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

Several highly influential organizations have advocated for increasing the number of Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)– prepared nurses, and have gone so far as to lobby for the DNP to become the educational minimum for APRN certification and licensure. The Institute of Medicine and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation issued a report in 2010 calling for a doubling in the number of nurses in the country that possess a DNP, while the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) has led a spirited campaign to increase the educational minimum to a DNP for nurse practitioners and other advanced clinicians.

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California’s first DNP program started accepting students in 2006, providing students with the highest level of practice-focused expertise in evidence-based practice. Since then, the demand for DNP-educated nurses in the state has increased along with the changing demands of California’s complex healthcare environment as the focus shifts from just providing care, to managing health.

HealthImpact (formerly the California Institute for Nursing & Health Care) described a 2015 survey of hospitals and other care systems in its Annual Report for that year. The results showed how nurses are playing an increasingly important role in the transition to managing health and how healthcare organizations have been introducing new roles for RNs. More than 60% of the organizations that responded reported that they introduced new opportunities for one or more of these nursing roles:

  • Nurse Practitioner
  • Informatics Specialist
  • Faculty/Clinical Educators
  • Care Coordinator, high-risk populations
  • Care Coordinator, post-discharge

DNP-educated nurses bring the highest level of expertise to such positions and find that employers value their advanced education and leadership skills. For instance, Dr. John Nagelhout of the Kaiser Permanente School of Anesthesia described his employer as supportive of the educational benefits conferred by a DNP, quoting the organization as saying, “it will provide a positive lasting benefit to our members.”

Nurses in California are taking advantage of the opportunity to enhance their practice expertise and scientific knowledge by earning DNPs. The AACN reported that 692 of California’s nursing students were enrolled in a DNP program as of fall 2015—more than twice as many as those who sought a PhD that year.

DNP programs in California offer entry-points for bachelor’s-prepared RNs, as well as MSN-educated RNs and APRNs.

Earning a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) in California

California’s nurses can avail themselves of the many accredited online programs that offer BSN and MSN-prepared nurses the opportunity to earn a DNP in a flexible format that accommodates the busy schedules of working RNs and APRNs. Such programs usually offer a great deal of flexibility and make it easier for practicing nurses to obtain a DNP while continuing in their career. Online DNP programs frequently offer options for accelerated study, as well as a more relaxed part-time pace.

Post Bachelor’s BSN-to-DNP Programs – Online programs, as well as California’s large number of campus-based programs, both offer the opportunity for RNs with a BSN to earn an MSN and DNP through one accelerated program. Known as a BSN-to-DNP, these programs allow students to sit for national certification exams in an APRN role and patient population focus prior to transitioning to the DNP phase of the program. Tracks are also available for those interested in an aggregate/organizational/systems focus for jobs in public health, administration, healthcare policy, informatics, education and more. BSN-to-DNP programs typically involve taking about 90 credits over the course of 3-4 years.

One of California’s BSN-DNP programs offers two alternatives to an MSN in preparation for the DNP phase of the program:

  • MSBH – Master of Science in Behavioral Health
  • MPH – Master of Public Health

Post Master’s MSN-to-DNP Programs – Nurses who already possess an MSN can further enhance their skills by entering the post-MSN phase of one of California’s many DNP programs, available in a number of advanced practice tracks, as well as tracks with an aggregate/organizational/systems focus that don’t involve providing direct patient care. Post-MSN programs generally involve earning about 30 credits over the course of a 1.5-2 year period.

DNP Program Components and Practicum Requirements

DNP programs have four main components:

  • DNP core – DNP programs include a core comprised of coursework in quality improvement, health information systems, evidence-based practice, health policy, nursing theory and research, statistics and more.
  • Specialty courses in the student’s chosen focus – Students will focus on their chosen specialty, whether in an APRN role and patient population focus or in an aggregate/organizational/systems track in health policy, executive leadership, public health, informatics, etc.
  • Post-baccalaureate practicum hours – DNP programs require students to participate in at least 1,000 hours of post-baccalaureate practicum. Students entering post-MSN programs can count their previous post-baccalaureate hours (typically 500 hours) towards the 1,000-hour requirement as long as hours are in a common track and have been documented appropriately.
  • DNP Project – The culmination of a student’s DNP education is a rigorous research project often referred to as a “Translational Research Project” in California. Students generally produce a manuscript suitable for publication in a peer-reviewed journal. Part of this process entails returning to campus to defend their research before a faculty committee. Examples of DNP Projects produced by DNP students in California during 2015 include:
    • Improving the Patient Experience by Implementing Patient-Centered Care in a Community Hospital – Richard A Billingsley
    • Implementation of an Evidence-Based Educational Workshop and Toolkit: Menopausal Women’s Healthcare Needs for the Primary Care Provider – Pamela Doerr-Kashani
    • Development and Implementation of a Violence Risk Assessment Tool – Mira Aidasani-Diwata
    • Caution: Line-of-Sight in ICU Designs – Diane C. Bartos
    • Building a Framework for Professional Nursing Practice Across the Continuum of Care – Elizabeth S. Bigby

Post-Bachelor’s and Post-Master’s DNP Programs Available in California

The following DNP programs have been accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). Other DNP programs in California 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 (ACME).

