Like much of the country, Arkansas suffers from a shortage of nurses. The state ranked 33rd in the country for the number of nurses per capita according to a 2011 report by The Center for Rural Health at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. The Health Workforce Vacancies in Arkansas report thoroughly analyzed the nursing shortage in the state.
Advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) are among those in short supply in Arkansas. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing recommended that all of the country’s APRNs obtain a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) by 2015. Nurses educated at this level have the training to effectively care for patients and work at leadership levels to enhance the quality of healthcare.
The workforce study report indicated that there were 231 vacancies for APRNs at that time. It also predicted that the need for these nurses would increase by 228% in the coming five years. At the time of the report, more than half of the vacancies for APRNs were in three regions of Arkansas:
- Central (Little Rock) – 18.2%
- North East Arkansas – 17.2%
- West Arkansas – 15.5%
DNP-educated nurses who specialize in an executive leadership track can become nurse educators. Predictions indicate that the demand for nurse educators in Arkansas will skyrocket over the next five years and increase by 5.7-fold. More than 70% of these vacancies will be in home health or nursing homes according to the 2011 workforce report.
Both nurses with a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) or a master of science in nursing (MSN) can take advantage of the many opportunities to earn a DNP in Arkansas through campus-based programs or accredited online nursing schools.
The American Association of Colleges of Nursing reported that 135 residents of Arkansas were enrolled in DNP programs in the fall of 2015. Nearly four times as many nursing doctoral students in Arkansas were seeking a DNP degree rather than a PhD at that time. This statistic highlights the value of a practice-based doctorate to nurses seeking to advance their education in Arkansas.
Earning a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) in Arkansas
BSN-DNP programs include an entry point for bachelor’s prepared nurses looking to become nationally certified in one of the APRN roles (NP, CNM, CNS, CRNA). Typically, it takes about 3 years of full-time study and 90 credits to advance from a BSN to a DNP.
Nurses who already have an MSN can enter the post-MSN DNP programs provided by most of the nursing schools that offer this degree. Such programs offer either an executive leadership track or an APRN track or both in many cases. These nurses have the option to continue their education in their current specialty or choose a new population focus or specialty. Typically, it takes about 18 months of full-time study to advance from an MSN to a DNP. Most programs require at least 30 credits for this transition.
Nurses in Arkansas who seek a high degree of flexibility in their studies can choose from a large number of accredited online programs and obtain their DNP through distance learning. Such programs often offer accelerated programs that can be completed in a year. Campus-based programs and national online schools frequently offer the option of studying for a DNP part-time.
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 – Nurses who have completed their core courses have the opportunity to specialize and become either a DNP-educated APRN or an executive leader.
- DNP Project – The final phase of a DNP program is the student’s DNP Project. This entails working with faculty members to choose an area of research in the student’s specialty. The students get to apply their training and produce either a research paper or a presentation for a conference or university symposium. The types of research for a DNP Project include:
- Translating research into practice application
- Evaluating interventions or innovations in healthcare techniques
- Epidemiology and continuity of care
- Policy-related scholarly projects
- Integrating technology in care and informatics-related projects
Requirements for Clinical Hours of Practice in DNP Programs
Obtaining a DNP entails at least 1,000 hours of post-baccalaureate practice. Students who already have post-baccalaureate hours can denote them on their application to the DNP program if they have the requisite documentation. MSN students who are licensed APRNs will already have completed about 500 hours of practice to obtain their license, and these credits count towards the requirement.
The healthcare sites available for these hours may vary depending on the formal agreements that the students’ schools have with clinical sites. Students should identify their clinical site and the preceptor who will supervise them at least one semester before this wish to start their clinical training.
BSN-to-DNP and MSN-to-DNP Program Available in Arkansas
Three schools in Arkansas offer CCNE-accredited DNP programs. 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:
- University of Arkansas, Fayetteville
- Available as a BSN-DNP
- Specialties include:
- Adult-Geriatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
- Acute-Geriatric Clinical Nurse Specialist
- Family Nurse Practitioner
- University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences
- Post-MSN for certified APRNs or Nurse Administrators
- University of Central Arkansas, Conway (Starting 2017)
(U of Central Arkansas DNP program will start enrolling students in 2017)
Opportunities Available to DNP-Prepared Nurses in Arkansas
The shortage of primary care providers in Arkansas highlights the demand for highly trained nurses in the state. As of 2008, more than 50 counties in Arkansas were designated as Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs) by the federal government.
Rural areas in Arkansas face particular problems in obtaining primary care. The 2011 workforce analysis of healthcare in Arkansas by The Center for Rural Health at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences advocated increasing the opportunities for the clinical training of nurses in rural areas as one of the ways to increase the number of highly educated nurses practicing in these areas.
With the recommendation from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing that all APRNs possess a DNP by 2015, this practice-based doctorate is becoming the default degree for these specialists. The 2011 report by The Center for Rural Health at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences predicted where the most vacancies for APRNs would be in five years. Nearly half of the projected vacancies will be in three regions of Arkansas:
- South Central Arkansas – 19.8%
- North Central Arkansas – 13.2%
- North West Arkansas – 13.2%
Nurses who specialize in an executive leadership track for their DNP will also have a number of opportunities for employment. For example, predictions suggest that the demand for nurse educators will increase from 18 to 100 over a five-year period. Nearly half of these positions are expected to be located in the Western region of Arkansas.
Opportunities for DNP-level nurse executives also exist in the 9 nursing schools located in Arkansas. The country is facing a wave of retirement of nurse faculty members, and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing reported that the average age of nursing school faculty in Arkansas was 51 in 2015 and thus nearing retirement agent. Thirty-seven positions for nurse faculty became available in Arkansas between 2013 and 2015. The implementation of a new DNP program in Arkansas in 2017 is likely to further increase the demand for nurse faculty in the state.
A survey of job listings for DNP-educated nurses in Arkansas as of April 2016 identified two positions. They are shown for illustrative purposes only and are not meant to serve as an assurance of employment or as job offers:
Medical Liaison Diabetes – AR Job with Novo Nordisk in Little Rock
- Doctoral degree required—DNP, MD, PharmD, PhD
- Advanced professional licensure strongly preferred
- At least 2 years of experience in a health related system, managed care environment, or pharmaceutical company
Assistant/Associate Professor at the School of Nursing at the University of Arkansas
- Doctoral degree in nursing or a related field
- Current RN licensure in Arkansas or eligibility for licensure
- Graduate degree in nursing required
- Demonstrated record of high-quality teaching