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Online BSN-to-DNP and MSN-to-DNP Programs Available in Vermont

The highly influential Robert Woods Johnson-Institute of Medicine report on the Future of Nursing from 2010 strongly recommended doubling the number of nurses in the nation with a doctorate in nursing by 2022. The Vermont Blue Ribbon Commission on Nursing endorsed this report in 2012 as a way to improve healthcare in the state, and remarked that increasing the number of nurses with a doctorate would “add to the cadre of nurse faculty and researchers.”

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Reports from Vermont’s Blue Ribbon Commissions on Nursing have been highly influential in improving the status of nurses, and by extension, the quality of healthcare available to the state’s residents. For instance, a previous Commission from 2001 addressed the critical shortage of nurses in Vermont at that time. The findings of that report led to new initiatives and programs that ameliorated this severe shortage and led to Vermont having one of the lowest vacancy rates for nurses in the country.

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) presented data from 2013 that indicated that 37 of Vermont’s RNs had a doctorate, while 10 of its APRNs had one. This organization advocated for doctoral degrees to become the new standard of education for APRNs. Thus, it is not surprising that 2.9% of Vermont’s APRNs had a doctorate at that time, while only 0.7% of Vermont’s RNs possessed this credential.

The AACN reported that 45 of Vermont’s nurses were enrolled in Doctor of Nursing (DNP) programs as of the fall of 2015. Both BSN-educated and MSN-educated nurses can take advantage of DNP programs in Vermont through accredited online and campus-based programs.

Nurses who have obtained a DNP have the opportunity to advance their careers through high-level clinical practice or by entering healthcare leadership positions. Examples of DNP-educated nurses in Vermont serving as healthcare leaders in the state in 2016 included:

  • Carol Conroy – VP of Operations/Chief Nursing Officer at Southwestern Vermont Healthcare
  • Joanne Rheaume – Coordinator of Accreditation and Regulatory Affairs at the University of Vermont Medical Center
  • Madge E Buss-Frank – Executive VP & Director of Quality Improvement and Education at Vermont Oxford Network
  • Debbie Zamora – Chief Quality Officer at US Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Paulette Thabault – Director, School of Nursing, Norwich University
  • Lori Profota – Chief Nursing Officer, Copley Hospital
  • Jessica Sherman – Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Vermont

Earning a DNP remains the preeminent way for RNs in Vermont to expand their career options and contribute to improving the state’s healthcare system.

Earning a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) in Vermont

Practicing RNs in Vermont interested in earning a DNP can enroll in online programs that offer a substantial amount of flexibility, or pursue the campus-based option available in Burlington.

Two types of programs are available depending on the educational background of the student. RNs with BSNs advance their education with a Master of Science in Nursing—DNP path known as a BSN-DNP program. In contrast, MSN-educated nurses proceed directly into DNP programs. Students with a BSN can expect to complete the program in 3.5 years, while nurses with a master’s degree who study full-time can expect to earn their DNP in 1.5-2.5 years. These programs include:

  • Coursework: 69.5-76 credits
  • Clinical hours: 750-820
  • Practicum associated with the DNP program: 240 hours

DNP programs typically offer different tracks that lead to different career paths:

  • Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
  • Executive/Organizational Leadership
  • Teaching

While students of online programs take much of their didactic coursework online, they would complete their clinical practice experiences in their own communities. In many cases this can be done at the student’s current place of employment. Each student has a unique and individualized DNP project to better prepare them for their particular role.

In all cases, DNP programs prepare graduates to:

  • Analyze scientific data and research to improve nursing practice
  • Evaluate legal, ethical, and social factors to shape and develop health policies
  • Provide system and organization leadership to improve the quality of healthcare

Increasingly, Vermont’s nurses are seeking the flexibility of accredited online programs as an option to studying at the state’s campus-based DNP program. Although these programs offer their didactic coursework online, these nurses must complete their clinical requirements at local healthcare sites that have existing arrangements with their school. Flexible formats that are frequently offered by both online and campus-based programs include:

  • 5 to 2 years of traditional DNP programs
  • 5 years of study for part-time programs
  • One year of study in accelerated programs

DNP programs have three main components:

  • DNP core – The core courses of a DNP program include topics such as methods for evidence-based practice, epidemiology and social determinants of population health, transforming the healthcare organization, and scientific underpinnings for practice.
  • Specialty courses in the student’s chosen focus – Completing their core courses enables the nurses to specialize in either advanced practice nursing or executive leadership.
  • Final project – The DNP Project is the denouement of a nurse’s DNP program and enables them to showcase their specialized training by analyzing an aspect of advanced nursing and producing research on the topic. This research results in either a manuscript for formal publication or in some cases a presentation at a conference. Nurses generally must travel to their campus to defend their DNP Project to their professors.

BSN-to-DNP Programs for BSN-Prepared Nurses

Nearly all of the BSN-to-DNP programs enable their students to earn both their MSN and DNP in a combined program. Nurses can immediately transition to their DNP program after they have completed their MSN. These combined programs are typically completed in about 3-4 years.

BSN-DNP programs that are specific to nurses who want to become an APRN require that these students earn an MSN in the APRN role of their choice. This entails obtaining about 500 of clinical training that counts towards the 1,000 post-baccalaureate hour requirement. These nurses can then obtain national certification in their field.

Currently, nurses in Vermont who wish to obtain their DNP from a campus-based program have one choice:

  • University of Vermont, Burlington
    • Available as a BSN-DNP program
    • Specialties include:
      • Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
      • Family Nurse Practitioner

Opportunities Available to DNP-Prepared Nurses in Vermont

Nurses with a DNP in Vermont have an array of opportunities available to them. APRNs are in high demand, since a number of studies indicate that they provide a higher level of patient care and help mitigate the shortage of primary care physicians throughout the country. Information from the Vermont Board of Nursing Relicensure Surveys indicated that Vermont’s APRNs are aged 52.5 on average as of 2013. Many of these highly skilled nurses will be retiring soon, and new APRNs will be needed to fill their ranks.

DNP-prepared nurses who specialize in the executive leader track have a number of opportunities for organizational roles in healthcare companies. In addition, many of these nurses are qualified to become professors in nursing schools and can help to mitigate the current nursing faculty shortage. Many nursing faculty are nearing retirement age and leaving the profession. For instance, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing reported that the average age of Vermont’s nurse faculty was 53 as of 2015, and many are likely to retire soon.

In addition, DNP level nurses more often have high-level training in information technology for healthcare. This training is particularly germane at this time as healthcare providers, policy makers, and insurance companies all rely increasingly on the analyses of large volumes of healthcare data.

As of March 2016, three jobs were advertised for nurses at the DNP level in Vermont. These listings are shown for informational purposes only and do not constitute an assurance of employment.

Chief Nursing Officer with the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington

  • Candidates with a doctorate degree preferred
  • Candidates should possess at least 5 years of senior management experience
  • Position is the senior clinical executive responsible for organizational aspects of nursing such as technology management, staffing, ethics quality, and teaching and research

Assistant Professors (Tenure Track) in the Department of Nursing at the University of Vermont in Burlington

  • Doctorate degree required
    • DNPs with demonstrated research skills are encouraged to apply
  • Two positions are available:
    • Adult-Geriatric Nurse Practitioner with APRN experience
    • Nurse Practitioner or other specialist qualified to teach at the graduate and undergraduate level
  • The Department is seeking candidates whose programs involve the impact of social-behavioral factors on health, health outcomes in primary care, equity, workforce development, or the organization of health care.

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