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Doctor of Nursing Practice Program Online

Doctor of Nursing Practice Program Online

Online Nursing Doctorate Degree

Enroll in the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program at A.T. Still University’s College of Graduate Health Studies and expand your ability to be a leader in developing innovative practice in a variety of settings while advancing science. 

Focusing on the concepts of strategic organizational leadership, the DNP program educates the professional nurse in the translation of evidence-based practice results into a variety of employment and practice settings. 

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The DNP requires successful completion of seven courses and a three-block practice-directed specialization project that focuses on designing, implementing and evaluating a quality improvement project, practice innovation or policy change. All didactic coursework is delivered online, with the opportunity to begin your doctoral studies at an in-person residency. The program can be completed in under two years. 

Whether your career goals are to advance to an executive position or to enrich your current practice, the DNP at ATSU will provide you with the foundation necessary to become an influential nursing leader. ATSU’s DNP Program seeks to prepare graduates who are: 

  1. Competent leaders in a variety of healthcare organizational systems.
  2. Effective decision-makers through interprofessional collaborations.
  3. Prepared to influence positive healthcare outcomes through evidence-based practice, applying  system improvement and innovation.
  4. Engaged leaders who are equipped to influence healthcare policy.


Clinical Practice Hours

The Strategic Organizational Leadership specialty in the ATSU’s DNP program requires a practice component of direct clinical practice hours. Nationally, it is common for DNP students to find their own clinical sites because they are in the best position to know their own communities and the best fit for them. Think creatively, including healthcare organizations in your community or organizations, that provide healthcare services. What type of healthcare organizations are around you? All practicum experiences require a formal Clinical Affiliation agreement that we will be glad to assist you with in securing.

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  • University Catalog+

    • University Catalog Program guide

      Review the University Catalog to learn more about the program and university. Read detailed course descriptions and obtain answers to many of your questions regarding application and tuition.

  • Career Advancement+

    • Potential career advancement opportunities are boundless with a DNP from A.T. Still University:

      • Chief operating officer, president, or vice president of a healthcare system
      • Chief nursing officer or assistant chief nursing officer of a healthcare facility
      • Clinical researcher
      • Healthcare insurance or association administrator
      • University administrator or faculty
      • Healthcare consultant
      • Healthcare business owner
      • Health policy director/adviser/consultant
  • Learning Outcomes+

    • The DNP Program prepares the graduate to achieve the following program outcomes: 

      •  Integrate science and nursing-based theories and data-based concepts to develop, critically appraise, and translate scholarship into practice. (DNP Essential I)
      • Articulate organizational theories and systems thinking to improve the quality, cost-effectiveness, and safety outcomes in healthcare. (DNP Essential II)
      • Correlate analytical methods and evidence to improve practice and the practice environment for the individual, aggregate and population. (DNP Essential III)
      • Apply knowledge of patient care technology to improve healthcare outcomes. (DNP Essential IV)
      • Demonstrate leadership in the assessment, implementation and evaluation of  health policy that addresses the underserved population through ethical and equitable advocacy. (DNP Essential V)
      • Lead and collaborate with interdisciplinary teams using communication, consultative, and leadership skills to improve quality and safety in health care. (DNP Essential VI)
      • Analyze epidemiological data to synthesize concepts related to health promotion, socioeconomic dimensions of health, and population health to address the underserved population. (DNP Essential VII)
      • Provide leadership in the assessment, implementation and evaluation of healthcare deliverables within a quality improvement framework, addressing a variety of clinical situations that require advanced critical thinking.  (DNP Essential VIII)

Doctor of Nursing Practice Degree Faculty

The ATSU, faculty and staff are dedicated to the success of each health professions degree student. Our online nursing degrees offer challenging, interprofessional educational experiences that enables intellectual and practice advancement.

All ATSU nursing faculty hold doctoral degrees, bringing their diverse academic and professional backgrounds in nursing practice, leadership, and management to the online classroom and other nursing learning experiences. Their academic areas of expertise include executive administration, health policy and advocacy, community and rural health, advanced nursing practice, child and adolescent health, mental health, public and community health, palliative and end-of-life care, health information systems, and nursing research and education, among many others. ATSU’s graduate nursing faculty enjoy online teaching and are committed to providing innovative instructional opportunities and experiences.

  • Dean +

      • Don Altman, DDS, DHSc, EdD, MPH, MBA, MA Dean Don Altman, DDS, DHSc, EdD, MPH, MBA, MA Dean
        Don Altman, DDS, DHSc, EdD, MPH, MBA, MA Dean LinkedIn

        Don Altman, DDS, DHSc, EdD, MPH, MBA, MA, is the Dean of the College of Graduate Health Studies (CGHS) at A.T. Still University (ATSU). He also serves as director of public health at ATSU’s Arizona School of Dentistry & Oral Health (ATSU-ASDOH). Dr. Altman has been with ATSU since October 2006.

