Whether bachelor’s-prepared RNs or master’s-prepared NPs and other APRNs, a growing number of nurses in Massachusetts are seeking out the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP).
Because the DNP is designed to prepare nurses at the highest level of clinical practice, it’s a smart choice for RNs seeking initial certification in the nurse practitioner, nurse-anesthetist, clinical nurse specialist or nurse-midwife role, as well as for currently practicing APRNs interested in adding another patient population focus or transitioning to administration. In a state like Massachusetts where physician shortages are the norm, nurses practicing at the doctoral level are instrumental for ensuring access to reliable and cost-effective primary care.
Healthcare advocates throughout Massachusetts have long been the voice of rural Massachusetts and, with the support of organizations like the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers, they support a number of changes that improve the primary landscape in the state’s rural communities. One such effort includes doubling the number of nurse practitioner post-graduate residency training positions at community health centers throughout the state as a way to improve the number of NPs in these settings.
Massachusetts’ colleges and universities have also been instrumental in producing more advanced nurse clinicians throughout the state. As of 2020, the state was home to ten colleges and universities that offer the DNP, with many programs offering entry points for both for BSN- and MSN-educated nurses.
Earning a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) in Massachusetts
Both bachelor’s and master’s-prepared nurses are eligible to begin working towards a Doctorate of Nursing Practice. There are two entry points available through most DNP programs, the BSN-DNP and MSN-DNP:
- Nurses with a bachelor’s degree will enroll in BSN-DNP Through this program, nurses will complete both a master’s and a doctorate degree in a comprehensive program that usually consists of about 90 credits and can be completed in 3-4 years.
- Nurses with a master’s degree are eligible to enroll directly in MSN-DNP programs and begin doctorate coursework. However, if the nurse desires to specialize in a patient population different from their master’s studies, they will be required to complete prerequisite coursework in the chosen focus. MSN-DNP programs generally consist of 30-35 credits and can be completed in a year and a half. If the nurse is adding a patient population, the program will require additional credits.
DNP programs receive accreditation through the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). In order to be accredited, programs must meet at least two qualifications:
- Require at least 1,000 post-baccalaureate hours
- Offer students the ability to specialize in an advanced practice nursing focus or an aggregate/systems/organizational focus
Massachusetts currently offers seven traditional in-state programs. Nurses in Massachusetts seeking DNP credentials may also choose from a variety of accredited online programs hosted throughout the country. DNP programs are heavily made up of practicum requirements, which will require the nurse to complete clinical hours in hospitals, clinics, and physician’s offices in the state. Universities partner with clinics throughout the state to offer practicum hours.
Many programs, both online and traditional, offer three different program tracks to accommodate individual students’ needs:
- Traditional programs, which consist of about 18-24 months of study
- Accelerated programs, which can be completed in about a year
- Part-time programs, which can be completed in about 2 ½ years
Individual programs vary, but all DNP programs are made up of three core components:
- DNP Core: the DNP core includes studies in scientific foundations, epidemiology, and advanced pathophysiology and Pharmacotherapeutics, as well as ethics and legality of health policy and leadership roles in a complex healthcare setting.
- Specialty courses in line with the chosen focus: Specialty coursework will center around either an advanced practice nursing focus or an aggregate/systems/organizational focus.
- DNP project: The final project of the program, the DNP project usually requires a written paper and a presentation on the nurses’ specialization.
BSN-to-DNP Programs for BSN-Prepared Nurses
The BSN-to-DNP program is an ideal option for bachelor’s prepared nurses, as it offers the most direct route to doctoral status. Bachelor’s-prepared nurses often seek out this program as an initial path to APRN licensure and certification. Although these programs require about four years of study, they allow the student to reach the highest level of clinical education in one comprehensive program.
BSN-to-DNP programs in one of the four APRN roles will require students to become certified in an advanced practice specialty. The clinical requirements usually include at least 500 practicum hours.
The MSN core will cover the following topics:
- Survey of Health Care Informatics
- Health Care Economics and Financing
- Population Health
- Leadership within a Healthcare System
- Health Care Finance and Marketing
- Health Care Policy
- Quality Improvement in Health Care
APRN core classes will cover the following topics:
- Advanced Practice Ethical/Legal Issues
- Advanced Practice Research Methods
- Advanced Practice Physiology/Pathophysiology
- Advanced Health Assessment
- Advanced Pharmacology
BSN-to-DNP and MSN-to-DNP Programs Available in Massachusetts
The following DNP programs have been accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), and/or the American Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) (current as of 2016).
MGH Institute of Health Professions, Boston
- Offers BSN-DNP program as well as 34 credit MSN-DNP program
- APRN roles
- Advanced Clinical Practice
- Global Health
- Nursing administration
Northeastern University, Boston (US Army Graduate Program)
- 30 semester hour MSN-DNP program
- Nurse Anesthesia
Simmons College, Boston
- Specializations available in APRN roles
University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst
- BSN-DNP and Post-MSN
- Family nurse practitioner
- Public health nurse leader
- Adult/gerontology primary care practitioner
- Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner
- APRN roles
University of Massachusetts Boston, Boston
- 39 credit MSN-DNP program
- APRN roles
- Public health nurse
University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, North Dartmouth
- BSN-DNP and Post-MSN
- Adult Gerontology Primary Care NP
University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester
- BSN-DNP and Post-MSN
- Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
- Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
- Family Nurse Practitioner
Regis College School of Nursing, Science and Health Professions, Weston
- BSN-DNP and Post-MSN
- Health Informatics Concentration
- Health Policy
- Hospitalist Nurse Practitioner
- Integrative Health
- Nursing Education
- Nursing Leadership
- Public Health
Other DNP programs in the state not shown here may be regionally accredited or hold specialty accreditation through the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs or the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education.
Opportunities Available to DNP-Prepared Nurses in Massachusetts
DNP nurses are the solution to many issues affecting Massachusetts’s healthcare system: filling faculty roles, boosting enrollment numbers to nursing programs in the state, and mentoring nurses entering the field, resulting in a more capable nursing workforce.
Not only do DNP-prepared nurses in Massachusetts have the opportunity to fill critical roles throughout the state, but they also come with the opportunity to earn a larger paycheck. Professional opportunities are often greater, too, with many DNP nurses making the shift into leadership positions within nursing associations, faculty positions at local universities, and executive roles in hospitals and clinics.
The following job listings highlight the excellent professional opportunities available to Massachusetts’ DNP-educated nurses:
Nurse Practitioner, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, Dartmouth, MA
- Master’s degree in nursing or DNP
- Significant experience (more than five years) as an RN or NP with adolescent and/or adult populations
- NP license, certification as adult or family nurse practitioner
Jacques Mohr Endowed Professorship in Geriatric Nursing, School of Nursing, Massachusetts General Hospital, Charlestown, MA
- Expertise in gerontology and geriatric healthcare and experience teaching at the graduate level, mentoring students and faculty, and a substantial record of extramural research funding, preferably federal
- Doctoral degree in nursing or a related field
- Eligible for RN licensure in Massachusetts
Global Nurse Educator, Partners in Health, Boston, MA
- Bachelor’s degree, MSN or PhD/DNP/EdD preferred
- Minimum four years of experience in a clinical setting in low-resources countries
Professional Development Manager, RN, Brigham & Women’s Physicians Organization, South Weymouth, MA
- Current Massachusetts licensure as an RN
- BSN required, MSN/MS or DNP/PhD preferred
- Minimum five years of clinical experience as a clinical nurse with demonstrated evidence of leadership progression
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.