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BSN to DNP NP Online Programs

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The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) recommends that all advanced practice nurses, including nurse practitioners (NPs), earn a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree. The DNP provides an alternative to the research-based PhD and arms NPs with advanced skills in clinical practice and leadership.

Are you a registered nurse with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree who wants to become a nurse practitioner? Several schools have created DNP programs specifically for you! This article provides an overview of these BSN to DNP nurse practitioner programs and summarizes three exemplar programs: University of Florida, University of Michigan-Flint, and University of Pittsburgh.

Prerequisites for BSN to DNP Nurse Practitioner Programs

If you want to be accepted into an online BSN to DNP nurse practitioner program, you’ll need to be a registered nurse (RN) who has completed a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. Some schools recommend that applicants have at least one year of previous nursing experience; however it is usually not a requirement. In general, criteria for admission into an online BSN to DNP program could include:

  • A BSN degree from an accredited college or university
  • A grade point average of at least a 3.0 on a 4.0 scale
  • Previously completed statistics course with a grade of a B or higher.
  • A telephone or in-person interview
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Current, unencumbered RN license
  • Resume or curriculum vitae
  • Statement of professional goals

Courses and Curriculum for BSN to DNP Programs

Coursework for an BSN to DNP programs varies depending on which medical specialty you choose. Be sure to look for a program that aligns with your goals and objectives. For example, if you wish to become a psychiatric nurse practitioner, make sure you seek out a program that offers this specialty. Classes that students in an BSN to DNP program could take include:

  • Comprehensive Health Assessment
  • Differential Diagnosis
  • Pharmacology
  • Pathophysiology
  • Evidence-Based Practice
  • Informatics
  • Advanced Statistics
  • Health Policy and Economics
  • Leadership
  • Business Management

Students will need to meet technological requirements to do their coursework online. At a minimum, students should have a smartphone, a laptop no more than two years old, a microphone, and a webcam. Students should be able to play MP4 and Windows Media Video files as well as content that uses Flash. Most importantly, students should have a high-speed Internet connection.

Students should understand that their program will require the completion of in-person clinical hours at an approved facility, and most schools also require on-campus visits for patient simulations or other hands-on experiences. Since schools do not uniformly report campus visitation requirements, it’s important to understand how often and when you’ll need to visit a physical campus location.

Duration of BSN to DNP NP Programs

Online BSN to DNP nurse practitioner programs vary in length depending on the school and medical specialty. Most programs range from 70 to 100 credit hours and require over 1000 clinical hours. Most students complete these programs in 3 or 4 years of full-time study.

DNP Research Project

All DNP programs require the completion of a final research project that demonstrates clinical scholarship. Schools might refer to this project as a scholarly project, capstone project, thesis, dissertation, or final project. The AACN recommend that the final research project be termed “DNP Project” to avoid confusion with MSN Capstone Papers and PhD Theses.

The DNP Project can take many forms, and students will work on it throughout their entire program. The project must focus on a change that impacts health care outcomes for a particular population. Specific guidelines are acceptable projects can be found in the AACN’s report The Doctor of Nursing Practice: Current Issues and Clarifying Recommendations. Examples of previous students projects can be found on the National DNP Organization website.

Accreditation

Nurses will want to look for online BSN to DNP programs that are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, Inc. (ACEN). Accreditation ensures that nursing programs have been thoroughly assessed on their quality and value and that students can be confident in the instruction and learning they receive.

Program 1: University of Florida

The University of Florida College of Nursing offers a DNP program for applicants who have already earned a BSN degree. Core courses are delivered exclusively online while other courses are taught in-personal in either Gainesville or Jacksonville, Florida. The University of Florida offers the following specialities:

  • Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Pediatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

The University of Florida College of Nursing aspires to be a model of excellence for both innovative education and creative approaches to practice. They prepare nurse practitioners and scientists who foster interdisciplinary approaches to address the complexity of healthcare.

They are consistently ranked in the top ten percent of all graduate nursing programs in the nation. Their graduates exceed the state and national pass rates for licensure and certification exams. The University of Florida College of Nursing has pioneered many groundbreaking nursing education models, and their faculty exemplify a spirit of strong leadership.

They possess a strong network of alumni who have become leaders at hospitals, universities, and health care agencies, while promoting quality patient care through their roles. Their graduates influence health policy at local, national and international levels.

Curriculum

The BSN to DNP program is 76 credit hours and 1008 clinical hours. Every student completes a set of core courses following by a series of courses tailored to their chosen clinical specialty. Full-time students can expect to complete the program in 2.5 years, while part-time students usually complete the program in 4 years.

