BSN-DNP Programs for BSN-Prepared Nurses

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Many of today’s Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) programs offer two points of entry: the first for master’s-prepared nurses and the second for bachelor’s-prepared nurses, called the BSN-DNP (or post-bachelor’s DNP).

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BSN-DNP programs allow BSN-prepared nurses to complete the components of both the MSN and DNP through one, streamlined program, thereby alleviating much of the hassle and worry associated with completing two, separate programs.

BSN-DNP programs provide candidates with one application process and one curriculum, thereby simplifying the process and making the DNP more accessible than ever before.

Why BSNs Should Consider BSN-to-DNP Programs

More than ever, bachelor’s-prepared registered nurses are considering the value of achieving the highest clinical nursing degree – the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). Beyond personal ambition and an interest in future-proofing their credentials, BSNs pursue the DNP in an effort to satisfy our current and future healthcare needs and so as to better serve as an innovative force in the nursing profession.

Our nation is on the verge of a nursing shortage of epic proportions. Although the U.S. has been dealing with nursing deficits of varying degrees for many years, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that by 2025, the nursing shortfall is expected to be more than twice as large as any nursing shortage experienced since the introduction of Medicare and Medicaid in the 1960s. According to the BLS, there will be 1.2 million vacancies for registered nurses between 2014 and 2022.

In addition to the demand for RNs, the U.S. is experiencing a dire need for nurses with advanced clinical nursing degrees to fill vital roles in clinical leadership, administration, and faculty, positions available to RNs that complete BSN-to-DNP programs.

BSN-DNP programs, designed specifically for bachelor’s prepared RNs, prepare nurses to become expert clinicians, leaders in health policy, and catalysts for improved healthcare delivery. Graduates of BSN-DNP programs are able to skillfully fill clinical leadership positions, develop and evaluate new practices and approaches to healthcare delivery, develop and advocate for healthcare policy, and lead the implementation of some of the newest healthcare technologies.

BSN-to-DNP Online Options, Admission Requirements, and Specialty Tracks

Like traditional, post-master’s (MSN-DNP) programs, both online and campus-based BSN-DNP programs earn accreditation through the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and the Accreditation Commission for Nursing Education (ACEN).

Program Delivery/Format Options

BSN-DNP programs typically consist of between 65 and 90 credits, depending on the chosen specialization, and require about 36 months of full-time study (3-4 years).

Although many institutions still offer their BSN-DNP programs in a campus-based, full-time format, many institutions now also offer online BSN-DNP programs as a way to accommodate the needs of busy working nurses. Online programs feature virtual classrooms, which allow students 24-hour access to the program’s online courses.

Some programs require students to attend one or more campus-based immersion experiences. In addition to providing students with an opportunity to meet program faculty, immersion experiences allow students to engage in intensive educational experiences with peers.

Students of online BSN-DNP programs work with faculty advisors to locate appropriate practice/clinical sites in order to complete the required clinical experiences associated with both the MSN and the DNP.

Many institutions also offer BSN-DNP programs in part-time and accelerated formats, thereby accommodating the unique needs of working nurses.

Admission Requirements

Admission into a BSN-DNP program can often be extensive, requiring candidates to possess:

  • A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from an accredited college or university
  • A competitive undergraduate GPA (usually 3.0 or above)
  • Minimum GRE scores (often waived for candidates with a superior GPA)
  • A current resume or CV detailing previous nursing experience
  • A current and unencumbered RN license
  • Letters of recommendation speaking to the candidate’s academic ability, professional competency, and personal character
  • Personal statement or essay outlining the candidate’s academic expectations and future career goals

Choosing a BSN-DNP Specialization

Many BSN-DNP programs offer specialization in a direct patient care role—usually an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) role:

  • Clinical nurse practitioner (CNP)
  • Clinical nurse specialist (CNS)
  • Certified nurse-midwife (CNM)
  • Certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA)

Students choosing a CNS or CNP role must also choose at least one population focus:

  • Family/Individual Across the Lifespan
  • Adult-Gerontology (Acute care/primary care)
  • Women’s health/gender-related
  • Neonatal
  • Pediatrics (Acute care/primary care)
  • Psychiatric/mental health

Still others allow students to focus their BSN-DNP on an aggregate/systems/organizational focus preparing them for careers in:

