Online BSN-to-DNP and MSN-to-DNP Programs Available in North Carolina

Primary care in North Carolina has seen its share of challenges in recent years. In fact, according to a February 2018 article published in The News & Observer, 70 of the state’s 80 counties have been labeled ‘medical deserts’ because of their lack of primary care.

A report by the federal Health Resources and Services Administration revealed that by 2025, North Carolina will experience a nearly 12% deficit of primary care physicians.

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Now, more than ever, nurse practitioners are needed to fill the void left by a shortage of physicians by providing outstanding, cost-effective care to the citizens of North Carolina. Both current and aspiring NPs, along with other APRNs, are turning to the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) in increasing numbers to ensure they possess the expertise to succeed at the highest levels of clinical practice.

The DNP is fast becoming a favorite among RNs making the transition to advanced practice, as well as by practicing APRNs interested in moving into administration or nursing education or adding another patient population focus to their APRN certification.

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And North Carolina’s colleges and universities are rising to the demand by offering increasing numbers of DNP programs with at least some online component, both for BSN- and MSN-educated nurses.

Earning a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) in North Carolina

Accredited programs generally require at least 1,000 post-baccalaureate clinical practice hours (practice hours gained during an MSN program can be applied to this total) and must offer students the ability to specialize in at least one of the following:

  • An advanced practice nursing direct care focus
    • Nurse practitioner
    • Clinical nurse specialist
    • Nurse anesthetist
    • Nurse-midwife
  • An aggregate/systems/organizational focus, such as:
    • Clinical education
    • Nursing informatics
    • Executive leadership
    • Public policy
    • Public health
    • Administration

A Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree prepares nurses with the critical skills required to implement advanced evidence-based care, measure the outcomes of groups of patients and communities, and improve systems of care.

DNP programs are available to nurses with either an MSN or BSN:

  • BSN-DNP programs allow BSN-prepared nurses to complete both their MSN and DNP in one, streamlined program. BSN-DNP programs, which consists of about 90 credits and three years of full-time study, depending on the specialization, allow BSN students to first earn their MSN in an APRN role and population focus, earn national certification in their chosen APRN role, and then transition to the DNP program. Other tracks are available for those interested in organizational/executive leadership.
  • MSN-DNP programs, designed for MSN-prepared nurses, offer study in a number of areas, including advanced practice nursing, clinical education, nursing informatics, administration, and more.

Colleges and universities with online DNP programs allow students to complete all of the didactic requirements of the program through interactive, web-based courses, with on-campus requirements generally limited to one or two campus-based immersion experiences. Immersion experiences provide students with the opportunity to meet with faculty and engage in networking activities with their peers and nursing professionals.

Students work alongside faculty advisors in DNP programs, who coordinate the clinical requirements of the program.

DNP programs, both online and campus-based, offer a number of formats to accommodate the needs of students:

  • 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 consists of courses such as:
    • Organizational and Systems Leadership
    • Applied Epidemiology and Biostatistics for Nursing Practice
    • Research for Evidence-Based Practice
    • Health Promotion in Individuals and Clinical Populations
    • Effective Project Planning, Implementation, and Evaluation
  • 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 – DNP programs culminate in a final project, designed to highlight the student’s acquired knowledge. Final projects may consist of pilot studies, program evaluations, or integrated critical literature reviews, among others.

BSN-to-DNP Programs for BSN-Prepared Nurses

Many of today’s DNP programs provide a point of entry for BSN-prepared nurses. These streamlined programs allow students to first complete MSN curriculum in an advanced practice nursing role and population focus or organizational leadership track. In most cases, these programs confer both an MSN and DNP degree upon completion.

The MSN component includes coursework in an MSN core, coursework associated with the chosen APRN role or other specialization, and at least 500 hours of clinical rotations applied to the 1000 total necessary to earn a DNP.

