Arkansas, as a largely rural state, has its troubles with adequate healthcare; or rather, access to adequate healthcare. In fact, according to 2019 stats from the Arkansas Department of Health, 50 of the state’s 75 counties are defined as Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs) by the federal government.
And it’s no wonder; Arkansas struggles with one of the worst physician shortages in the country. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), by 2025, there will be 1,820 primary care practitioners in Arkansas, while the demand at this time will call for 2,410 – that’s a deficit of 590 practitioners.
For Arkansas nurses, the physician shortage here can equate to exciting opportunities, provided they have the credentials and clinical skills to fill the role. That means earning the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)—the highest practice-focused degree available in the field—as a pathway to advanced practice licensure as nurse practitioner.
The DNP is increasingly becoming the degree of choice among employers and nurses alike amid the growing push to see it become the new educational minimum for nurse practitioners and other APRNs. This is why advanced practice registered nurses, nurse administrators, and executives who hold the DNP are sure to enjoy more professional opportunities than ever before.
Both nurses with a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) and 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.
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.
A 2018 report by the Arkansas Center for Research in Economics of the University of Central Arkansas entitled, Solving Arkansas’s Primary Care Problems by Empowering Nurse Practitioners, reveals that the issue of a lack of primary care can be solved by nurse practitioners, those “skilled providers of primary care [that] can save Arkansans’ money and improve our health.” A greater push has been made in recent years to expand the scope of practice for these professionals by removing practice restrictions.
Recent job posts for DNP-educated nurses in Arkansas reveal that employers are increasingly calling on these highly educated nurses to assume leadership and advanced clinical roles throughout the state:
Assistant Professor – Nursing, University of Central Arkansas, Conway, AR
- Doctoral degree in nursing (PhD or DNP) or doctorate (PhD) in a related field with a master’s degree in nursing
- Unencumbered RN license in Arkansas
- Experience with learning management systems and online teaching
Chair – Department of Nursing, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, Pine Bluff, AR
- Earned doctorate in nursing or a related discipline
- Active, unencumbered RN license to practice in Arkansas or eligible for licensure in Arkansas
- Prior experience in leading a nursing program
- Demonstrated scholarship in a clinical or administrative specialization
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.