  • Administration
  • Healthcare policy
  • Informatics
  • Information systems

BSN-to-DNP Programs for BSNs: MSN Program Requirements

Upon admission into the program, students must first complete all of the requirements associated with the MSN. For students with an APRN focus, this includes completing three, separate courses in:

  • Advanced Pharmacology
  • Advanced Health Assessment
  • Advanced Pathophysiology

The MSN component of these programs also include courses in:

  • Health Promotion
  • Principles of Practice Management
  • Ethics in Nursing and Health Care
  • General Research Methods
  • Principles of Epidemiology
  • Biostatistics

Students then take additional courses related to their chosen BSN-DNP focus. Additional coursework is often dictated by the respective professional nursing organizations and certification bodies:

In addition to successfully completing all didactic requirements, students of BSN-DNP programs must complete the clinical requirements of the program, which typically total about 500 hours of clinical rotations.

Upon the successful completion of all MSN requirements, students with an APRN focus must take and pass the appropriate national certification examination through a national certifying body recognized by their state Board of Nursing and achieve national certification in their chosen APRN role and focus area before moving onto the DNP portion of the BSN-DNP program:

Certified Nurse Practitioner (CNP)

  • American Academy of Nurse Practitioners
    • Adult Nurse Practitioner (ANP)
    • Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)
    • Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (AGPCNP)
  • American Nurses Credentialing Center
    • Acute Care Nurse Practitioner-Board Certified (ACNP-BC)
    • Adult Nurse Practitioner-Board Certified (ANP-BC)
    • Adult Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner-Board Certified (PMHNP-BC)
    • Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner-Board Certified (AGACNP-BC)
    • Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner-Board Certified (AGPCNP-BC)
    • Family Nurse Practitioner-Board Certified (FNP-BC)
    • Gerontological Nurse Practitioner-Board Certified (GNP-BC)
    • Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner-Board Certified (PPCNP-BC)
    • Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner-Board Certified (PMHNP-BC)
  • AACN Certification Corporation
  • Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Adult-Gerontology (ACNPC-AG)
  • Pediatric Nursing Certification Board
    • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Primary Care (CPNP-PC)
    • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Acute Care (CPNPAC)
    • Pediatric Primary Care Mental Health Specialist (PMHS)
  • National Certification Corporation
    • Women’s Health Care Nurse Practitioner-Board Certified (WHNP-BC)
    • Neonatal Nurse Practitioner-Board Certified (NNP-BC)

Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)

  • AACN Certification Corporation
    • Clinical Nurse Specialist; Wellness through Acute Care (Adult-Gerontology) (ACCNS-AG)
    • Clinical Nurse Specialist; Wellness through Acute Care (Pediatric) (ACCNS-P)
    • Clinical Nurse Specialist; Wellness through Acute Care (Neonatal) (ACCNS-N)
  • American Nurses Credentialing Center
    • Pediatric Clinical Nurse Specialist-Board Certified (PCNS-BC)
    • Pediatric Clinical Nurse Specialist-Board Certified (PCNS-BC)
    • Home Health Clinical Nurse Specialist-Board Certified (HHCNS-BC)
    • Gerontological Clinical Nurse Specialist-Board Certified (GCNS-BC)
    • Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist-Board Certified (AGCNS-BC)
    • Adult Psychiatric-Mental Health Clinical Nurse Specialist-Board Certified (PMHCNS-BC)
    • Adult Health Clinical Nurse Specialist-Board Certified (ACNS-BC)
  • Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation
    • Advanced Oncology Certified Clinical Nurse Specialist (AOCNS)

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)

Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM)

BSN-to-DNP Programs for BSNs: DNP Program Requirements

The DNP portion of a BSN-DNP program includes courses that include:

  • Interprofessional Collaboration
  • Clinical Informatics
  • Health Policy and Advanced Nursing Practice
  • Health Care Delivery Systems
  • Evidence Based Practice
  • Leadership in Health Care
  • Project Management
  • Clinical and DNP Project

Additional credit hours include general and specialty courses required for the chosen DNP focus.

DNP programs must include at least 1,000 hours of practice experiences, 500 of which may be transferred from the student’s MSN program.

BSN-DNP programs culminate in a DNP final project, designed as a major synthesis project. Working with an approved mentor, students of BSN-DNP programs may design their final projects as:

  • Practice portfolios
  • Consulting projects
  • Pilot studies
  • Quality improvement projects
  • Research utilization projects

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