Online BSN-DNP and MSN-DNP Programs Available in Alabama

Doctor of Nursing (DNP) programs prepare nurses with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed at the highest levels of nursing administration and clinical practice. In fact, DNP-educated nurses are so successful at improving the state of the country’s healthcare that the Institute of Medicine and the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation issued a report in 2010 calling for a doubling of the number of nurses in the US who have this credential.

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A 2010 fact sheet published by the Arise Citizens’ Policy Project described how doctors are increasingly relying on advanced practice nurses to serve the needs of diverse patient populations. The nursing shortage in Alabama mirrors what is being seen throughout the rest of the country, and is perhaps even more dire. For instance, the Alabama Hospital Association reported that hospitals in the state experienced an 11% shortage of floor nursing positions in 2009. Some metropolitan areas had deficits as high as 20%.

Alabama faces a particularly critical shortage of psychiatric care providers, and is calling for more nurse practitioners to consider pursuing certification in psychiatric/mental health. Dr. Richard Powers, the medical director of the Alabama Department of Mental Health was quoted in the Arise Citizens’ Policy Project fact sheet as saying that the state had the second lowest number of psychiatrists per capita in the country that year. In fact, the per capita level of psychiatrists in Alabama was only 26% of what is found in much of the rest of the country.

As far back as the 1990s, Alabama made efforts to combat the nursing shortage in the state by increasing salaries and offering hiring bonuses to recruit and retain nurses. One of the goals of the Alabama Board of Nursing’s Strategic Plan for 2014-2018 is to “promote public health by supporting the practice of nursing at the level of education, experience, and licensure.” This organization places such a high value on the education of nurses that it awarded 11 scholarships to DNP students in Alabama in 2014.

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing reported that 1,542 students were enrolled in DNP programs in Alabama as of the fall of 2015. More than 37 times as many nurses were seeking a DNP rather than a PhD in Alabama that year, thus reinforcing the value of this practice-based doctorate.

DNP programs are designed with two entry points to accommodate both bachelor’s-prepared RNs and master’s-prepared RNs and APRNs. Alabama is highly unusual in also offering a DNP program designed for RNs who do not have a BSN.

Earning a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) in Alabama

DNP programs offer nurses from a variety of educational backgrounds the opportunity to advance in their careers by earning this terminal degree. In addition to programs designed for nurses with BSNs and MSNs, Alabama offers a program that allows nurses with ADNs and diplomas to earn a DNP.

  • RN-DNP programs offer nurses who lack a BSN the option to earn a DNP through a non-traditional path. These nurses will complete five bridge courses before they advance to DNP-level studies.
  • BSN-DNP programs offer nurses the chance to earn an MSN and then seamlessly transition into their core DNP studies. One advantage of getting an MSN is that students can then sit for national certification and earn their APRN license. Another is that nurse faculty positions often require an MSN in addition to a doctoral degree. Transitioning from a BSN to a DNP typically involves at least 3 years of full-time study and taking about 90 credits. These programs are also available in aggregate/systems/organizational focus areas like administration and informatics.
  • MSN-DNP programs provide MSN-educated nurses tracks in which they would further their expertise in advanced clinical practice or other advanced roles that don’t involve direct patient care. Nurses in these programs have the option to advance in their current role and patient population focus or become certified in an additional patient population focus or specialty. These programs usually involve at least 1.5 years of full-time study and 30 credits. These programs are also available in aggregate/systems/organizational focus areas like administration and informatics.

Although Alabama offers a number of campus-based DNP programs, nurses in the state are increasingly applying to accredited online programs. Such programs offer a greater degree of flexibility in their coursework and thus make it easier for the nurses enrolled to continue practicing while they attend school.

Both online and campus-based programs frequently offer accelerated programs that take about a year as an alternative to traditional full-time study. Another common option is part-time study, which typically takes about 2.5 years.

DNP programs have these three main components:

  • DNP core – The core courses of DNP programs include topics such as transforming the healthcare organization, evidence-based practice, scientific underpinnings for practice, and epidemiology.
  • Specialty courses in the student’s chosen focus – The nurses have the option to specialize in either advanced practice nursing or an aggregate/systems/organizational focus.
  • DNP Project – The culmination of a DNP education is the student’s DNP Project. Such projects involve high-level research in the students’ specialty and usually result in the production of a manuscript suitable for publication. Sometimes, the students will present their findings at a conference as an alternative to having it published.

