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Online BSN-to-DNP and MSN-to-DNP Programs Available in the District of Columbia

Nowhere is our country’s nursing shortage epidemic more pronounced than in our nation’s capital. This is exemplified by the fact that in 2015 alone, one in ten nurses retired from the Washington D.C. area VA medical center (NBC Washington). This represented the departure of nearly 13 percent of the VA’s total nursing staff in just one year, most of them due to retirement.

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The vacancies left when nurses retire are often in management, clinical leadership and executive leadership. Though these positions have been difficult to fill, the situation has created a wealth of professional opportunities for Washington D.C. RNs and APRNs with advanced degrees like the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), 222 students graduated from DNP programs in Washington D.C. in 2015 alone.

DNP programs—unlike their research-based PhD counterparts—are terminal professional degrees representing the highest level of academic preparation for nursing practice. In other words, the DNP is a practice-focused doctorate degree that builds upon the progressive curriculum of bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing by providing advanced study in evidence-based practice, quality improvement, and systems leadership.

Earning a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) in Washington D.C.

Traditionally, a Doctor of Nursing Practice program requires candidates to possess an MSN, which would typically be in an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) role or executive/leadership track. A number of DNP programs also accept BSN-prepared nurses (called BSN-DNP programs), allowing them to complete their MSN studies (and often earn national certification as an APRN) before seamlessly transitioning into the DNP program.

MSN-to-DNP programs that don’t include an MSN component are 18-24 months in duration, encompassing about 35 credits. BSN-to-DNP programs that include both master’s and doctorate level curriculum take about four years of full-time study to complete about 75-95 credits, depending on the chosen advanced nursing specialty.

The following DNP programs have been accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). CCNE and ACEN-accredited online programs are also available to advanced nursing students in Washington, DC.

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.

  • Catholic University of America:
    • Specializations in APRN roles
    • Also available as a BSN-DNP
  • George Washington University:
    • Also available as a BSN-DNP
    • Specializations in:
      • Adult gerontology primary care
      • Executive leadership
      • Family nurse practitioner
      • Family specialty for nurse practitioner
      • Healthcare quality
      • Nursing education
      • Nursing practice (nurse leader)
      • Palliative care specialty for nurse practitioners

In addition to campus-based programs, DC-based nurses interested in earning their DNP may choose from a wide array of online programs, which would allow them to complete most or all of the didactic components of the DNP using an interactive, online format. Students of these programs would complete the clinical portion at clinical partner sites, so some online programs are limited to residents of areas where schools have already established partnerships with medical centers.

Many DNP programs (both campus-based and online) afford students the opportunity to complete the program via a part-time or accelerated schedule, depending on their professional and personal goals. Students can often complete the program in about 12 months, while part-time programs provide students with a more relaxed schedule that takes about 2 ½ years to complete.

DNP Requirements

All DNP programs, whether designed as a BSN-to-DNP or MSN-to-DNP receive accreditation through the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

Accredited DNP programs offer students the ability to specialize in at least one of the following:

  • An advanced practice nursing direct care focus
  • An aggregate/systems/organizational focus (e.g., executive leadership, health policy, etc.)

Accredited DNP programs must also include at least 1,000 practice hours completed in a supervised academic format. Post-baccalaureate practice hours gained in an MSN program can be applied to this total when in a common track.

The core of a DNP program includes:

  • Scientific underpinnings for practice
  • Organization and systems leadership
  • Clinical scholarship and analytic methods for evidence-based practice
  • Healthcare policy for advocacy in healthcare

In addition to a DNP core, these graduate nursing programs must incorporate specialty-focused competencies based on either an advanced practice nursing focus or an aggregate/systems/organizational focus. A couple of common examples include:

Executive Leader

  • Healthcare financing/budgeting
  • Leadership, behavior, and organizational theory
  • Healthcare information technology
  • Human resources management

Nurse Practitioner (Adult/gerontology and family)

  • Advanced health assessment
  • Primary care for the nurse practitioner
  • Primary care of adolescents and adults
  • Advanced diagnostic reasoning

The tracks most commonly available at the DNP level include:

  • Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Organizational Leadership
  • Executive Leadership
  • Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
  • Primary Pediatric Care
  • Advanced Clinical Practice/Specialization in APRN Roles
  • Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner

Final projects serve as an essential component of a DNP program. While PhD programs typically encompass a dissertation or other scholarly work, DNP programs focus on the mastery of an advanced specialty within nursing practice. Therefore, final projects usually consist of the completion of a practice portfolio, a research utilization project, or a DNP experience, all of which document the outcomes of the student’s educational experiences.

BSN-DNP Programs: DNP Programs for BSN-Prepared Nurses

A number of today’s DNP programs accept BSN-prepared nurses interested in earning both their MSN and DNP. These programs require about four years of full-time study and the completion of about 75-95 credits, depending on the chosen advanced nursing specialty.

Before entering the DNP, students must successfully complete all of the components of their MSN, including clinical experiences and, if applicable, national certification in an APRN role and population focus. The MSN core includes study in:

  • Clinical prevention/population health
  • Evidence-based practice
  • Informatics
  • Interprofessional collaboration
  • Organizational and systems leadership
  • Policy and advocacy
  • Program evaluation for improving patient and population outcomes
  • Quality and safety

Similar to post-master’s DNP programs, BSN-DNP programs may be offered in online, part-time, and/or accelerated formats.

Opportunities Available to DNP-Prepared Nurses in Washington D.C.

Our nation’s DNP nurses meet and often exceed the qualifications necessary to serve as primary care providers, nurse faculty, and nurse leaders, possessing the skills required for advanced practice and the application of research into practice. For many nurses, earning a DNP allows them to advance from their current position and/or pursue exciting leadership positions, both in and out of the clinical environment.

In addition to the Washington D.C. VA Medical Center, our nation’s capital is home to a number of renowned medical centers, representing a plethora of opportunities for today’s DNP-prepared nurses:

  • Children’s National Medical Center
  • United Medical Center
  • George Washington University Hospital
  • Barnard Medical Center
  • Lombardi Cancer Center, Georgetown University Hospital
  • Kaiser Permanente Capitol Hill Medical Center

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