Current Students

Memo 55: Evaluating DNP and Graduate Certificate Student Previous Courses for Core Course Equivalency

DNPCC procedures for course equivalency and credit substitution requests​​​​

Introduction and rationale for gap analysis

Gap analysis provides for an assessment of prior coursework so as to plan the most optimal program of study that acknowledges prior learning.

A matriculated student in the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) or Graduate Certificate Program in Advanced Practice Nursing (GCPAPN) may pursue the process below whereby previous coursework completed at an accredited institution will be evaluated for equivalency to core coursework at the UW School of Nursing.

All incoming DNP or GCPAPN students who have had any prior graduate training, taken graduate courses, or earned a master’s degree or higher should have an initial ‘gap analysis’ done by the faculty in the track to which the student is admitted.

The DNP Coordinating Committee (DNPCC) is charged with oversight of all graduate course equivalency and substitution requests from students/faculty.


  • Gap analysis:  A method used to assess a student’s prior course work to determine what courses may be granted equivalency and what courses may be deemed substitutable for DNP degree required credits.
  • Course equivalency means the student has had prior training in the content and skills in the course, but credit towards UW degree is not granted (this requires course equivalency and substitution (see below)).  Students are still accountable for completing the number of credits required for the degree based on their individual gap analysis.
  • Course substitution means that a student may request prior graduate coursework completed to count toward the 93 credits required in the DNP degree program.

Prior coursework requirements

DNPCC must approve any prior coursework that may be applied toward the DNP degree in alignment with Graduate School Policy, which includes:

  • A maximum of 10 quarter credits of graduate-level coursework taken at another recognized academic institution may be transferred and apply to the DNP degree requirements
  • No more than 12 credits derived from any combination of GNM credits and transfer credits may be applied towards the total degree requirements.
  • No more than 30 credits derived from any combination of GNM, transfer, and substituted credits may be applied towards the total degree requirements.
  • Students may need to petition the Graduate School for course work completed more than 10 years prior.
  • Some courses deemed equivalent may also be used for substitution up to the total number permitted, based on whether the prior graduate work was completed at the UW or another university.

Categories of students requiring a gap analysis

  • DNP enrolled student or student who has accepted an offer for enrollment in the DNP degree program, who previously earned a graduate degree or completed graduate-level courses.
  • Masters or Doctorally-prepared students seeking post-graduate credentialing in a new specialty.

General standards

  1. Clinical course credits:
    1. ​​Prior clinical course credits may be deemed equivalent and can be substituted for some of the 93 credits for the DNP degree.
    2. 1000 clinically relevant practice hours are required for the DNP degree.
    3. Clinical hours completed as part of requirements for advanced nursing practice degree may be used as part of the 1000 hours.
    4. Credits earned can be counted toward the 93 credits for the DNP degree, not to exceed the number of credits permitted as noted above in course substitution.
  2. Course equivalency for the 3P’s:
    1. ​​Physiology and Pathophysiology Across the Lifespan (NSG 557) – to be granted equivalency the student must have completed a similar standalone course (e.g. not integrated into disease management) at an accredited university/college and within the past five years at the time of matriculation. If the student is currently licensed and actively practicing as an ARNP and have successfully completed an advanced physiology/pathophysiology course at an accredited university/college that includes general principles that apply across the lifespan, NSG 557 is waived.
    2. Advanced Health Assessment (NCLIN 500) – to be granted equivalency the student must:
      1. Have successfully completed a similar standalone course at an accredited university/college;
      2. Pass a written challenge exam at the UW School of Nursing with a score of at least 75%; and
      3. Successfully demonstrate advanced assessment skills via a timed observed physical exam (TOPE) exam in a laboratory setting at the UW School of Nursing.

      If the student is currently licensed and actively practicing as an ARNP and have successfully completed an advanced health assessment course at an accredited university/college that includes assessment of all human systems, advanced assessment techniques, concepts, and approaches, the challenge exam and TOPE are waived.

    3. ​​Advanced Pharmacology (PHARM 514) – to be granted equivalency the student must:
      1. Have successfully completed a similar standalone course of at least 3 quarter credits or equivalent at an accredited university/college; and
      2. Pass a written challenge exam at UW SoN with a score of at least 75%. Students will be notified if choose to challenge and are granted equivalency that licensure with Prescriptive Authority in the state of Washington requires 30 pharmacology hours within 2 years of application.

