In 2015, some 54,266 Montanans signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, according to The Billings Gazette. That number, coupled with aging patient and workforce populations, has led some healthcare experts to believe that Montana residents are requiring care at what may ultimately prove to be an unsustainable rate.
As the demand for health services in Montana rapidly increases, Doctors of Nursing Practice (DNPs) will be instrumental in the future of the state’s healthcare, providing leadership in areas ranging from policy formation to direct patient care. By earning the (DNP), nurses position themselves for expanded leadership positions in both clinical and administrative roles, often through advancement with their current employer.
DNP programs are available to both qualified bachelor’s- and master’s-prepared nurses, allowing nurses to receive the highest education available in their practice specialty. Examples of targeted learning tracks offered by DNP programs could include:
- Executive Leadership
- Psychiatric/Mental Health
- Adult Gerontology
Doctorate-prepared nurses are among the most significant leaders in Montana’s current healthcare sphere. Just some of the Doctors of Nursing Practice providing active leadership in Montana’s nursing field include:
- Robin Jankiewicz, CRNA DNP – President of the Montana Association of Nurse Anesthetists
- Casey Blumenthal, MHSA, RN, CAE, DNP – Director of the Flathead County Home Health Agency in Whitefish and Vice President of the Montana Hospital Association
- Kathryn Waitman, DNP, FNP of the Billings Clinic
Earning a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) in Montana
Nurses seeking admission to DNP programs must possess a minimum of a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). BSN-prepared nurses would apply to MSN to DNP programs, which allow them to obtain a master’s degree en route to the DNP. Nurses who already hold the MSN are eligible to apply directly to DNP programs. However, 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 March 2016, the only CCNE-accredited campus-based DNP program in Montana is offered at Montana Sate University in Bozeman. Through that program, nurses can earn the following specialized degrees:
- DNP, Family/Individual
- DNP, Psychiatric/Mental Health
Other DNP programs in the state 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.
A growing number of Montana nurses are electing to pursue their DNP through accredited online programs. Consisting of flexible coursework, practical and clinical experience opportunities, and a DNP project, these programs are becoming increasingly popular among both bachelor’s- and master’s-prepared nurses, as these programs allow them to continue their education without sacrificing current work obligations.
Nearly all courses within online DNP programs consist of practicum experiences. As a result, these programs are often only available in states where the programs have established relationships with medical centers. In Montana, nurses enrolled in online DNP programs work with an assigned advisor to find placement in clinical settings that collaborate with their program. Additionally, nurses would work with a program mentor to complete their DNP project.
MSN to DNP Programs for BSN-Prepared Nurses – Bachelor’s-prepared nurses are eligible to apply to Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) to DNP programs, which allow them to earn their master’s level degree en route to the DNP. These types of programs allow nurses to earn both their master’s degree and doctorate degree at the same educational institution, providing the most direct educational route to career advancement in the nursing field.
At the master’s level, nurses would typically complete 30 core credits and additional coursework based on their chosen concentration. Core MSN courses typically cover topics including:
- Advanced nursing roles
- Ethics and legality of health policy
- Advanced practice nursing theory
- Examining evidence
- Health promotion
Doctorate-Level Coursework and DNP Projects
Nurses enrolled in DNP programs can earn the highest level of education in their chosen area of practice. Common degree specializations at the doctorate level include:
- Executive Leadership
- Family Nurse Practitioner
- Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
DNP programs typically consist of between 48-60 credits, depending the amount of supervised practice the nurse has completed before beginning studies.
Coursework in DNP programs typically cover the following areas of study:
- Scientific foundations
- Advocacy, ethics, and policy for population health
- Clinical decision making
- Healthcare organization leadership
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 and earn their DNP
Beyond core coursework, nurses must complete a DNP Project to apply their knowledge in their chosen focus. Through this project, nurses will 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 most important clinical and administrative careers in the field. Upon graduation, DNP-prepared nurses in Montana often expand their current role or advance to a higher position outright with their current employer. Other nurses who earn the degree go on fill leadership gaps with a new employer that requires a doctorate-prepared nurse’s specialized expertise.
The following job listings for doctorate-prepared nurses in Montana were surveyed in March 2016. They are shown for illustrative purposes only and are not meant to represent job offers or provide any assurance of employment.
Urgent Care Family Nurse Practitioner at Bozeman Health in Bozeman
- Master’s or Doctorate of Nursing required
- Job duties would include examining, assessing, and evaluating patients within an urgent care clinic
- Nurse would be expected to work both independently and within a team setting
Assistant Professor of Nursing at Montana State University Northern in Havre
- Doctoral-prepared nurse preferred
- Nurse required to teach in their verified nursing specialty
- Nurse must provide both didactic and clinical instruction