nursing schoolThe bombs were already bursting in air as the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing prepared to launch its Doctorate in Nursing Practice (DNP) program. There was red glare as well, all courtesy of a publication that questioned the whole idea, labeling the DNP not just a terrible notion but a danger to the nursing profession.

Mary Terhaar, DNSc, CNS, RN, remembers her colleagues using that publication as an inspiration, a rallying cry, and a “how-not-to.” The definition of a start-up, she reminds, is great risk combined with great opportunity. And a decade later, From Startup to Impact: A DNP Conference (July 8-9 at the Four Seasons Hotel in Baltimore, home of Fort McHenry and “The Star-Spangled Banner”) is her program’s way of showing that the DNP flag is still there.

From Startup to Impact brings stakeholders from education, healthcare, and the community together to share ways the DNP can continue to reshape nursing – for the better. “It is so difficult to lead nursing education and at the same time react to the needs of nursing practice,” Terhaar says. “We want to get people who teach to listen to the people who do.”

The plan is to foster an open and honest assessment of the state of the DNP. “We can no longer simply talk about our great potential,” says Terhaar, re-emphasizing the comparison to a start-up. “What are we delivering?”

The answer is results, she insists, rattling off a roster of Hopkins DNP grads – and current students – already producing good outcomes on alarm fatigue, pain management vs. sedation, post-traumatic stress disorder, sleep apnea, patient and organ transportation, “chronic cough,” and more.

These new nurse leaders could be the first line of defense against what DNP Conference keynote speaker Peter Buerhaus, PhD, RN, FAAN, of Vanderbilt University's School of Nursing calls the real threat to nursing: brain drain. He points toward a looming “tsunami” as a long-dreaded wave of retirements reaches the shores of academia, perhaps as early as 2016.

It’s a nice symmetry that From Startup to Impact comes on the heels of Baltimore’s Fourth of July celebration in the bicentennial year of Fort McHenry’s heroic 1814 stand against the British Navy. But the more important symbolism, to Terhaar, is fortifying the DNP—aligning the outcomes of DNP education with the demands of DNP practice. Does she believe it can work? “O,” she says, you bet.

The star-spangled lineup of speakers and panelists also includes (alphabetically):

Suzie Burke-Bebee, DNP, RN--senior health Informatician, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

David Chin, MD, MBA, Distinguished Scholar--head of the Executive Education Program at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Patricia Davidson, PhD, MEd, RN, FAAN--dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing.

Linda Dunbar, PhD--vice president of care management and population health at Johns Hopkins HealthCare.

Karen Haller, PhD, RN--vice president for Nursing and Patient Care Services at The Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Juliann G. Sebastian, PhD, RN, FAAN--dean of the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Nursing and president-elect of the American Academy of Colleges of Nursing.

Tracy E. Williams, DNP, RN--senior vice president and system chief nursing officer, overseeing care functions for Norton Healthcare's adult-service hospitals.

Laura Wood, DNP, MS, RN--senior vice president for Patient Care Services and chief nursing officer of Boston Children's Hospital.