The MSN core includes study in such topics as:

  • Clinical prevention/population health
  • Evidence-based practice
  • Program evaluation for improving patient and population outcomes
  • Quality and safety
  • Interprofessional collaboration
  • Organizational and systems leadership

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

Upon completing all MSN requirements, students of BSN-DNP programs specific to advanced practice would then achieve national certification before moving into the DNP program. Similar to post-master’s DNP programs, BSN-to-DNP programs may be offered in part-time, accelerated and/or online formats.

BSN-to-DNP and MSN-to-DNP Programs Available in North Carolina

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). Both CCNE and ACEN-accredited DNP programs are often available online.

 

Duke University

School of Nursing

Durham

Accreditation: CCNE

BSN-DNP (hybrid)

  • Nurse Practitioner
  • Nurse Anesthesia

Post-Master’s-DNP (hybrid)

  • Executive Leadership

 

East Carolina University

College of Nursing

Greenville

Accreditation: CCNE

BSN-DNP

  • Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (online)
  • Family Nurse Practitioner (online)
  • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (campus)

MSN-DNP (online)

  • Leadership

 

UNC Charlotte/WCU Dual DNP Program

School of Nursing

Charlotte

Accreditation: CCNE

Post-Master’s-DNP (campus)

  • Clinical Nursing Practice

 

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

School of Nursing

Chapel Hill

Accreditation: CCNE

BSN-DNP

  • Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (hybrid)
  • Family Nurse Practitioner (hybrid)
  • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner – Primary Care (hybrid)
  • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (hybrid)
  • Health Care Leadership and Administration (online)

MSN-DNP (online)

  • Clinical Nursing Practice

 

University of North Carolina at Charlotte

School of Nursing

Charlotte

Accreditation: CCNE and COA

BSN-DNP (campus)

  • Nurse Anesthesia

 

University of North Carolina at Greensboro

School of Nursing

Greensboro

Accreditation: CCNE and COA

Post-BSN-DNP

  • Adult/Gerontological Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (hybrid)
  • Nurse Anesthesia (campus)

Post-Master’s-DNP (hybrid)

  • Clinical Nursing Practice

 

University of North Carolina at Wilmington

School of Nursing

Wilmington

Accreditation: CCNE

BSN-DNP (online)

  • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
  • Family Nurse Practitioner

MSN-DNP (online)

  • Post-APRN
  • Nurse Executive Leadership

 

Western Carolina University – Cullowhee

School of Nursing

Cullowhee

Accreditation: CCNE and COA

BSN-DNP (campus)

  • Nurse Anesthesia

 

Gardner–Webb University

Hunt School of Nursing

Boiling Springs

Accreditation: ACEN

Post-Baccalaureate-DNP (hybrid)

  • Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

Post-Master’s-DNP (hybrid)

  • Leadership

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 North Carolina

Graduates of DNP programs are qualified to develop and implement best practices to improve healthcare and healthcare systems, serve as organizational directors, where they design, direct, and evaluate system changes, and engage in complex, evidence-based advanced nursing practice.

Whether advancing in their current position or exploring new professional opportunities, DNP nurses in North Carolina are able to deftly address the increasingly complex nature of patient care amid national concerns about quality of care and patient safety.

The following job listings provide insight into the many outstanding opportunities available to DNP-educated nurses in North Carolina:

Chair, Department of Baccalaureate Education, College of Nursing, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC

  • DNP or PhD in nursing or related field
  • Five years of teaching experience in baccalaureate or higher degree program in nursing

Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner, Merce Family Healthcare, Asheboro, NC

  • MSN or DNP
  • NC license to practice as a nurse practitioner plus advanced practice course completion in psychiatric mental health
  • At least 5 years of experience within the mental health field

Associate Director for Administration, University of North Carolina Wilmington, Wilmington, NC

  • Doctoral degree in nursing (PhD, DNP)
  • Current RN license in NC or eligibility for licensure in NC

Clinical Nurse Specialist (Diabetes), Nealy Pierce, Raleigh, NC

  • MSN-prepared CNS; doctorate a plus
  • National certification as a CNS through AACN or ANCC

 

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.

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