The Arkansas Department of Higher Education Coordinating Board approved Friday the Doctor of Nursing Practice at the University of Central Arkansas, effective Summer 2014, according to a news release from UCA.

The program is a 36-hour practice-focused program that will be offered as a post-master’s nursing degree. The course work will be offered online, and students will engage in advanced clinical training and capstone scholarly projects at practice sites.

“We are pleased all the hard work on the part of our nursing faculty was recognized with a positive decision,” said Neil Hattlestad, dean of the College of Health and Behavioral Sciences, in a news release Friday. “I’m very proud of our department.”

Adding another doctorate program requires approval by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), which is one of six institutional accrediting bodies in the U.S. Hattlestad said the nursing department is working to submit a substantive change request to HLC by the end of March.

After HLC approval, the Department of Nursing could build its first cohort class in Summer 2014.

Ten existing faculty in the UCA Department of Nursing have graduate faculty status, a terminal degree, academic preparation and clinical experience required to teach in the DNP.

Prior to ADHE approval, the university had received support from the Arkansas Department of Health, School Based Program; St. Vincent Health System; Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System; the Arkansas State Board of Nursing; and nursing programs at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and Arkansas State University.

The program has also been approved at the University of Arkansas, Arkansas State University and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

“The greatest advantage will be to the citizens of our state who will be receiving even higher quality of health care,” Hattlestad said.