Clinical Practice Hour Requirements for DNP Students

DNP students must complete at least 1,000 hours of post-baccalaureate clinical practice hours. Students that have already completed some clinical hours of post-baccalaureate practice can apply them to the 1,000 hour requirement.

Students must check with their programs to find out what clinical options are available. Programs faculty will assist in locating appropriate sites, but it is the student’s responsibility to secure a site.

Clinical sites for DNP students in Alabama have included, but are not limited to these healthcare organizations:

  • Alabama Department of Public Health
  • Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services
  • AltaPointe Health Systems, Inc
  • American Family Care, Inc
  • Andalusia Regional Hospital
  • Baptist Health System
  • Baptist Medical Center South
  • Beverly Healthcare
  • Brookwood Health Services, Inc.
  • Cathedral Place Apartments
  • Covenant House
  • Cullman Regional Center
  • East Alabama Medical Center
  • Fox Army Health Center
  • Gordon Oaks Health and Rehab
  • Greenville Clinic Corp.

RN-DNP, BSN-to-DNP and MSN-to-DNP Program Available in Alabama

CCNE and ACEN accredited DNP programs are available at 6 universities in Alabama, two of which offer an entry point for BSNs. Nurses who have an Associate of Science in Nursing or a hospital diploma can apply to Samford University. (Other DNP programs not shown here may hold regional accreditation or specialty accreditation through the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs or the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education):

  • Samford University, Birmingham
    • RN-DNP (for ADN and diploma prepared RNs)
      • Family Nurse Practitioner
      • Health Systems Administration
    • Post-MSN program
      • Administration
      • APRN
  • The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa
    • MSN-DNP APRN track
  • The University of Alabama, Birmingham
    • BSN-MSN and MSN-DNP
      • APRN
      • Administration
    • Post-MSN CRNA track
  • The University of Alabama, Huntsville
    • BSN-DNP and MSN-DNP
      • APRN
  • Troy University, Troy
    • BSN-DNP and MSN-DNP
      • Family Nurse Practitioner
      • Clinical Nurse Specialist
  • University of South Alabama
    • BSN-DNP and MSN-DNP
      • Adult-Gerontological Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
      • Adult-Gerontological Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
      • Adult-Gerontolotical Clinical Nurse Specialist
      • Family NP/Adult-Gerontological Acute Care NP
      • Executive Nurse Administrator
      • Family Nurse Practitioner
      • Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
      • Nursing Informatics
      • Pediatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
      • Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
      • Psychiatric (Family) Nurse Practitioner
      • Public Health Administration
      • Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner

Opportunities Available to DNP-Prepared Nurses in Alabama

Coosa County had only 2.6 primary care doctors and one nurse practitioner to serve 10,864 residents in 2007 according to the 2010 fact sheet published by the Arise Citizens’ Policy Project.

This project calls for a “more strategic, sustained investment by the state” to reverse the decline in the number of nursing school faculty who will prepare the next generation of nurses in Alabama. DNP graduates are well prepared to join the ranks of nursing school faculty.

The AACN reported that Alabama had 25 faculty vacancies in 2015 alone. With 11 nursing schools in the state, a number of nurse educator positions should become available in Alabama in the coming years. While an MSN used to suffice as the terminal degree required, it has become much more common to require that applicants for faculty positions possess a doctorate.

A survey of job listings for DNP-educated nurses performed in April 2016 identified several vacancies. These vacancy announcements are shown to illustrate the types of opportunities available to DNP-prepared RNs and APRNs in Alabama, but do not represent job offers or an assurance of employment.

Assistant/Associate Professor at Auburn University

  • Tenure Track
  • Doctorate required
  • Requires an MSN with specialty in Community Health, Maternal Health, Pediatrics, or Adult Health/Medical Surgical
  • Experience in teaching nursing at the graduate and undergraduate level and online
  • Must be eligible for an Alabama RN license

Assistant/Associate Clinical Professor at Auburn University

  • DNP preferred
  • Candidates with teaching experience in a baccalaureate program preferred
  • Must maintain current clinical certification

Multiple Faculty Positions at the University of Southern Alabama

  • Doctorate preferred
  • Nurse Practitioner certification preferred
  • MSN and RN licensure in Alabama required

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