Virginia DNP Doctor of Nursing Practice On Campus Programs
DNP schools provide students with the opportunity to earn a Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree. The DNP is a practice doctorate that requires the completion of a scholarly project that focuses on practice consistent with a student’s identified interests. It prepares graduates for what the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) calls “the highest level of nursing practice’ beyond one’s initial preparation.”i
DNP Schools and Campus DNP Programs
Many DNP schools have on-campus programs where students might collaborate with faculty and external resources such as policy-makers and health care leaders. Faculty could bring specific interests and experience in areas such as oncology, palliative care, and emergency preparedness. Prospective students could therefore evaluate a school with a curious eye to look for a potential mentor and/or any established partnerships that are in place with local healthcare organizations.
DID YOU KNOW?
When surveyed, 7% of APRNs report they have a doctorate degree.ii
Inside a DNP Degree
As a terminal degree, the DNP degree is the same weight academically as the PhD. However, while the PhD stresses scholarly research, the DNP degree focuses on practice and leadership. Nurses in DNP programs could therefore learn to translate research directly into ways that improve patient safety, influence policy, and affect quality of health and healthcare delivery.
Most DNP programs include seven essential content areas (see below), courses that pertain to a student’s area of emphasis, clinical practice, and a final DNP Project. The actual number of credits required for graduation may range (e.g. 35 to 60 credits). Things such as the number of supervised practice hours a student brings into the program at the time of enrollment and past education factor in, too.
The 7 Core Courses: The key (required) courses in a
DNP program typically address the following.i
- Scientific Evidence
- Advanced Nursing Practice skills
- Leadership & Management
- Analytic Methods to Apply Research into Practice
- Current technology and Health Care IT
- Health Care Policy
- Inter-professional Collaboration
Clinical Practicum: The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) requires all DNP students to complete at least 1,000 practicum hours post BSN. Students in a DNP program usually complete a required number of supervised practice hours. In a nurse leadership DBA program, students might do this work in a place such as a hospital administrative office. For any advanced clinical roles, the setting might be a clinic, community, hospital or other place where they could gain experience with a specific group such as pediatrics, geriatrics, women’s health or psychiatric patients.
DNP Nursing Project: Students are typically required to complete a DNP Portfolio. This usually consists of a written report that provides evidence of clinical scholarship. While each school may have its own requirements, a portfolio might include several things. For example, student-authored, peer-reviewed manuscripts on clinical issues, clinical innovations and case studies. The goal of the research is to improve clinical care delivery, patient outcomes and systems management. Projects might need to be suitable for publication in a peer-reviewed journal, presentation at national peer-reviewed conferences, or as a published book.
Concentration: There are many areas that students could choose for a DNP emphasis, and each one has its own program plan. Nurses could therefore align their nursing specialty with their career plans. As not every school lists every focus area, it could make a great way to decide just where you want to go to earn your Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. Below are some examples.
- Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
- Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
- Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner
- Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
- Executive Leadership in Nursing
- Family Nurse Practitioner
Pathways to Earn a DNP Degree
DNP schools provide various program options for those on track to earn a Doctorate of Nursing Practice degree. Two of the principal pathways to earn a DNP are to enter a (1) BSN to DNP program, (2) MSN to DNP program. Students could therefore narrow their search for a great nursing school that offers one track or the other.
Schools for Advanced Practice Nursing
A DNP is intended to be the graduate degree for advanced nursing practice preparation. Advanced practice is defined as either direct or indirect care. Examples of direct care include the four current APRN roles: (1) clinical nurse specialist, (2) nurse anesthetist, (3) nurse midwife, and (4) nurse practitioner. Nursing Administration and Health Informatics are examples of indirect care. Consequently, some nurses might simply look for a university where they might build on one of these roles. To this end, it is often possible to gain credit for past graduate study and practice experience.i
Admission for some DNP schools might be competitive as each school ‘sets the bar’ in its own way. Also, each program targets nurses who have a specific level of education and current licensure.