      If the student is currently licensed and actively practicing as an ARNP and have successfully completed an advanced pharmacology course at an accredited university/college that includes pharmacodynamics, pharmacokinetics, and pharmacotherapeutics of all broad categories of agents, the challenge exam is waived.

  3. ​MN degree graduates from Bothell or Tacoma may have some of their course work evaluated as equivalent, and some of the credits may be deemed substitutable for degree requirements but some may not if the prior course work taken was not consistent with DNP AACN Essentials (2006).
  4. Track Lead conducting the initial gap analysis and the student should consult the list of prior approved courses for equivalency. This document is part of the DNPCC end-of-year report.
  5. All requests must include the following:
    • ​​​​A completed gap analysis form.
    • Course description, objectives, and a syllabus for each course must accompany each request. Should a syllabus not be available, the course deliverables completed by the student may be substitutes (e.g., paper, lecture slides, etc.).


The time frame for requests

  • For currently enrolled students, requests for review must be submitted at least one quarter in advance of when a decision is needed about whether to take a core course (May for fall quarter; October for winter; January for spring). Enrolled students may choose to submit multiple course equivalency review requests simultaneously.
  • Newly-admitted students who are not yet enrolled (e.g., those who accept an offer of admission in Spring, but do not enroll and register for classes until fall quarter) are instructed to contact their track lead and work with this faculty member to complete an initial “gap analysis” and, if appropriate, discuss course equivalency review requests and submit requests using the process below as soon as possible for consideration no later than the May DNP Coordinating Committee meeting.
  • Students admitted off the waitlist after the May DNPCC meeting, but who matriculate in fall will have a gap analysis conducted and reviewed by DNPCC at the end of September prior to the start of fall quarter.

Paperwork completion

  • The student fills out the gap analysis form in collaboration with their track lead.
  • The student provides a course syllabus or assignments completed for each course for which equivalency is sought (and credit substitution).
  • Once all the materials have been gathered, the form filled out and reviewed by the track lead, the track lead will upload the materials to the secure Gap Analysis folder on the School of Nursing intranet for the School of Nursing Graduate Program Adviser and DNPCC to complete the review and determination.
  • The GPA reviews the requests and transcripts to determine if all paperwork is complete and if the courses meet the UW Graduate School requirements, and then notifies the DNPCC Chair of the determination.

DNPCC approval process

  • DNPCC Chair places the gap analysis review on the DNPCC agenda under the executive session for discussion.
  • DNPCC Chair reviews the request and the GPA’s review report. For any course previously deemed NOT equivalent, DNPCC Chair denies the request.
  • DNPCC Chair processes the rest of the requests and:
    • Offers preliminary decision based on the review of the materials. As needed, DNPCC Chair seeks a recommendation from the faculty currently teaching the course as to the extent of equivalency.
    • Communicates preliminary decision based on the DNPCC Chair’s evaluation and course faculty’s recommendation to the Committee for review.
    • At DNPCC executive session, DNPCC Chair reports denied requests, and the Committee makes a determination of requests.
  • Decision communication:
    • If DNPCC does not accept previous coursework as equivalent, the Chair communicates a decision with a brief rationale by email to the track lead with a copy to the GPA.
    • ​If DNPCC decides to accept previous coursework as equivalent, the Chair notifies the track lead of the decision by email with a copy to the GPA and includes language related to risks incurred by the student seeking core course equivalency as outlined below (see note). If coursework is also deemed substitutable, include language related to the Graduate School’s requirements to waive the credits.
    • The track lead will forward the decision to the student and work with the student to complete coursework planning.
  • ​GPA files the written decision in the student’s academic file to record the decision and rationale. The gap analysis should be updated to reflect only those courses deemed equivalent, and if appropriate, substitutable. For those courses requiring challenge examination, this will need to be completed successfully prior to final determination by DNPCC.​​​​​
  • The student may appeal the decision by requesting a meeting with the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. The Associate Dean for Academic Affairs will make the final decision as to acceptance or denial of DNPCC’s justification.​

DNPPC annual report

  • DNPCC Chair places a summary of equivalency decisions made in the DNPCC annual report.
  • The list of approved and not approved courses for equivalency will be updated annually in this manner.


  • Some DNP and GCPAPN core courses are prerequisites to later core courses. A course instructor has the right to deny enrollment in a course for which the student has not taken a prerequisite.
  • Supervisory committee or track lead has authority to decide at any time that the student must take a core course, regardless of an earlier recommendation for course equivalency.

Updated November 2023