For generations, Montana’s wide open spaces have inspired residents to put down roots. But this largely rural environment has made access to primary care particularly challenging. According to a January 2018 High Country News article, it’s common for Montana residents to drive hundreds of miles to see a doctor. Of the 56 counties in the state, 52 have been designated as primary care shortage areas by the federal government. Compounding the issue is the fact that Montana has one of the oldest physician populations in the nation, a situation that makes the shortage even more acute as a growing number of doctors retire.
Fortunately, Montana’s advanced practice nurses, many of whom are doctorate-prepared, enjoy full autonomy, which allows them to practice and prescribe drugs independent of physician oversight. These highly skilled practitioners are key to solving the primary care issues plaguing Montana and instrumental to the future of the state’s healthcare system, providing leadership in everything from healthcare policy development to facility administration to direct patient care.
By earning the DNP, nurses can position themselves to be influential leaders, whether in direct patient care or in executive leadership roles.
Earning a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) in Montana
DNP programs are available to both qualified bachelor’s- and master’s-prepared RNs, allowing nurses to receive the highest level of preparation available:
- BSN-prepared nurses would apply to BSN to DNP programs, which allow them to obtain a master’s degree en route to the DNP.
- Nurses who already hold a master’s degree are eligible to apply directly to the post-master’s phase of DNP programs. MSN-prepared nurses who choose a DNP track in a new population focus must complete the prerequisite coursework for that track before beginning DNP studies.
As of 2020, the only CCNE-accredited DNP in Montana is offered as a distance program through Montana State University in Bozeman. This exceptional program offers the option of two different patient population tracks for BSN-prepared RNs looking to transition to advanced practice licensure in the nurse practitioner role:
- DNP, Family/Individual
- DNP, Psychiatric/Mental Health
Montana State University
College of Nursing
- Nurse Practitioner, Family/Individual and Nurse Practitioner
- Psychiatric/Mental Health
Post-Master’s MN-DNP (online)
Montana State University also offers a post-master’s MN-DNP for master’s-prepared nurses interested in earning a DNP online.
A growing number of Montana nurses are electing to pursue their DNP through accredited online programs. Consisting of flexible coursework and clinical practicums that are often completed with the student’s existing employer, these programs allow both bachelor’s- and master’s-prepared nurses to continue their education with minimal disruption to current work obligations. Nurses enrolled in online DNP programs work with an assigned advisor to arrange for clinical placements. Additionally, nurses would work with a program mentor to complete a final DNP project.
Coursework and DNP Projects
Bachelor’s-prepared nurses would begin the program with master’s level coursework typically consisting of 30 core credits, and additional coursework based on their chosen concentration or patient population track. DNP curriculum typically consists of between another 48 and 60 credits.
DNP students are typically expected to complete a minimum of 1,000 hours of supervised postbaccalaureate practice to earn their DNP (hours may consist of practice within both the nurse’s master’s and doctorate program). Some nurses may need to complete clinical experience independently to achieve these hours.
Students also complete a DNP Project as a way to apply and demonstrate their knowledge within their chosen role and patient population. During the project, students work with a program mentor to contribute to an area of scholarship in advanced nursing practice.
Opportunities Available to DNP-Prepared Nurses in Montana
Doctor of Nursing Practice programs prepare nurses for the highest level clinical and administrative roles available. Upon graduation, DNP-prepared nurses bring an expanded level of expertise to clinical practice, and often advance to leadership positions with their current employer.
The following job posts highlight the many opportunities available to DNP-educated nurses in Montana:
Assistant/Associate/Full Professor – Nursing, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT
- Doctor in nursing or related field
- Graduate degree in nursing
- Eligibility for RN licensure in Montana
Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner, Shodair Children’s Hospital, Missoula, MT
- Master’s degree or DNP from an accredited program
- APRN – NP license from the State of Montana and current prescriptive authority
- Two years of pediatric psychiatric experience preferred
College of Nursing Non-Tenure-Track Faculty, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT
- BSN or master’s degree in nursing; DNP in nursing preferred
- Current certification as an APRN in psychiatric mental health or family nurse practitioner
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.