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

The federal Health Resources and Services Administration projected that Arizona will have the greatest shortfall of nurses in the country by 2025. They predicted that this deficit could be more than 28,000. Experienced nurses are in particularly short supply in Arizona. A 2015 article in the Arizona Capital Times reported that hospitals in the state have resorted to hiring out-of-state nurses with sign-on bonuses to obtain those with experience.

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Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) programs educate their students to the highest levels of their profession and entail substantial amounts of clinical training as part of their studies. Such DNP-educated nurses can help to fill the void of experienced nurses in Arizona.

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 861 students in Arizona were enrolled in DNP programs during the fall of 2015. Nearly three times as many nursing students were seeking DNPs as opposed to PhDs that year, thus emphasizing the value of a practice-based doctorate.

Rural areas offer particular opportunities for nurses in Arizona who possess a DNP. Both physicians and APRNs are in short supply in Arizona’s rural areas. The AzCRH 2015 Supply and Demand Study of Arizona Health Practitioners and Professionals Report by the University of Arizona Center for Rural Health thoroughly analyzed the demographics of healthcare providers throughout Arizona.

Citing a study by Claritas from 2013 that examined the population of healthcare providers per 100,000 residents, this report described how urban areas had an average of 46 nurse practitioners while small rural towns had only 25.2 of these APRNs. Isolated small rural towns in Arizona averaged 0 certified nurse midwives.

In addition to having low numbers of physicians and highly educated nurses, the healthcare providers in rural areas are more likely than those in urban areas to be age 55 or older and thus likely to retire soon. For example, more than 30% of rural nurse practitioners and 54% of rural certified nurse-midwives fell into this category. In Cochise County, more than 40% of the primary care physicians were older than 60 years of age.

The Robert Woods Johnson Foundation issued a report in conjunction with the Institute of Medicine in 2010 that called for doubling the number of nurses in the country with a DNP by 2020. Arizona offers a number of opportunities to earn this degree through its campus-based and national online DNP degree programs. In fact, the demand for DNP-educated nurses in Arizona is so strong that a new campus-based program started accepting students in 2016.

Both nurses with a bachelor of nursing (BSN) and those with a master of nursing (MSN) can take advantage of DNP programs and gain the experience necessary to provide high-level healthcare to the residents of Arizona.

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, Phoenix
    • Available as a BSN-DNP
    • Specialties include:
      • Advanced Nursing Practice (Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner)
      • Advanced Nursing Practice (Innovation Leadership)
      • Advanced Nursing Practice
      • Family Nurse Practitioner
      • Family Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
      • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
      • Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner
  • Grand Canyon University, Phoenix
    • Post-MSN program designed for:
      • APRNs
      • Nurse Informatacists
      • Nurse Leaders
  • Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff
    • Post-MSN program for APRNs
  • University of Arizona, Tucson
    • Available as a BSN-DNP
    • Specialties include:
      • Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
      • Family Nurse Practitioner
      • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
      • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
      • Nurse Anesthesia
    • Dual DNP/PhD degrees available

Opportunities Available to DNP-Prepared Nurses in Arizona

Given the coming wave of retirement of experienced nurses in Arizona in the coming decade, DNP-educated nurses can help to fill this void. According to a 2015 article in the Arizona Capital Times, approximately 1/3 of Arizona’s nurses will approach retirement during this time frame.

The executive director of the Arizona Nurses Association, Robin Schaeffer, referred to the upcoming deficit as a “Silver Tsunami.” In addition to describing the loss of experienced nurses such as APRNs, she also stated “we might not have enough faculty to educate our new nurses.”

Many nursing faculty members are also nearing retirement, and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) reported that Arizona’s nursing faculty averaged 54 years of age in 2015. The AACN identified 42 nursing faculty vacancies in Arizona between 2013 and 2015.

With seven nursing schools operating in Arizona, there is likely to be a significant need for new faculty members. The advent of the DNP changed the status quo for nursing faculty educational levels. In the past, many positions required an MSN as the terminal degree. Now it is increasingly common for nursing schools to require that their applicants for faculty positions possess a DNP.

A survey of job listings as of April 2016 identified a number of positions open to nurses who possess a DNP. This list is meant to showcase the types of jobs available to DPN-educated nurses in Arizona and should not be construed as a job offer or assurance of employment:

RN Clinical Nurse Specialist with Banner Health in Phoenix and Tucson

  • DNP or PhD preferred
  • Requires Current RN license in the state of practice
  • Candidate will provide direct patient care and act at the systems level

Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner with Support Services in Phoenix and Scottsdale

  • DNP preferred
  • Must have valid Arizona NP license with prescriptive authority
  • Must have national specialty board certification
  • Provides direct patient care

Associate Clinical Professor with Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff

  • Requires either a doctoral degree in nursing or a related field


  • National certification in a nursing specialty
  • Must have six years of experience teaching at the college level

Registered Nurse – Nurse Manager – Intensive Care Unit with Veterans Health Administration in Tucson

  • Nurse III
    • Doctoral degree in nursing or related field preferred
    • Approximately 2-3 years of experience in nursing practice
  • Nurse II
    • Doctoral degree in nursing or related field preferred
    • Does not require additional nursing experience

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