According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), Arizona will experience a severe deficit of primary care practitioners in the coming years. By 2025, Arizona’s supply of primary care practitioners is projected to be 6,050, while 7,040 will be needed just to keep up with the growing demand – that’s a shortage of 990 practitioners.
The University of Arizona Center for Rural Health found that as of 2019, Arizona meets just 40% of its primary care practitioner need.
Advanced nursing professionals, educated at the highest level, can alleviate the shortages throughout the state. Nurses who hold the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), the highest clinical degree in nursing, can fill the void created by both a lack of primary care physicians and the growing number of nurses entering retirement.
The number of universities offering DNP programs both online and at campus locations in Arizona continues to increase as more and more RNs choose the DNP over the MSN as a pathway to advanced practice. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), there were 6 DNP programs in Arizona in 2019.
Both nurses with a BSN and those with a master of nursing can enjoy all the benefits that come with earning a DNP. Not only is the DNP becoming more popular among BSNs going into advanced practice, an increasing number of NPs and other APRNs enroll in post-master’s DNP programs as a way to add an additional patient population focus or to make the transition to executive positions in Arizona’s top hospitals.
Earning a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) in Arizona
Many DNP programs enable nurses with a BSN to advance to this terminal degree. Obtaining an MSN enables these nurses to sit for national certification exams specific to an APRN role before they advance their training to a higher level. A BSN-DNP program typically entails about 3 years of full-time study and about 90 credits.
MSN-educated nurses can enter the post-MSN phases of DNP programs to advance even further in their field. Such programs offer either an advanced practice nursing track or an executive leadership track. Nurses in post-MSN programs can choose to advance in their current specialty or choose a new one. Obtaining a DNP in this manner typically entails about 1.5 years of full-time study and about 30 credits.
Nurses in Arizona who seek an alternative to the state’s campus-based DNP programs can choose from a variety of accredited online programs that also provide this degree. Such online programs generally offer a great deal of flexibility in taking the courses and thus make it easier for nurses to continue in their career while they earn a DNP.
Online programs frequently offer accelerated programs that take about a year to complete compared to traditional full-time DNP study. Both Arizona campus-based programs and numerous online programs offer the option of part-time study. Obtaining a degree in this manner 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 scientific underpinnings for practice, transforming the healthcare organization, evidence-based practice, and epidemiology.
- Specialty courses in the student’s chosen focus – Once they have completed their core courses, nurses can generally choose to specialize in an APRN focus or in executive leadership.
- DNP Project – Students complete their DNP studies by producing a research project in their specialty. Such DNP Projects result in either a paper designed for publication in a peer-reviewed journal. In some cases, the students will present their findings at a conference. Examples of DNP Projects from DNP students in Arizona include:
- Adherence to Evidence-Based Pharmacological Guidelines and Outcomes for Heart Failure in Primary Care Providers – Mashresha Akalu
- Outcomes of a Comprehensive patient and Family-Centered Care Program in an Adult ICU – Karla M. Baning
- Developing Educational Material to Promote Awareness of Nicotine Use as a Significant Risk Factor for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome – Nicole Bencs
- Project GENESIS: Community Assessment of a Rural Southeastern Arizona Border Community – Amanda Dawn Bennett
- A Multidisciplinary Approach to Quality Improvement Intervention to Increase the Performance Rate of Comprehensive Diabetic Foot Examinations in American Indians/Native Alaskans – Janet S. Bennett
Requirements for Clinical Hours of Practice in DNP Programs
National accreditation standards for DNP programs require that the students complete at least 1,000 hours of post-baccalaureate clinical practice. One of Arizona’s campus based programs requires 1,125 hours. Students who already have post-baccalaureate clinical experience can apply these hours toward this requirement if they have the appropriate documentation.
MSN students who obtain APRN licensure obtain about 500 practice hours to fulfill the requirements for national certification. These hours count towards the 1,000-hour requirement.
Many schools require that their DNP students obtain their clinical hours at a healthcare site with an established relationship with their program. Many of Arizona’s DNP students obtain their clinical hours in Phoenix, but the state is encouraging them to practice in rural areas where there is a dearth of primary care providers.
BSN-to-DNP and MSN-to-DNP Program Available in Arizona
The following DNP programs have been accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). 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.
Arizona State University
Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation
- Acute Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
- Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
- Family Nurse Practitioner
- Family Psychiatric and Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
- Innovation Leadership
- Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
- Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner
- Advanced Nursing Practitioner
Grand Canyon University
College of Nursing and Health Care Professions
- Educational Leadership
Northern Arizona University
School of Nursing
- Leadership/Rural and Underserved Populations
University of Arizona
College of Nursing
- Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
- Family Nurse Practitioner
- Nurse Anesthesia
- Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
- Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
- Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (hybrid)
- Family Nurse Practitioner (hybrid)
- Informatics (online)
- Nurse Anesthesia (hybrid)
- Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (hybrid)
- Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (hybrid)
Opportunities Available to DNP-Prepared Nurses in Arizona
According to the Arizona Board of Nursing, there were 702 students in Arizona enrolled in DNP programs in 2017, a rise from 861 students in 2015. Increasing numbers of DNP-prepared nurses in Arizona is good news for the employers who are seeking them and the healthcare environment that’s demanding them.
Recent job listings showcase the types of jobs available to DNP-educated nurses in Arizona:
Family Nurse Practitioner, Crossroads Inc., Mesa, AZ
- Master’s degree in nursing required; DNP/PhD preferred
- Current license to practice as an NP and state authority for advanced practice
- Board certification
Assistant or Associate Professor – Acute Care; Nursing, Creighton University, Phoenix, AZ
- Master’s degree in nursing; PhD or enrollment in a doctoral program is preferred
- Current and unencumbered license as an RN in Arizona
- License as an APRN in an appropriate nurse practitioner field
Registered Nurse Clinical Nurse Specialist OB; Banner Health, Mesa, AZ
- Current RN license
- Certified as a certified nurse specialist within a specialty area
- DNP or PhD preferred; previous relevant experience preferred
Examples of DNP nursing positions were taken from a survey of job listings in January 2020 and are shown for illustrative purposes only. These examples do not represent job offers or positions that are currently available.