Online BSN-to-DNP and MSN-to-DNP Programs Available in Florida

Nurses with advanced degrees including the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), the highest clinical practice degree available, remain a hot commodity throughout the U.S. as an aging population and more insured patients put unprecedented demands on the nation’s healthcare system.

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This rings particularly true in Florida, where population growth far exceeds nurse recruitment. In fact, a February 2016 Tampa Bay Times article referred to the state’s deficit of nearly 13,000 nurses as nothing short of a “nursing shortage tsunami.” The Florida Center for Nursing reported that nurse vacancies have increased more than 30 percent since 2013. Adding to the problem, Florida is expected to create another 9,947 nursing positions in 2016 alone that may not be able to be filled.

The Tampa Bay Times article reports that many hospitals have begun preparing for the shortage by recruiting new nurses and helping seasoned nurses move into hard-to-fill positions in critical care units and emergency rooms—positions reserved for the most experienced and educated nurses. Thus, many Florida nurses are well served by earning a DNP in an advanced nursing specialty.

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), nursing schools in Florida enrolled more than 17,000 students in both baccalaureate and graduate programs in 2015, producing about 7,400 graduates across all program levels. A total of 975 students graduated from DNP programs that year.

In addition to serving as a critical part of the healthcare system and leaders in the clinical environment, DNP nurses also serve as leaders who help shape policy through their work in professional organizations:

  • Doreen Cassarino, DNP, FNP-DC, BC-ADM, FAANP: Florida Center for Nursing
  • Janice Hess, DNP, FNP-BC, ARNP: Florida Nurses Association, East Central Region Director
  • Elisa Rodruiguez, DNP, ARNP: National Association of Hispanic Nurses, Treasurer, Miami Chapter
  • Giannina Santos, DNP, ARNP: National Association of Hispanic Nurses, President Elect, Miami Chapter

Earning a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) in Florida

Florida nurses who want to earn a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) must possess either an MSN or BSN:

  • BSN-DNP programs allow BSN-prepared nurses to first complete their MSN and then easily transition into the DNP program. This type of program is commonly used as a path to initial APRN certification and licensure and would consist of about 90 credits taken over 36 months of full time study depending on the specialization.
  • MSN-DNP programs allow MSN-prepared nurses who may already be certified and licensed as APRNs to complete a DNP in preparation for roles in clinical leadership and more. These programs can serve as a path for APRNs looking to advance their expertise within their current APRN role or add additional certification in another patient population focus or specialty. These programs would typically consist of 30-36 credits taken over at least 18 months of full time study depending on the specialization.

As of September 2016, nationally accredited DNP programs in Florida hold voluntary accreditation through the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), while the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Education Programs (COA) handles specialty accreditation for nurse anesthetist programs and the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education (ACME) accredits qualified DNP programs in nurse-midwifery.

CCNE accreditation is granted to programs that include at least 1,000 post-baccalaureate practice hours and 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.)

In addition to campus-based DNP programs, students in Florida have access to a wide array of online DNP programs that allow for convenient, distance-based study. However, students of these programs must still complete the clinical requirements of the program at partner clinical sites. Depending on the institution, students may be limited to completing the program’s clinical requirements where established partnerships exist.

Many online and campus-based DNP programs offer flexible formats to accommodate student needs, such as part-time formats and accelerated formats:

  • Traditional DNP programs consist of about 18-24 months of study
  • Accelerated programs total about 12 months of study
  • Part-time programs take about 2 ½ years to complete

DNP programs consist of three main components:

  • DNP core – The DNP core (includes topics such as clinical scholarship and analytic methods for evidence-based practice, transforming the healthcare organization, epidemiology and social determinants of population health, scientific underpinnings for practice)
  • Specialty courses in line with the chosen focus Specialty coursework focuses on an advanced practice nursing focus or an aggregate/systems/organizational focus
  • Final Project A DNP program’s final project allows students to demonstrate and document their mastery of advanced specialty within the nursing practice. DNP projects usually consist of a written paper suitable for publication and a formal presentation

BSN-to-DNP Programs for BSN-Prepared Nurses

Many DNP programs, either on-campus or online, offer BSN students the opportunity to earn both their MSN and DNP in one, combined program. A BSN-DNP program allows students to effortlessly transition to their DNP program once they complete their MSN. These programs require about four years of study.

BSN-DNP programs specific to one of the four APRN roles (nurse practitioner, nurse-midwife, nurse anesthetist or clinical nurse specialist) require students to earn their MSN in a chosen advanced practice nursing specialty. This would also include satisfying all clinical requirements (usually about 500 hours) and, depending on the chosen specialization, earning national certification in a chosen APRN role and patient population focus.

