Online BSN-to-DNP and MSN-to-DNP Programs Available in Rhode Island

The Doctor of Nursing (DNP) is increasingly becoming the degree of choice for both aspiring and practicing APRNs in Rhode Island – and for good reason. As the pinnacle of clinical nursing education, it provides today’s advanced nursing clinicians with the skills and expertise needed to practice in an increasingly complex healthcare environment. And in Rhode Island, where nurse practitioners have enjoyed independent practice privileges since 2008, the DNP solidifies their role as highly skilled independent practitioners capable of providing primary care services.

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Whether used as a path to initial APRN licensure, as a steppingstone for APRNs with an interest in adding another population focus or specialty certification, or as a way to transition from clinical practice to administration, the DNP provides Rhode Island’s nurses with everything they need to succeed, both in and out of the clinical environment.

Schools across the country are developing more online DNP programs as demand grows, and most offer entry points for both BSN- and MSN-nurses.

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Earning a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) in Rhode Island

Rhode Island’s DNP programs require that students hold at least a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Many students enter DNP programs with a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) as well:

  • BSN-DNP programs usually enable nurses with a BSN to complete their MSN before transitioning into their DNP program. Obtaining their MSN enables these nurses to obtain their initial APRN certification, since sitting for national certification requires an MSN. However, the University of Rhode Island offers a direct BSN-DNP program in which students move directly to obtaining their DNP and save at least 14 credits by doing so. A typical BSN-DNP program requires about 90 credits and entails more than 3 years of full-time study.
  • MSN-DNP programs enable nurses who already have an MSN and are likely to be licensed APRNs to complete their DNP program and advance to clinical leadership and other functions. Students is such programs have the option of advancing their expertise within their current specialty or choosing an additional certification in another patient population focus or specialty. MSN-DNP programs typically entail taking 30-36 credits and take at least 18 months of full-time study.

In addition to completing coursework, all DNP students must obtain at least 1,000 hours of post-baccalaureate clinical hours to meet the national accreditation standards for these doctoral programs. MSN students must obtain 500 hours of clinical practice to be certified in their field, and these hours count towards this requirement.

Increasing numbers of nurses in Rhode Island are choosing accredited online programs as alternatives to the state’s campus-based programs. Although their coursework is online, these nurses must complete the required number of hours of post-baccalaureate practice. Doing this may require that the nurses perform their clinical practice at clinical sites that have a relationship with their DNP program.

DNP programs consist of three main components:

  • DNP core – The core coursework for DNP programs includes such topics as clinical scholarship, epidemiology, transforming the healthcare organization, methods for evidence-based practice, and scientific underpinnings for practice.
  • Specialty courses for the student’s chosen focus – In this phase, students take coursework specific to their chosen focus—either courses for APRNs or those for an executive leadership/administrative focus.
  • Final project – The final project in a DNP program is a research project known as the DNP Project. Students work with their professors to pick a research topic that relates to their focus and produce either a manuscript suitable for publication in a peer-reviewed journal or for presentation at a conference. In most cases, students must come to their campus to defend their project before a faculty committee.

BSN-to-DNP and MSN-to-DNP Programs Available in Rhode Island

Currently, students in Rhode Island who wish to enroll in a campus-based DNP program have three choices in the state:


Rhode Island College

School of Nursing


Accreditation: CCNE

Post-Master’s-DNP (hybrid)

  • Clinical Nursing Practice


Salve Regina University

Department of Nursing


Accreditation: CCNE

Post-Master’s-DNP (hybrid)

  • Clinical Nursing Practice


University of Rhode Island

College of Nursing


Accreditation: CCNE

Post-Bachelor’s-DNP (campus)

  • Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Adult-Gerontological Nurse Practitioner/Clinical Nurse Specialist

Post-Master’s-DNP (campus)

  • Advanced Practice

Opportunities Available to DNP-Prepared Nurses in Rhode Island

Nurses in Rhode Island with a DNP have the skills and training necessary to serve as high-level clinical practitioners and executive leaders.

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DNP-educated nurses in Rhode Island land advanced clinical and administrative positions throughout the state’s many hospitals and healthcare systems, such as:

  • Rhode Island Hospital, Providence
  • Bradley Hospital, Riverside
  • Hasbro Children’s Hospital, Providence
  • Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island, Providence
  • Care New England Health System, Providence

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