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History of Duke University School of Nursing

In support of James Duke’s original vision, the Duke University School of Nursing (DUSON) has maintained a commitment to achieving excellence. Since the first nursing students were admitted to a three-year diploma program in 1931, the school has remained on the forefront of nursing education, practice, and research. Historically, the school has been a health care leader, first awarding baccalaureate degrees in 1938, establishing the bachelor of science in nursing degree in 1953, and initiating one of the first nursing graduate programs in 1958. Today, while offering the accelerated bachelor of science in nursing degree (ABSN), the master of science in nursing degree (MSN), two doctoral programs (the Doctor of Nursing Practice or DNP Program and the PhD Program in Nursing), and post-graduate and specialty certificates, the School of Nursing remains a national leader in nursing education.

Focused on its mission to advance health equity, the School of Nursing ranks first in the country for all participating Nursing Master’s Programs and Specialties and all participating Nursing DNP Programs and Specialties in the U.S. News & World Report’s 2023-24 graduate school rankings. Among the top rankings, the School of Nursing’s MSN and DNP programs each lead with six specialties ranked number one: Family, Adult-Gerontology—Primary Care, Adult-Gerontology—Acute Care, Psychiatric/Mental Health, Executive Leadership (DNP)/Nursing Administration (MSN), and Pediatric Primary Care. The DNP program ranks number two in the country overall. The School of Nursing ranks third for the Best Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program. In addition, the School of Nursing is recognized as a leader in nursing education and research across a range of external measures, including awards for longstanding commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion: a Health Professions Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award (Insight into Diversity, 2021) and the award for Best Nursing School for Men in Nursing from the American Association for Men in Nursing. The school is also consistently among top-ranked schools for veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces.

More than 1200 students are now enrolled across DUSON’s innovative degree and certificate programs. The DNP and MSN programs are offered in online and distance-based formats and are meeting the needs of students in disparate geographic locations in the United States and in sites around the world. 

Through innovative teaching strategies, the incorporation of advanced technology, and collegial faculty-to-student relationships, the school remains dedicated to improving access to care; providing high-quality, cost-effective care; and preparing health care leaders for today and tomorrow.