Azusa Pacific University, Azusa

  • Post-MSN for APRNs

Brandman University, Irvine

  • Available as a BSN-DNP
  • Specializations:
    • Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
    • Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
    • Family/Across the Lifespan NP
    • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, Acute Care
    • Psychiatric and Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

California State University Northern California Consortium – Fresno

  • Post-MSN program
  • Specializations:
    • APRN
    • Management and leadership

San Jose State University

  • Post-MSN
  • Specializations:
    • APRN
    • Management and leadership

Consortium of Nursing Schools at California State University – Fullerton, Long Beach, Los Angeles

  • Post-MSN programs
  • Specializations:
    • APRN
    • Management and leadership

Loma Linda University, Loma Linda

  • Available as a BSN-DNP
  • Specializations:
    • Clinical Nurse Specialist
    • Nurse Practitioner
    • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist

National University, San Diego

  • Post-MSN program
  • Specializations:
    • Nursing Administration
    • Nursing Informatics

Samuel Merritt University, Oakland

  • Available as a BSN-DNP
  • Specialty in Family Nurse Practitioner

University of San Diego, San Diego

  • Available as a BSN-DNP
  • Specializations:
    • Family Nurse Practitioner
    • Pediatric/Family Nurse Practitioner
    • Adult-Gerontology/Family Nurse Practitioner
    • Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

University of San Francisco, San Francisco

  • Available as a BSN-DNP
  • Specializations:
    • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (BSN to MSBH to DNP)
    • Family Nurse Practitioner (BSN to MSBH to DNP)
    • Family Nurse Practitioner (BSN to MPH to DNP)
    • Family Nurse Practitioner (BSN to MSN [Clinical Nurse Leader] to DNP)
  • Post-MSN in Executive Leader

Western University of Health Sciences, Pomona

  • Post-MSN program

Opportunities Available to DNP-Prepared Nurses in California

According to California Nurses Facts and Figures in the California HealthCare Foundation’s 2010 California Health Care Almanac, the demand for nurse practitioners and other advanced practice nurses is projected to grow well into the future. This publication described how an increasing number of NPs are practicing in retail clinics, while researchers expect significant growth in the number of these highly accessible clinics as dictated by public demand.

In addition to applying their skills in practice-based roles, DNP-educated nurses can serve to educate the RNs needed to stem the nursing shortage in California. The 2010 report in the California Health Care Almanac reported how California ranked near the bottom among all states for the number of RNs per capita.

The 2014-2015 California New Graduate Employment Survey published by HealthImpact described the results form a 2014 survey of nurse employers who described experiencing a shortage of RNs in rural areas and hospitals throughout the state:

  • The Inland Empire (Riverside and San Bernardino)
  • The Central Valley (San Joaquin Valley)
  • Sacramento and Northern California regions

California offers nursing programs at more than 100 schools, and DNP-educated nurses are in high demand to serve as nurse faculty members in many of them. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) reported 135 vacancies for nursing faculty in California in 2015 alone. The AACN also reported that California’s nurse faculty averaged 56 years of age that year, with many nearing retirement.

A survey of job listings for DNP-educated nurses performed during April 2016 identified a number of positions that either required a DNP or an earned doctorate (including a DNP). A pharmaceutical company offered one of these positions, while the others entailed academic service at a university.

These positions are shown to illustrate the types of opportunities available to DNP-educated nurses in California and are not meant to represent job offers or an assurance of employment:

Medical Science Liaison Dermatology/Rheumatology for Novartis Pharmaceuticals

  • DNP, PhD MD, or PharmD strongly preferred
  • At least 2 years of postdoctoral experience or equivalent in the pharmaceutical industry or other healthcare environment
  • Will cover Orange County and the Inland Empire in California

Assistant Professor – NP at Loma Linda University

  • DNP and Master’s in Nursing required
  • Formal APRN education preferred
  • At least 2 years of experience as an APRN preferred
  • National certification as an APRN preferred

Assistant Professor Positions at San Jose State University

  • Community Health Nursing
  • Medical-Surgical Nursing (With Gerontology)
    • Tenure-Track
    • DNP, PhD, DNSc in nursing (or a related field such as an EdD) by the time of appointment
    • BSN or higher degree in nursing with a Master’s degree which includes coursework in nursing, nursing education, or administration with a Medical-Surgical Nursing (with Gerontology) or Community Health Nursing focus
    • Must possess or be eligible for RN licensure in California

Assistant, Associate or Full Professor of Nursing at California State University, Monterey Bay

  • DNP, PhD, or EdD required
  • Must have a California RN license or be eligible for one
  • Must be eligible for a Public Health Nursing Certificate in California

Full-time Nursing Faculty – DNP Program at Samuel Merritt University

  • Earned doctorate required
  • Must have current RN licensure
  • At least 3 years of documented high quality higher education teaching experience in nursing

Chairperson, BSN Program at Samuel Merritt University

  • Earned doctorate required
  • At least 3 years of experience in BSN or higher degree programs:
    • Progressive experience in teaching
    • Administration/Management
  • At least 2 years of experience in clinical nursing
  • Master’s degree or higher in nursing or a related field
  • Must be an RN or eligible for licensure in California

Program Director, Entry Level MSN Program at Samuel Merritt University

  • Doctorate degree preferred
  • Must have a Master’s degree in nursing with experience in academic administration
  • At least 3 years of progressive experience in teaching in BSN or higher degree programs
  • Must be an RN or eligible for licensure in California

The Accelerated BSN (ABSN) Chairperson at Samuel Merritt University

  • Earned Doctorate required
  • Must have a Master’s degree in nursing
  • At least 3 years of experience in BSN or higher degree programs:
    • Progressive experience in teaching
    • Administration/Management
  • At least 2 years of experience in clinical nursing
  • Must hold or be eligible for an unencumbered RN license in California

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