Core courses can be completed online. They cover a variety of topics from biostatistics and research to health policy and advanced pharmacotherapeutics. Core courses include:

  • Theory and Research for Advanced Nursing Practice
  • Health Promotion
  • Applied Statistical Analysis
  • Research Methods and Evidence Based Practice
  • Health Systems Leadership
  • Health Policy and Finance
  • Nursing Informatics and Information Management
  • Physiology and Pathophysiology for Advanced Nursing Practice
  • Advanced health Assessment and Diagnostic Reasoning
  • Pharmacotherapeutics for Advanced Nursing Practice
  • Advanced Topics in Pharmacotherapeutics & Genomics
  • Professional Issues in Advanced Practice Nursing
  • Advanced Nursing Project

The remainder of courses are tailored to the student’s chosen clinical specialty, either adult-gerontology acute care, family, pediatric primary care, pediatric acute care, or psychiatry. If a student chooses to specialize in psychiatry, for example, they would take additional courses on psychotherapy and psychopharmacology.

Admission Requirements

Generally, admission into DNP programs is highly competitive. The University of Florida accepts only highly qualified candidates; however, they state on their website, “Students may request special review by the College of Nursing Admissions Committee if they believe they are strong candidates for graduate study but do not fully meet these criteria.” Their specific admission criteria are as follows:

  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree with an upper division grade point average of 3.0 or higher from a CCNE- or NLNAC-accredited program.
  • A score of 500 or higher on each of the verbal and quantitative sections in the prior version of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) General Test. In the new version of the GRE a minimum score of 153 in the verbal section and 144 in the quantitative section. The analytical writing section is optional.
  • Eligibility for licensure to practice as a registered nurse in Florida.
  • International students or students whose native language is not English, are advised to contact the College of Nursing Admissions Office for further requirements.
  • Three letters of recommendation: two must address clinical competence and leadership ability, and one must address academic ability.
  • A curriculum vitae.

The University of Florida College of Nursing also requires applicants to submit a double-spaced essay formatted using current American Psychological Association guidelines. This essay should be a maximum of 1,500 words, and it should describe:

  • The applicant’s academic expectations of the program.
  • How the DNP will affect their future career.
  • The experiences that they feel have best prepared them for doctoral study, such as clinical, educational, or leadership experiences.
  • A clinical problem or area of interest in which they might be interested in developing their final project.
  • Anticipated struggles during the program and a detailed plan regarding how to overcome these struggles.

Online Experience

The University of Florida College of Nursing is known for its innovative use of technology to promote distance education. The university combines online education with in-person education to create a holistic experience for students. In-person courses must be completed at either the Gainesville or Jacksonville campuses. Clinical experiences can be completed in the student’s place of residence under the direct supervision of a nurse practitioner preceptor.

Professors

Tonja
Dr. Tonja Hartjes DNP, ACNP/FNP-BC, CCRN-CSC

Dr. Hartjes is a dual certified acute care and family nurse practitioner. At the University of Florida College of Nursing, she is a clinical associate professor and coordinator for the adult-gerontology acute care DNP program. She teaches didactic and clinical courses for the graduate and doctoral programs. Dr. Hartjes’ research interests are centered on various critical care topics. Dr. Hartjes has 30 years of ICU experience, which has focused on surgical critical care and palliative care. She is an active member of the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN) and has served in several volunteer positions within the organization.

Denise
Dr. Denise Schentrup DNP, MSN, ARNP, BC

Dr. Schentrup is a family nurse practitioner and clinical associate professor at the University of Florida College of Nursing. She is responsible for administrative tasks related to the College’s Faculty Practice Association. Dr. Schentrup has taught in graduate courses including Advanced Health Assessment and Pharmacotherapeutics for Advanced Practice Nursing. She teaches in the clinical setting as preceptor for adult and family nurse practitioner students and participates in DNP project committees.

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Program 2: University of Michigan-Flint

The University of Michigan-Flint offers a DNP program for registered nurses who have already completed their BSN. The program is challenging but prepares top-of-the-line nurse practitioners. It requires up to 91 credit hours and takes four years to complete. The University of Michigan-Flint offers the following medical specialties:

  • Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner.

Nurse practitioners educated at the University of Michigan-Flint become experts in taking histories; conducting physical examinations; ordering, performing, and interpreting appropriate diagnostic and laboratory tests; and prescribing medication for the management of the diagnosed conditions.

Curriculum

The number of required credit hours varies by the medical specialty: the adult-gerontology primary care program is 84 credit hours, while the psychiatry program is 91 credit hours. Most students complete the program in four years of full-time study.