Post bachelors DNP programs are geared to applicants who are BSN graduates as well as RNs with licensure as a registered nurse in the state in which practice will occur. Applicants to these programs might also need some prerequisite undergraduate courses such as health assessment, research methods, and statistics.
Post masters DNP programs are intended for MSN graduates who are certified in an advanced practice role or those with a masters degree in a health-related major. Applicants to these programs could need some coursework in graduate research methods and inferential statistics.
Aside from this, an applicant might need to furnish some or all of the items listed below.
- Letters of reference that speak to academic ability, professional competency and personal character
- Overall GPA (e.g. 3.0 or better)
- Statement of professional goals
- Interview with a graduate nursing faculty
Make sure to refer to individual graduate nursing schools to verify their criteria.
Post BSN to DNP Schools
BSN to DNP schools are those that gear their programs to registered nurses who have earned their bachelor of science in nursing and want to work toward their doctorate. Along the way, students build more focused nursing skills as they first study to achieve their masters degree in nursing. Successful completion of the Master of Science in Nursing–DNP Path is usually required to move on to the Doctor of Nursing Practice. While a variable, students who take courses on a full-time basis might complete their courses in about three years.
BSN to DNP/FNP
A BSN to Doctor of Nursing Practice/Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) program is designed to prepare advanced practice nurses who focus on primary care. Family nurse practitioners provide holistic primary health care to patients across their lifespans.iii
The curriculum in a BSN-DNP/FNP program thus typically melds several things. These are basic core DNP courses, clinical immersion in direct patient care, analysis of current research and a final project. The following three courses are also compulsory.i
- Advanced health/Physical assessment
- Advanced physiology/Pathophysiology
- Advanced pharmacology
After successful completion of their degree requirements, graduates could be eligible to sit for national examination for certification as a family nurse practitioner. Also, graduates might then apply for APRN licensure where state regulatory guidelines are met. The certification boards for FNPs are the American Nurse Credentialing Center (ANCC) and the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP).
Post MSN to DNP Schools
Post MSN to DNP schools orient their programs to BSN graduates interested in advanced nursing practice roles and to post-master’s applicants who work in APRN roles. Most curricula are infused with practice, practical clinical research, and scholarship. Therefore, they often target nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, midwives, nurse anesthetists, nurse executives, and educators who want to remain in clinical practice. Also, many such programs offer supplemental electives for nurses who aspire to pursue a career in academia. Some of the courses students might take to achieve their doctorate could include:
- Advanced Care of Special Populations
- Health Care Policy, Advocacy and Ethics
- Epidemiology and Population Health
Beyond the coursework, students put in extra clinical hours. Clinical hours are tailored to a nurse’s technical area and provide direct, practical experience in advanced nursing.
Students on the hunt for a university with a DNP program may hear the word “accreditation” come up. It is one thing for an institution to be regionally or nationally accredited, as this type of approval speaks to overall standards and whether a school is eligible for federal financial aid. The other way accreditation could matter is at the program level. Accredited programs follow guidelines for what you study and practice, and are in tune with professional standards for nursing.
CCNE & ACEN: Two accreditors of DNP programs are the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). This level of approval could be important for a student since financial aid agencies simply won’t fund non-accredited nursing programs and employers may not be comfortable hiring graduates from non-accredited nursing schools.
Take the Next Step
Ready to find a university that offers a practice-focused doctoral education? We make it easy for you to find DNP schools in a preferred location. Or, scroll through the sponsored programs on this page. All you do from there is contact the school of nursing directly via the on-page form. Take your next step now.
[i] aacnnursing.org/Portals/42/News/Position-Statements/DNP.pdf?ver=2017-08-02-103159-760 | [ii] onetonline.org/link/summary/29-1171.00 | [iii] bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nurse-anesthetists-nurse-midwives-and-nurse-practitioners.htm
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