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A model of successful DNP and PhD collaboration

Cowan, Linda PhD, ARNP, FNP-BC, CWS (Associate Chief Nursing Service/Research)1; Hartjes, Tonja DNP, ACNP/FNP-BC, CCRN-CSC, FAANP (Clinical Associate Professor & Adult-Gerontology Acute Care DNP Track Coordinator)2; Munro, Shannon PhD, APRN, BC, FNP (Nurse Researcher, Nurse Practitioner, & IRB Co-Chair)3

Journal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners: February 2019 - Volume 31 - Issue 2 - p 116–123
doi: 10.1097/JXX.0000000000000105
Brief Report

Background and purpose: Within nursing education, the existence of two graduate-level programs has created some challenges. Role confusion between the practice-focused Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) and the research-focused Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) is compounded by competition for similar positions. Collaboration between DNP and PhD nurses, however, benefits the health care system and patients.

Methods: The complementary skills of these two groups of nurses are detailed, and a model for building PhD-DNP partnerships is presented based on a collaborative PhD-DNP project that resolved a negative trend in outcomes from cardiac surgery. The clinical pathway created by the project met national benchmarks, improved interprofessional staff communication, and resulted in uniform and improved patient care.

Conclusions: Although role differentiation for doctoral nurses can be challenging, role integration is critical. Building collaborative partnerships between these groups of nurses benefits the health care system, as well as patients, and this partnership is sustainable through successful collaborative projects.

Implications for practice: Doctoral-prepared nurses must understand each other's background and education and focus on what each can contribute. In the beginning, as with any collaborative relationship, collaborators must discuss and agree on ground rules, team roles, responsibilities, and time line for projects.

1HSR&D Center of Innovation on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (CINDRR), James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital, Tampa, FL,

2University of Florida, Gainesville, FL,

3Research and Development Service, Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Salem, VA

Correspondence: Linda Cowan, PhD, ARNP, FNP-BC, CWS, HSR&D Center of Innovation on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital, 8900 Grand Oak Circle, Tampa, FL 33637. Tel: 813-558-3932; E-mail:

Competing interests: The authors report no conflicts of interest.

Authors' contributions: Linda Cowan wrote the initial drafts of the manuscript, conducted the literature review, and served as mentor for the project. Tonja Hartjes developed the initial clinical pathway, assisted with data collection, conducted the literature review, and wrote sections of the initial manuscript draft. Shannon Munro reviewed the initial manuscript drafts and contributed to reference literature. All authors contributed revisions of the manuscript for final submission.

Disclaimer: Contents of this article do not represent the views of the Department of Veterans Affairs or the United States Government.

Received April 11, 2018

Accepted July 10, 2018

© 2019 American Association of Nurse Practitioners
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