practicum experience.

Please Note: Activities, such as reviewing literature, writing project papers, and preparing other course assignments, may not be included as part of the practicum hours.

The following activities count toward the required practicum hours:

  • Activities that are directly related to the completion of practicum goals, self-identified and Course Objectives, and Learning Outcomes
  • Implementation activities related to the DNP course assignments
  • Working with aggregates: populations, organizations, systems, or state- and/or national policy-level goals to define actual and emerging problems and to design aggregate-level health interventions

The following activities are NOT included as practicum hours:

  • Travel time related to the practicum
  • Communication, such as emails and phone calls—unless conferencing, meeting, or conducting practicum or course project-related communications
  • Review of literature, library work, or development of the written document related to the DNP Project
  • Writing and editing assignments related to the didactic portion of the practicum courses
  • Direct patient care

Practicum hours are course and term specific. Practicum hours do not carry over to a different term or practicum course if a student withdraws, drops a course, or fails a course.

Note: A minimum total of 1,000 practice hours are required to graduate from the DNP program. Up to 600 hours may be transferred in from master’s nursing programs, as applicable. Students who do not transfer enough practice hours to meet the 1,000-hour requirement may complete additional hours as necessary in Section 7. DNP Additional Field Experience Hours: NURS 8600/8601.

DNP Additional Field Experience Hours: NURS 8600/8601

The information in this section is about the NURS 8600/8601 course, which is not a requirement for all students. It only applies to students needing additional hours to achieve the total of 1,000 practice hours for graduation. Please note these important points:

  • Students need a minimum of 1,000 practicum hours to graduate from the DNP program, 600 of which may be transferred from practicum hours in their MSN program.  Students must contact their Student Success Advisor for assistance with the process to transfer hours. 
  • Students should consult their program of study or contact the Student Success Advising Team to determine whether additional hours are needed. If students need additional hours, they can get them by enrolling for 1–8 credits of NURS 8601 or 1–6 credits in NURS 8600.  Students are only able to register for 3 credits of 8600/8601 a term. 
  • Students are responsible for reviewing their program of study to determine how many credits have transferred from their MSN program and how many, if any, credits they need to achieve the total of 1,000 practicum hours.
  • One credit of NURS 8601 equals 80 practicum hours. One credit of NURS 8600 equals 72 hours. NURS 8600/8601 practicum hours are at the master’s level.
    • Students enrolled in the Program of Study prior to summer term 2021 may have to complete up to 6 credits of NURS 8600 by completing the 8600 Practicum Application in Meditrek®, and then registering for the course. Students should identify the number of credits they wish to take in each quarter within their 8600 practicum application in Meditrek®. The Office of Field Experience will process the course registration upon application approval. Each credit requires completion of 72 practicum hours.
    • Students may take up to 8 credits of NURS 8601 by completing the 8601 Practicum Application in Meditrek®, and then registering for the course. Students should identify the number of credits they wish to take in each quarter within their 8601 practicum application in Meditrek®. Students are limited to enroll in 3 credits a term.  The Office of Field Experience will process the course registration upon application approval.
  • Students must complete 80 practicum hours for each credit of NURS 8601 for which they register. For example, if students register for 3 credits of NURS 8601, they will need to complete 240 practicum hours (3 x 80). Students must be sure that they are able to put in the time for the number of credits for which they register.
  • Students must submit an appeal to register for more than 3 credits of NURS 8600/8601 to a maximum of 4 credits. Students must work less than part-time hours to be eligible for a possible appeal to enroll in more than 3 credits.  Students must submit documentation to verify their employment status with their appeal.  Without an approved appeal, students can only take up to 3 credits of NURS 8600/8601 in one quarter.  Appeals will not be approved for more than 4 credits in the same term.  Students must contact the Office of Field Experience for the appeal process, which is completed through Meditrek. 
  • Students will need an approved preceptor and field site for each quarter of NURS 8600/8601.
  • Students must submit a separate practicum application in Meditrek® for each term of NURS 8600/8601 by the deadline. The practicum application process is similar to the practicum application process described in this manual.
  • NURS 8600/ 8601 is not part of the DNP Project.

Overview of DNP Project

The DNP program at Walden University is designed to promote student development as a nurse leader and scholar-practitioner. Pursuant to this outcome, graduates are expected to engage in and provide leadership for evidence-based practice in their chosen practice settings, which requires theoretical, empirical, and experiential application of knowledge—including translation of research to practice; evaluation and improvement of healthcare practice and outcomes; and participation in collaborative scholarship. The purpose of the DNP Project is to guide students in designing, developing, implementing, evaluating, and/or translating, as well as subsequently disseminating, scholarship that addresses an evidence-based need or problem in their focused area of practice.

View resources related to the DNP Project for more information.