        Dr. Altman graduated from the University of Texas Dental Branch (DDS) in 1983. He completed his Master of Public Health degree at the University of Texas School of Public Health in 1989 and became Board Certified in Dental Public Health in 1999. Dr. Altman completed his MBA at the University of Phoenix (2002) and a MA in Bioethics from Midwestern University (2004). He graduated with a Doctor in Health Science (DHSc) degree in March 2012 from the Arizona School of Health Sciences at A.T. Still University (ATSU-ASHS) and his EdD from Southern New Hampshire University in March 2016.

        Dr. Altman has worked for The City of Houston, the State of Texas, the State of Arizona, as well as The Principal Financial Group. Dr. Altman’s public health experience includes: serving as President of the Arizona State Board Dental Examiners; serving as President of the Arizona Public Health Association; volunteering with Health Volunteers Overseas (Cambodia and Vietnam); Director of the National Oral Health Leadership Institute; and serving as the Consumer Representative to the Dental Products Panel for the Food and Drug Administration. On May 1, 2012 he was appointed as a Director to The American Board of Dental Public Health and is currently the president.


        Dr. Altman’s research interests are currently centered on public health and higher education. He has published articles in the Journal of Dental Education, Journal of the American Dental Association, Public Health Reports, Special Care in Dentistry, and Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology.

  • Associate Dean of Academics and Assessment +

      • Jim Farris, PT, PhD Jim Farris, PT, PhD

        Jim Farris, PT, PhD, is the associate dean for academics and assessment in A.T. Still University’s College of Graduate Health Studies (ATSU-CGHS). Dr. Farris earned his bachelor’s degree in physical education in 1987, and master’s degree in exercise science in 1989, both from California State University, Fresno; as well as a bachelor’s degree in physical therapying 1999 from Arkansas State University. His doctoral degree was conferred by The Ohio State University in 1995, where his studies focused on exercise physiology and nutrition. His current scholarship efforts are aimed at cardiopulmonary fitness throughout the lifespan.

        He joined ATSU in 2009, started his associate dean role in 2020, and is now in his 25th year of higher education and administration. Dr. Farris has over a decade of academic administration and assessment experience as a department chair and has strived for overall educational excellence in that role. He completed the American Physical Therapy Association’s Education Leadership Institute Fellowship, is an Educational Leadership Institute Fellow, and has served on the board of directors for the American Council of Academic Physical Therapy before joining ATSU-CGHS.


        He enjoys serving the community, and one our nation’s most underserved populations, through his role as a clinical director for the FUNfitness program that is part of the Special Olympics Healthy Athlete’s program. His home is in the west where outdoor activity and sunshine is abundant. Work-life integration is a goal and he “sharpens the saw” through golfing, cycling, fishing, hiking, cooking, brewing, and yardwork.

  • Chair, Nursing Program +

      • Karin Polifko, PhD, RN, CNE, NEA-BC Karin Polifko, PhD, RN, CNE, NEA-BC

        Dr. Polifko’s career has spanned both the academic and service fields of health care. Along with teaching experience at the undergraduate, graduate and doctoral levels, she has held leadership positions in higher education, including Department Chair, Associate Dean for Academic and Student Affairs, Academic Director, Campus President and Vice President, Operations and Academic Affairs. 

        Dr. Polifko has extensive administrative experience in various acute care health settings, in the roles of Vice President of System Development and Research, Administrative Director for Critical Care Services, Director of Nursing and Clinical Nurse Specialist. Past consulting projects include college and program development, strategic planning and prioritization, accreditation preparation, organizational change assessment and evaluation, change management and leadership assessment. Her first textbook, Case Applications in Nursing Leadership and Management was published in 2004, Concepts of the Nursing Profession, was published in 2007 and The Practice Environment: Issues and Trends was published in 2010.  Dr. Polifko has presented in a wide variety of workshops and seminars both nationally and internationally.

        Dr. Polifko received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, her Master of Science in Nursing from the University of Pennsylvania, her PhD in Public Administration / Urban Health Services and a certificate in Advanced Policy Analysis from Old Dominion University. She is certified as Nurse Executive-Advanced through ANCC and holds a certification as a nurse educator through NLN. 