The curriculum includes a set of core courses that all students complete together and a set of speciality courses that are tailored to a student’s chosen medical specialty. For example, core courses include:

  • Biostatistics for Advanced Practice in Health Care.
  • Advanced Pathophysiology I & II
  • Advanced Transcultural Care
  • Advanced Pharmacology and Pharmacotherapeutics
  • Advanced Health Assessment and Clinical Reasoning
  • Healthcare Research I & II
  • Theoretical Perspectives in the Discipline of Nursing for Advanced Practice
  • Informatics
  • DNP Research I, II, & Seminar
  • Epidemiology for Advanced Practice in Health Care
  • Health Policy and Economics
  • Theory and Application of Nursing Education

Specialty courses vary by program: either adult-gerontology acute care, adult-gerontology primary care, family, or psychiatry. For example, if a student chooses to specialize in psychiatry, he or she will take additional courses such as:

  • Advanced Practice Nursing with Families and Care of Psychiatric Community Needs
  • Medication Management for Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners
  • Special Populations in Mental Health Nursing

Admission Requirements

Admission to this DNP program is highly competitive. They prefer students who have at least one year of registered nurse experience, but it is not a requirement. The specific admission requirements for the University of Michigan-Flint include:

  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing from an accredited college or university with an overall grade point average of 3.2 on a 4.0 scale.
  • Current unencumbered RN license in the United States
  • College-level Chemistry with grade of C or better
  • College-level Statistics with grade of C or better
  • Curriculum vitae or resume.
  • Three recommendations from either a previous nursing professor, employment supervisor, nurse practitioner, physician assistant, or physician.

They also require a one to two page typed goal statement. This statement should address the following:

  • Reasons for pursuing a DNP
  • Professional plans and career goals
  • Why the applicant chose the University of Michigan-Flint
  • How past nursing experiences will prepare the applicant for for an advanced nursing degree
  • Past achievements in nursing including any professional organization memberships or positions, awards, scholarships, nominations, certifications, committee/project work, or other accomplishments such as scholarly publications.
  • Research interests
  • Special circumstances applicable to the application

Online Experience

Students complete this program in a distance-learning, or online, format. They are required to visit campus about once per year to complete patient simulations and and other hands-on education. Clinical experiences take place in the student’s place of residence; however, University of Michigan-Flint clinical faculty will visit the students often.

Professors

Andrews
Dr. Judy Haefner DNP, PMHNP-BC

Dr. Haefner is a board-certified psychiatric nurse practitioner and assistant professor of nursing at the University of Michigan-Flint. She teaches a variety of psychiatry courses in the DNP program. The primary focus of Dr. Haefner’s research is examining mental health diagnosing and application in the primary care setting. She also researches clinical practice improvement topics jointly with DNP students. Her interests include health promotion, patient satisfaction, and mental health treatment in the primary care setting. She is actively involved in the Michigan Council of Nurse Practitioners and American Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners Association Michigan Chapter Delegate.

Marilyn
Dr. Mary Linton DNP, NNP-BC, CNE

Dr. Linton is a neonatal nurse practitioner and assistant professor of nursing at the University of Michigan-Flint. She practices in a neonatal intensive care unity in the Detroit Area. She teaches a variety of courses. The primary focus of Dr. Linton’s research will be enhancing online education in nursing. She serves on the RN to BSN Program Committee, the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee, the Undergraduate Student Affairs Committee, and the School of Health Professions and Studies Student Appeals Committee.

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Program 3: University of Pittsburgh

The University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing (Pitt Nursing) offers a special DNP program designed for registered nurses who have earned a BSN and wish to become a nurse practitioner. The U.S. News & World Report ranked this DNP Program 8th nationwide as part of its 2017 Best Nursing Grad Schools report.

Pitt Nursing started its DNP program in 2006 with the goal of preparing nurse practitioner with advanced knowledge and expertise. They offer the following nurse practitioner programs:

  • Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Family nurse practitioner Nurse Practitioner
  • Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
  • Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

Curriculum

Pitt Nursing DNP coursework and clinical experiences are challenging and rigorous. They offer a comprehensive and holistic education that explores topics in:

  • Advanced evidence-based practice
  • Organizational and systems leadership
  • Clinical research and analytical methods for evidence-based practice
  • Informatics and patient care technology
  • Health care policy and finance
  • Ethics
  • Inter-professional collaboration for improving patient and population health outcomes

All students completed a set of required core courses followed by a set of required speciality courses that are tailored to the student’s chosen medical specialty. Core courses include:

  • Applied Statistics for Evidence-Based Practice
  • Pathophysiology Across the Life Span
  • Health Promotion and Disease Prevention in Culturally Diverse Populations
  • The Science of Health Care Delivery
  • Research for Evidence-Based Practice I & II
  • Advanced Pharmacology
  • Leadership Development
  • The Diagnostic Physical Exam
  • Differential Diagnosis
  • Public Policy in Health Care
  • Ethics in Healthcare
  • Genetics and Molecular Therapeutics
  • Grant Writing
  • Finance and Economics for Health Care Leaders
  • Health Informatics
  • Organizational and Management Theory
  • Clinical Diagnostics
  • DNP Nurse Practitioner Role