Although MSN programs vary according to the chosen functional nursing specialty, the MSN core remains the same, encompassing study in the following topics:

  • 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

MSN programs in an APRN role also include an APRN core:

  • Advanced physiology/pathophysiology, including general principles that apply across the lifespan
  • Advanced health assessment, including the assessment of all human systems, concepts and approaches, and advanced assessment techniques
  • Advanced pharmacology, including:
    • Pharmacokinetics
    • Pharmacotherapeutics of all broad categories of agents
    • Pharmacodynamics

BSN-to-DNP and MSN-to-DNP Programs Available in Florida

Currently, there are 11 CCNE-accredited DNP programs in Florida, offering concentrations in advanced practice nursing roles and/or nurse executive/leadership roles. CCNE-accredited online programs are also available to advanced nursing students in Florida. 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.

  • Barry University, Miami Shores
    • Also available as a BSN-DNP
    • Specializations in:
      • Family nurse practitioner
      • Adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner
  • Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton
    • Also available as a BSN-DNP
    • Specializations in:
      • APRN roles
      • Nurse administration
      • Clinical nurse leader
  • Florida International University, Miami
    • Also available as a BSN-DNP
    • Specializations in:
      • Adult gerontology nurse practitioner
      • Family nurse practitioner
      • Pediatric nurse practitioner
      • Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner
      • Nurse anesthetist
  • Florida State University, Tallahassee
    • Specialization in family nurse practitioner
  • Jacksonville University, Jacksonville
    • Also available as a BSN-DNP
    • Specializations in:
      • Adult gerontology nurse practitioner
      • Family nurse practitioner
      • Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner
  • NOVA Southeastern University, Ft. Lauderdale
    • Advanced practice nursing focus
  • University of Central Florida, Orlando
    • Also available as a BSN-DNP
    • Specializations in:
      • Adult gerontology primary care nurse practitioner (BSN-DNP)
      • Family nurse practitioner (BSN-DNP)
      • APRN roles (MSN-DNP)
      • Nurse executive (MSN-DNP)
  • University of Florida, Gainesville
    • Also available as a BSN-DNP
    • Specializations in:
      • Adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner
      • Family nurse practitioner
      • Pediatric acute care nurse practitioner
      • Pediatric primary care nurse practitioner
      • Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner
  • University of Miami, Coral Gables
    • Specializations in APRN roles
  • University of North Florida, Jacksonville
    • Also available as a BSN-DNP
    • Specializations in:
      • Family nurse practitioner (BSN-DNP)
      • Nurse anesthetist (BSN-DNP)
      • Clinical nurse specialist
  • University of South Florida, Tampa
    • Also available as a BSN-DNP
    • Specializations in:
    • Also available as a BSN-DNP
      • BSN-DNP concentrations include:
        • Adult gerontology acute care
        • Adult gerontology primary care
        • Family health
        • Dual occupational health/adult-gerontology primary care
        • Dual oncology/adult-gerontology primary care
        • Pediatric health
      • MSN-DNP concentrations include all APRN roles

Opportunities Available to DNP-Prepared Nurses in Florida

Graduates of DNP programs in Florida pursue practice leadership roles in a wide variety of settings. Just a few of the positions held by DNP graduates include:

  • Executives in healthcare organizations
  • Directors of clinical programs
  • Clinical faculty members
  • Managers of quality initiatives

Many nurses that earn their DNP enjoy advancement in the field and opportunities for promotion to leadership positions with their current employer. The following job listings (sourced in April 2016) represent current job opportunities and provide insight into the many types of professional opportunities available to DNP graduates in Florida, but are not meant to imply any guarantee of employment:

Director of Clinical Excellence & Education, NCH Healthcare System: Naples, FL


  • Provide leadership to clinical nurse specialists, hospital managers, system employees, and education staff
  • Serve as a consultant for matters relative to the scope of learning services and functions
  • Oversee the management and coordination of general daily department operations


  • BSN and master’s degree required; DNP preferred
  • At least 3 to 5 years of experience in leading educational services, staff development, or organizational development

ARNP Nurse Practitioner, South Lake Hospital: Clermont, FL


  • Assess the physical and psychosocial status of patients
  • Differentiate between expected and unexpected findings
  • Work collaboratively to formulate treatment plans
  • Utilize screening and diagnostic strategies
  • Provide care and treatment within scope of practice


  • MSN, DNP, or PhD in nursing required
  • State license and national certification as an ARNP
  • At least 5 years of nursing experience in women’s services

Full-Time Faculty, Family Nurse Practitioner: South University, Orlando


  • Provide competency-based education
  • Design and deliver class instruction through the development of instructional plans to meet course competencies
  • Deliver learning-centered instruction by establishing a classroom environment conducive to learning


  • DNP or PhD in Nursing
  • FNP certification
  • 1 to 5 years of experience in instruction or formalized education process

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