FNP/WHNP Philosophy and Design

Graduate School of Nursing

FNP/WHNP Philosophy and Design


The Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) and Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP) Programs are dedicated to preparing graduate nurses for clinical practice, management, research and leadership in the advanced practice role. The rigorous curriculum prepares graduates to sit for national nurse practitioner certification examinations while stressing concepts directed toward delivering care in the federal health care system; making USUHS graduates uniquely qualified to provide quality care in diverse and austere settings. The program emphasizes research and statistical methodologies enabling our students to critically analyze scientific literature, evaluate nursing outcomes and participate in research activities.


The FNP & WHNP DNP programs are 36 months of full-time study combining lecture and clinical experiences. The program extends to 3 years in length to incorporate a series of courses focused on building systems-level competence and expertise. A life-span case study approach is used to develop student clinical skills, focusing on the development of clinicians who practice independently and collaboratively within the NP role. Over the three year program, students are continuously exposed to learning experiences that help them develop differential diagnosis and critical thinking skills. On average, graduates obtain over 1700 hours of clinical experience by working with experienced nurse practitioner or physician preceptors in civilian and military agencies.

In addition to developing clinical competence, the DNP program provides graduates with the skills needed to function as leaders within complex healthcare systems. DNP students acquire systems-level capabilities through coursework in systems and organizational leadership, healthcare policy, population health, epidemiology, informatics, healthcare economics and a series of courses developing their ability to appraise and apply evidence to clinical practice. Students develop their specialty-specific DNP projects starting in the first year of the program within research, evidence-based practice and statistics courses. During the second year of the program, students hone and submit project proposals. Students implement and evaluate the project in the third year, and present the findings at their clinical site and the university prior to graduation.

The culminating milestone for DNP students is the development of an electronic portfolio, showcasing mastery of the DNP Essentials. Although each student's portfolio is unique, all students must provide evidence of development in five key areas: personal, professional, clinical, scholarship and dissemination.

The program meets or exceeds the 2012 National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties' (NONPF) Core Competencies for Nurse Practitioners, 2013 NONPF Population-Focused NP Competencies, 2011 American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) MSN Essentials, the 2006 AACN DNP Essentials and the 2016 NTF Criteria for Evaluation of NP Programs.