Chronic understaffing in New Jersey’s hospitals is reflective of the national struggle to provide adequate access to quality nursing care amid a growing demand for healthcare services. A 2014 NJBIZ article reported that improving staff levels leads to fewer medical errors, safer hospitals, and healthier patients.
The advanced clinical skills of nurses with advanced degrees like the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) have been shown to improve patient outcomes. This has made these advanced clinicians an indispensable part of the multidisciplinary healthcare team.
Today’s DNP programs provide entry points for both BSN- and MSN-prepared RNs and APRNs as a way to appeal to a broader population of nurses.
DNP-prepared nurses are clinical leaders that have elected to earn the highest practice-focused nursing degree available as a way to demonstrate their dedication and advance to positions of leadership while improving safety, efficiency, and equity in patient-centered care. Just some of the DNP-prepared nurses that have risen to positions of influence in New Jersey include:
- Aline Holmes, DNP, RN: Senior Vice President for Clinical Affairs, New Jersey Nursing Initiative
- Benjamin Evans, DD, DNP, RN, APN: President Elect, New Jersey Board of Directors, NJ State Nurses Association
- Sandy Quinn, DNP, RN, CNE: Secretary, New Jersey Board of Directors, NJ State Nurses Association
- Mary DiGiulio, DNP, APN: New Jersey Children’s Health Project
Earning a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) in New Jersey
Students of DNP programs focus on at least one of the following general areas:
- An advanced practice nursing direct care focus (nurse practitioner, nurse anesthetist, clinical nurse specialist, nurse midwife)
- An aggregate/systems/organizational focus (e.g., executive leadership, health policy, etc.)
RNs and APRNs with either a BSN or MSN may pursue the DNP:
- Post-Bachelor’s BSN-to-DNP programs allow BSN-prepared nurses to complete MSN and DNP requirements in one accelerated program consisting of about 90 credits that can be completed in 3-4 years. This type of program is commonly used as a path to initial APRN certification and licensure.
- Post-Master’s MSN-to-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, to add a patient population focus or specialization, or to advance their knowledge in their current APRN role/patient population focus. These programs would typically consist of 30-36 credits taken over at least 18-24 months.
Individuals with an interest in DNP programs are not just limited to campus-based programs in New Jersey, thanks to a wide array of programs offered online. Online DNP programs allow students to complete the required courses using an innovate, interactive online platform. Students may need to visit the campus on a few occasions to complete an immersion experience, an opportunity to meet and network with peers, faculty, and nursing professionals.
DNP Program Structure
The core of a DNP program includes courses such as:
- Scientific Foundations for Practice Doctorate
- Healthcare Economics, Financing and Managed Care
- Healthcare Policy: Legislation and Strategies
- Ethics, Policy, and Advocacy or Population Health
- Applied statistics for evidence-based practice
- Quality Improvement and Patient Safety
The DNP also includes courses in the chosen program specialty. A couple of examples are shown here:
Family Nurse Practitioner
- Secondary and tertiary prevention
- Wellness for adults in primary care
- Primary care for children, adolescents, and families
Health Systems Leader
- Ethics and healthcare policy
- Vulnerability, culture, and nursing
- Quality improvement processes and methodologies
- Leadership in healthcare systems
- Health program planning and development
Post-Bachelor’s BSN-to-DNP Programs for BSN-Prepared Nurses
In addition to post-master’s DNP programs, which require candidates to possess an MSN and, often times, national certification in an APRN role and population focus, BSN-to-DNP programs allow BSN-prepared nurses to complete the components of both an MSN and a DNP through one, structured program.
The BSN-to-DNP program, which may be offered in online, accelerated, or part-time formats, require students to first complete the components of their MSN, which include: the MSN core, all courses associated with their chosen specialty, and clinical rotations of at least 500 hours (these clinical hours are applied to the 1000 total required to earn the DNP).
The MSN core includes studying:
- Clinical prevention/population health
- Evidence-based practice
- Interprofessional collaboration
- Organizational and systems leadership
- Program evaluation for improving patient and population outcomes
- Quality and safety
Students pursuing a DNP in an advanced practice nursing specialty would be expected to earn national certification in their chosen APRN role and population focus before beginning the DNP component of the program.
BSN-to-DNP and MSN-to-DNP Programs Available in New Jersey
The following DNP programs have been accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) (current as of 2016).
- Farleigh Dickinson University, Teaneck
- Clinical leadership
- Organizational leadership
- Felician College, Lodi
- Advanced practice
- Executive leadership
- Monmouth University, West Long Branch
- Healthcare leadership
- Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, Newark
- BSN-DNP specializations in:
- Adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner
- Adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner
- Family nurse practitioner
- Family nurse practitioner, emergency care
- Nurse anesthesia
- Pediatric nurse practitioner
- Psychiatric/mental health nurse practitioner
- Women’s health nurse practitioner
- MSN-DNP specialization in:
- BSN-DNP specializations in:
- Saint Peter’s College, Englewood Cliffs
- APRN roles
- Nurse executive/administrator
- Seton Hall University, South Orange
- Advanced practice nurse
- William Paterson University, Wayne
- Advanced practice clinical for APRNs
- Advanced practice administrative track for nurse administrators
A larger selection of CCNE and ACEN (American Commission for Education in Nursing)-accredited DNP programs are available online.
The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) accredits both campus-based and online DNP programs in the U.S. In both cases, these programs may be structured as:
- Full-time programs: Consisting of 18-24 months of study
- Part-time programs: Consisting of about 32 months of study
- Accelerated programs: Consisting of about 12 months of study
CCNE-accredited programs encompass at least 1,000 hours of clinical rotations, 500 of which may be transferred from a student’s MSN program. All DNP programs culminate in a DNP project, a practice portfolio, or a research utilization project, designed to document the student’s educational experiences.
Students of online DNP programs work with faculty advisors to schedule and organize their clinical rotations, many of which can be completed at partner sites close to home.
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.
Opportunities Available to DNP-Prepared Nurses in New Jersey
DNP-prepared nurses serve in high-level positions in clinical practice and in areas such as organizational leadership, administration, and health policy. Whether seeking a new career opportunity or advancing to a new role with their current employer, DNP graduates are prepared to practice in highly complex, fast-paced healthcare environments.
The following job listings (sourced in April 2016) provide an insight into the type of jobs DNP graduates in New Jersey would be able to pursue (shown for illustrative purposes only and do not necessarily reflect current employment opportunities):
Advanced Practice Nurse, Valley System of Ridgewood: Ridgewood, NJ
- Contribute professional and clinical nurse expertise to assigned units and/or patient populations
- Diagnose medical conditions
- Plan and implement interventions
- Evaluate CDU patient responses in collaboration with the hospitalists
- Current RN and APRN license
- Master’s degree in nursing required, DNP/PhD preferred
- At least 3-5 years of clinical nursing practice experience
Nurse Practitioner, Transition in Care Manager: Hoboken, NJ
- Perform comprehensive assessments and physical examinations of patients transferred to skilled nursing facilities
- Participate in the care rounds with the interdisciplinary care team
- Identify patient and family needs prior to discharge
- Manage acute care issues for residents
- New Jersey NP License
- MSN and/or DNP
- Full-time experience as an APN with ICU and/or ER experience
- Home care experience preferred
Vice President, Nursing and Patient Services, Tyler & Company: New Brunswick, NJ
- Responsible for the leadership and function of the nursing and patient services division
- Responsible for the overall quality of nursing care delivered through the hospital organization
- Master’s degree in nursing, healthcare, or business administration
- RN license in New Jersey
- Preferred candidate will have Six Sigma experience, additional certifications, and a DNP/PhD