  • Faculty +

      • Jayme Ambrose, DNP, MS, BSN, RN, CCM Jayme Ambrose, DNP, MS, BSN, RN, CCM

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      • Leanna Brown, DNP, MBA, ACNP-BC Leanna Brown, DNP, MBA, ACNP-BC

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      • Diane Drexler, DNP, MBA, BSN, RN, FACHE Diane Drexler, DNP, MBA, BSN, RN, FACHE

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      • Helen Ewing, DHSc, MN, BN, RN Helen Ewing, DHSc, MN, BN, RN

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      • Clair Lunt, DHSc, MEd, MN, RN Clair Lunt, DHSc, MEd, MN, RN

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      • Lisa Palucci, DNP, MSN, BSN, RN, NE-BC, CPHQ, CSSGB Lisa Palucci, DNP, MSN, BSN, RN, NE-BC, CPHQ, CSSGB

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      • Bobbi Winter, DHSc, MBA, MSN, RN Bobbi Winter, DHSc, MBA, MSN, RN

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Doctor of Nursing Practice degree admissions

ATSU admits students with an active RN license who graduated from an accredited graduate program. Prospective students are admitted through a review of their application, previous academic records, professional experience and identified motivational factors for success at the doctoral level.

  • Requirements +

      1. Application:
        • Completed and signed admissions application along with a nonrefundable application fee.
      2. Academic:
        • An accredited degree from a university recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (bachelor’s degree for masters programs and a master’s degree for doctoral programs). Applicants who graduated from a university outside the United States may have to provide a degree equivalency evaluation.*
        • Official transcript from the qualifying degree-granting institution. For students using VA benefits transcripts for all institutions attended are required.
        • Minimum Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA) of 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale) at the qualifying degree institution.
      3. Elements of success:
        • A current resume.
        • Completion of a brief essay.
        • English proficiency **
        • Meet ATSU technology requirements.***

      *Applicants who have graduated from a foreign college or university should submit acceptable evidence of U.S. degree/course equivalency. All course work taken at the foreign institution must be evaluated for American institution equivalence by one of the following services:


      • Option 1 - English is your first language.
      • Option 2 - Graduated from a regionally accredited four year college/university in the United States with a BA/BS or graduate degree.
      • Option 3 - You are demonstrating your English proficiency by submitting acceptable scores on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL).
      • CBT - minimum total score of 213 Minimum of 22/Reading Skills section | Minimum of 26/Writing Skills section
      • iBT - minimum total score of 80 Minimum of 22/Reading Skills section | Minimum of 24/Writing Skills section
      • PBT - minimum total score of 550 Minimum of 57/Reading Skills section | Minimum of 61/Writing Skills section
  • Tuition+

    • Review tuition and fees for the Doctor of Nursing Practice program. Please note tuition and fees are subject to change.

The Family and Culture

female nurse with clipboard nurse smiling with patient diverse nurse in scrubs nurse with doctor doctors in white coats discussing at table


Doctor of Nursing Practice Curriculum Overview

The DNP in Strategic Organizational Leadership program at A.T. Still University features leading-edge information and experiences contributed by faculty in various advanced practices. The goal of the DNP is to develop a specialty practice that influences healthcare outcomes for clients who range from the individual to a contained population. Benefits of earning the DNP include the acquisition of advanced competencies in leadership, quality improvement, collaborative practice, health policy, information systems and population health within an ethical framework. The clinical focus of the DNP program is that of practice specialization within the discipline. The completion of the DNP Project demonstrates growth in knowledge and skills in nursing leadership and advancement of practice and also provides documentation of the achievement of The Essentials of Doctoral Education for Advanced Nursing Practice (AACN, 2006). 

Courses include healthcare economics and financial management, quality improvement and performance excellence, health policy, interdisciplinary communication and collaboration, evidence-based practice, advocacy, and change management. 

Students will begin their program with an on-site or virtual residency to develop a foundational understanding of the DNP program. Students will meet with course faculty and their peers to develop their clinical practice specialty plan, which encompasses clinical hours. Depending on the number of graduate clinical hours brought into the DNP program, classroom content is supplemented and enriched with focused clinical practice hours. 

The DNP Project is the culmination of scholarly work completed in the Doctor of Nursing Practice program. The goal of the three-block DNP Project is threefold: 

(1) contribute to student professional and personal knowledge development so that nurses may practice at the most advanced level, 

(2) lead to sustainable quality improvement change in a healthcare setting, and 

(3) share project outcomes that enhance practice and advance the nursing profession through dissemination. 