All students complete a culminating DNP Project that synthesizes and applies the knowledge they gained throughout the program. Examples of DNP Projects completed by previous Pitt Nursing DNP graduates include:

  • Admissions through Self-Care Management of Adult Patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
  • Partnering with Healthy Patients to Understand and Decrease their Risk to Fall
  • Impact of Purposeful Leader Rounding on Patient Satisfaction Scores
  • Improvement in Colon Cancer Screening Rates with a Multi-Component Intervention in Three Satellite Community Health Centers: A Quality Improvement Initiative
  • Vaccination Pre and Post an Educational Web-Based Tool
  • Impact of a Modified Early Warning System (MEWS) on the Number of Rapid Response and Cardiopulmonary Arrest Calls in the Telemetry and Medical-Surgical Setting
  • Overcoming Breast Cancer Survivors Perceived Barriers to Physical Activity through the use of Tailored/Motivational Education
  • Evaluation of Rapid Shallow Breathing Index as an Indicator of Extubation Success in Adult Postoperative Cardiac Surgical Patients

Admission Requirements

Admission to the Pitt Nursing DNP program is highly competitive. Admission criteria include:

  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from an accredited college or university with a grade point average of at least a 3.0 on a 4.0 scale.
  • A current, unencumbered registered nurse license
  • Greater than 50th percentile in both the verbal and quantitative sections of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), and a score greater than 3 in the writing section.
  • Completion of a statistics course within the past 10 years with a grade of B or higher
  • A non-refundable application fee of $50.00
  • Complete official transcripts of all undergraduate and graduate education (sent by the institution at which courses were taken)
  • Admission test scores
  • Three letters of professional recommendation indicating the reviewer’s support of the student’s ability to successfully complete a demanding graduate level academic and clinical program. At least one recommendation should come from a current or recent direct supervisor.
  • Personal essay stating one’s philosophy of nursing, reasons for wanting to study in a particular major or concentration, expectation of the DNP program, and future career goals. This should include a proposed area of interest for the DNP project.
  • Current CV or resume

The University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing prefers applicants to have registered nurse experience in their chosen area of specialty; however, this clinical experience is not required unless the student is applying for the neonatal nurse practitioner program.Students applying for the neonatal nurse practitioner program must have at least two years of full-time nursing experience with critically ill newborns, infants, and children in critical care inpatient settings (preferably Level III NICU). Students may enroll in pre-clinical courses while obtaining practice experience.

Online Experience

Pitt Nursing’s accessible distance learning platform which has won the Blackboard Catalyst Award four years in a row. This school is well-known for their innovative use of technology to improve education. Students have access to top of the line technology and online education tools.

Professors

Beach
Dr. Michael Beach DNP, ACNP-BC, PNP

Dr. Beach is both a pediatric and an acute care nurse practitioner. He is an assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing. He teaches courses in the acute care nurse practitioner DNP program. Specifically, he teaches Differential Diagnosis Clinical, Clinical Diagnostics, and Fundamentals of Disaster and Mass Casualty Care. His areas of clinical expertise include emergency medicine and disaster preparedness. Following the Katrina Disaster along the Gulf Coast, Dr. Beach responded with his personal search and rescue team to provide relief efforts to victims. Dr. Beach also responded to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, and New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy as part of a Disaster Medical Assistance Team under the Department of Emergency Response.

Coleman

Dr. Coleman is a family nurse practitioner at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center practicing the the subspecialty of cardiothoracic surgery. He is also an assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing where he teaches a wide range of DNP courses including Differential Diagnosis, Management Acute and Chronic Illnesses, Diagnosis and Management of Psychiatric Conditions Across the Lifespan, and Management of Geriatric Health Theory. His scholarly interests include esophageal cancer, GERD, and post-surgical outcomes.

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Dr. Melissa DeCapua, DNP, PMHNP

Dr. Melissa DeCapua, DNP, PMHNP

Author

Melissa DeCapua is a board-certified psychiatric nurse practitioner who graduated from Vanderbilt University. She has a background in child and adolescent psychiatry as well as psychosomatic medicine. Uniquely, she also possesses a bachelor’s degree in studio arts, which she uses to enhance patient care, promote the nursing profession, and solve complex problems. Melissa currently works as the Healthcare Strategist at a Seattle-based health information technology company where she guides product development by combining her clinical background and creative thinking. She is a strong advocate for empowering nurses, and she fiercely believes that nurses should play a pivotal role in shaping modern health care. For more about Melissa, check out her blog www.melissadecapua.com and follow her on Twitter @melissadecapua.

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*Also requires a non-nursing bachelor’s degree; please see the “Online Accelerated MSN – NP” programs page for more details.