DNP Essentials and Career Outcomes


The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) outlines eight essentials for advanced nursing practice doctoral programs. Nursing@Simmons integrates these AACN essentials into its curriculum to ensure students graduate prepared to lead in health care.

1. Scientific Underpinnings for Practice

  1. The complex sciences behind a doctoral nursing education reflect the richness of the nursing practice at its highest level. The Simmons DNP program integrates these sciences and theories into its curriculum so that students can apply this knowledge to their careers.
  2. The scientific foundation for nursing practice, according to the AACN, incorporates both the natural and social sciences to ensure that doctoral-level nurses become well-rounded practitioners. The Simmons DNP program reflects this multifaceted approach through a curriculum that features advanced methods for knowledge generation; biostatistics for clinical data management; and leadership in informatics, performance improvement, and ethics.

2. Organizational and Systems Leadership for Quality Improvement and Systems Thinking

  1. Leadership within organizations and systems is critical to improving patient outcomes and health care. In the DNP program, through courses such as Quality Improvement in Health Care and Professional Leadership and Practice Change, students will learn to use informatics, data, and technology as well as understand organizational models, policy development, and practice management to improve processes and implement change in health care systems.

3. Clinical Scholarship and Analytical Methods for Evidence-Based Practice

  1. The AACN describes dissemination and integration of research as the key activities of DNP graduates. Through the Simmons DNP program, students will use their clinical settings as the primary focus for their evidence integration, practice change, and initial internal dissemination. After completing the NURS 750 DNP seminar series, students will apply these elements of the degree program through their DNP projects and share their findings with peers, faculty, and industry leaders at Simmons’ DNP symposium, which is held after the final term.

4. Information Systems/Technology and Patient Care Technology for the Improvement and Transformation of Health Care

  1. DNP students are distinguished from other nursing professionals by their training in using information systems and technology to provide patient care and lead organizations. Through these information management skills, which students will gain in courses like NURS 660: Evidence-Based Practice: Informatics, DNP graduates will be prepared to assess the efficacy of patient care technology within a specific area of practice.

5. Health Care Policy for Advocacy in Health Care

  1. In courses such as NURS 670: Health Policy, DNP students gain the skills to design and apply policies that affect health care financing, safety, quality, practice regulation, access to care, and efficacy of care. The AACN and Simmons’ DNP program recognize that through policy, DNP graduates can directly influence issues of social justice and equity in health care.

6. Interprofessional Collaboration for Improving Patient and Population Health Outcomes

  1. Leading health care professionals must work in collaborative teams to ensure effective and equitable care. Through live classes, social groups, and the on-campus symposium, DNP students will have the opportunity to network and collaborate with classmates from diverse professional backgrounds, Simmons faculty, and leaders in the field. Through classes like NURS 650: Epidemiology, students will learn to work collaboratively in the field with professionals and teams across disciplines to improve health care outcomes.

7. Clinical Prevention and Population Health for Improving the Nation’s Health

  1. DNP students will explore methods for promoting health, preventing disease, and reducing the risk of disease among individuals, communities, and large populations. Courses such as NURS 620: Ethical and Legal Issues in Advanced Practice will help students understand, navigate, and adapt to the environmental, socioeconomic, and cultural dimensions affecting health in communities, which will, in turn, allow them to provide better care.

8. Advanced Nursing Practice

  1. The DNP student has the exciting opportunity to apply their knowledge of complex health care practice to highly specialized and advanced leadership roles. Through Simmons’ DNP program, they will learn to create, implement, and evaluate evidence-based interventions that enhance population health and clinical prevention, with the potential to make a powerful difference for patients, families, and communities. Mastering these key skills will begin during NURS 640: Advanced Research Methods and continue throughout the program.

Learn more from our program director about what you can expect to do once you earn your DNP.