During the course of the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program, you will be required to reach certain benchmarks similar to those of a resident doctoral student: Candidacy, Comprehensives, and Final Oral Presentation. Your academic adviser, the DNP project course instructor, and a member of the graduate faculty from the College of Nursing will serve as your doctoral committee. They will monitor your progress and evaluate your performance throughout the program.

Although your courses are online, you will be required to attend three separate 3 to 4 day intensive sessions at Penn State University Park or Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center during the program. You will work closely with your academic adviser to determine your exact plan of study, but for full-time students, you can expect to meet in-person at the following times:

Track Intensive I (August)
Intensive II (January)
Candidacy Portfolio Review
Intensive III (May)
MSN to DNP Semester 1 Semester 2
(after taking NURS 830)
End of semester 2
(after taking NURS 831)
BS to DNP Semester 3 Semester 4
(after taking NURS 830)
End of semester 4
(after taking NURS 831)

These three intensive sessions will provide you with the opportunity to interact in-person with your doctoral committee, other faculty, and fellow students and will also include your orientation, candidacy, and comprehensives.


During the orientation at your first in-person intensive session, you will meet with your academic adviser to discuss your plan of study for the program. You will also begin working on the plan for your DNP project based on your area of interest. 


The candidacy review for DNP students, held during your second in-person intensive session, will be used to evaluate your past performance and potential for successfully completing the program. Your portfolio will include: 

  • Narrative statement/career goals
  • Unofficial transcripts of all graduate study at Penn State completed prior to examination
  • DNP project plan


Comprehensives will mark your progression into your DNP project after the completion of appropriate course work. You will submit a written project proposal to your doctoral committee and do an oral presentation of your proposal at the third in-person intensive session. Your proposal will include letters of support from the agency where you plan to implement your DNP project.

The culmination of the program is an evidence-based practice project. The goal of the DNP project is to produce an actual, deliverable product that has originated from practice experience. You will identify a problem and use evidence-based research to develop a proposal to implement and evaluate a practice change initiative.

Final Oral Presentation

The final oral presentation marks your completion of the program and is administered by your doctoral committee. You will work closely with your faculty advisers throughout the program to successfully develop and implement your DNP project.

You will not be required to come to Penn State for this final presentation. The presentation will be done synchronously using video streaming technology. In addition, the public will be invited to view the presentation along with the doctoral committee. The public oral presentation of the project will be followed by a private session of questions and responses.