The DNP Project can be a quality improvement, practice innovation or policy change. It is an interactive and iterative process, where students identify a particular issue or problem relevant to a healthcare practice site, resulting in a practice-application-oriented product. Students will complete a thorough scholarly review of the literature to gain a better understanding of the selected issue; apply evidence to design, implement and evaluate a quality improvement project, practice innovation or policy change; and use project findings to offer insights into how to best respond to the selected issue or problem. Findings from projects described above will be disseminated to inform and advance practice, care delivery, health outcomes, or organizational performance.

  • DNPP 7000 Strategic Organizational Leadership (3 credit hours)+

    • Students examine strategic connections and relationships in healthcare practice, improvement and policy within ethical parameters. Leadership and nursing theories will be used to develop the DNP project utilizing the program's mission, goals, and expected outcomes while incorporating AACN's Essentials of Doctoral Education for Advanced Nursing Practice.

  • DNPP 7100 - Nursing Inquiry, Evidence-Based Practice, and Change (3 Credits)+

    • Students use practice-focused inquiry to analyze data and national benchmarks to inform health care planning, practice decisions, program evaluation, and outcome management plans and processes. Focus is on how data can best be used to initiate and manage change in healthcare environments, systems, and care delivery.

  • DNPP 7200 - Healthcare Economics and Financial Management (3 Credits)+

    • Students learn key financial and economic principles needed to examine decision making and overall organizational finance strategy to support quality care and improve healthcare outcomes. Emphasis is on macro- and microeconomics, risk analysis, cost-effectiveness, evaluation of financial requirements and processes, staffing, and budgeting.

  • DNPP 7300 Health Policy, Law, and Advocacy (3 Credits)+

    • Students learn how policy and law can affect the healthcare industry. Topics include leadership in health care reform, social justice, equity and ethics, legal issues, health policy analysis and development, and advocacy. Focus is on preparing nurses to analyze and influence health policies and to advocate for changes in organizational systems, communities, U.S. and global populations, and in the nursing profession.

  • DNPP 7400 Quality Improvement and Performance Excellence (3 Credits)+

    • Students examine concepts and principles of continuous improvement, methods of monitoring and evaluating patient safety indicators, and organizational and employee performance. Emphasis is on leadership and collaboration and the use of evidence-based data to select, design, implement, and evaluate whole person, quality-driven change. Students will also explore strategies to achieve employee performance excellence, and more efficient and effective organizational system and consumer health information practices.

  • DNPP 7500 Population Health: Program Development and Evaluation (3 Credits)+

    • Students use statistical information and scientific data to strategically evaluate change initiatives and outcomes in practice and healthcare systems. Interdisciplinary collaboration models and frameworks are used to help develop and evaluate a sustainable implementation initiative that improves patient and population health outcomes.

  • DNPP 7600 Clinical and Theoretical Applications (3 credits)+

    • This course focuses on the acquisition of direct clinical practice hours which span over several academic terms. The student prepares, develops and completes clinical hours with a healthcare facility under the guidance of a site preceptor and a member of the Nursing Program faculty.

  • DNPP 8000 DNP Project Conceptualization (3 credits)+

    • Students will apply content from previous and concurrent courses, including DNPP 7000, DNPP 7100, DNPP 7200, DNPP 7300, DNPP 7400, DNPP 7500 to inform student conceptualization and outlining the blueprint of their proposed DNP Project.

      Prerequisites: DNPP 7000, 7100, 7200, 7300, 7400, 7500, 7600.

      Co-requisite: DNPP 7600.

  • DNPP 9100 DNP Project Design (3 credits)+

    • Students will design their DNP Project, incorporating theory and QSEN competencies to address a quality improvement healthcare issue, develop a new policy or an innovation in practice, while applying evidence or translating evidence. The student will complete and defend a DNP Project proposal in this course.

      Prerequisites: DNPP 7000, 7100, 7200, 7300, 7400, 7500, 7600, 8000.

  • DNPP 9200 DNP Project Implementation (3 credits)+

    • Students will implement the approved DNP Project proposal as they address a quality improvement healthcare issue, develop a new policy or an innovation in practice, while applying evidence or translating evidence.

      Prerequisites: DNPP 7000, 7100, 7200, 7300, 7400, 7500, 7600, 8000, 9100.

  • DNPP 9300 DNP Project Evaluation (3 credits)+

    • Students will evaluate the results of the DNP Project addressing a quality improvement healthcare issue, in developing a new policy or an innovation in practice, while applying evidence or translating evidence. Students will defend their DNP Project in this course, with the option to present their findings to the organization via written or verbal communication methods.

      Prerequisites: DNPP 7000, 7100, 7200, 7300, 7400, 7500, 7600, 8000, 9100, 9200.