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.
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 frequently include:
BSN to DNP program coursework 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 DNP program that offers a psychiatric-mental health specialization. In addition to more specialized courses, many BSN to DNP programs include classes in:
Students will need to meet technological requirements to complete 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 Flash, MP4 and Windows Media Video files. 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.
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.
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.
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.
In addition to the online BSN-to-DNP programs featured in detail in the section below, NursePractitionerSchools.com maintains a complete database of all distance-based NP programs in the United States, which is updated annually. To qualify as online, the program must require nine or fewer campus visits throughout its duration.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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:
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 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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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:
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:
They also require a one to two page typed goal statement. This statement should address the following:
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.
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.
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.
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:
Pitt Nursing DNP coursework and clinical experiences are challenging and rigorous. They offer a comprehensive and holistic education that explores topics in:
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:
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:
Admission to the Pitt Nursing DNP program is highly competitive. Admission criteria include:
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.
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.
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.
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.
For RNs with an ADN degree
For RNs with a BSN degree
For RNs with an MSN degree
*Also requires a non-nursing bachelor's degree; please see the "Online Accelerated MSN – NP" programs page for more details.