Called a looming crisis, the physician shortage in Vermont is persistent and pervasive. According to a January 2020 article in VTDigger, more than one-third of all primary care doctors in the state are over the age of 60, and many rural practices have been struggling to staff enough physician for years.
But thanks to their ability to practice independently after accruing about two years of experience, nurse practitioners and other APRNs here are filling the void, providing reliable, cost-effective primary care in areas where it’s needed most. The good news is that the number of APRN licensees in the state ha been increasing steadily, growing from 535 licenses issued in 2015 to 617 in 2017, according to the 2017 Vermont Census of Advanced Practice Registered Nurses Summary Report.
Many of the state’s APRNs are making the move toward the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) because it arms them with the expertise needed to succeed at the highest levels of clinical practice. For practicing APRNs, the DNP also allows them to specialize and advance their clinical expertise, move into leadership positions, or transition into administration or education. For aspiring APRNs, the DNP can serve as a direct path to initial APRN certification and clinical leadership and management roles.
Nursing schools offering the DNP provide entry points for both BSN- and MSN-educated nurses, and often with a significant amount of online curriculum to make the programs more accessible. Earning a DNP remains the preeminent way for RNs and APRNs 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 through a path known as a BSN-DNP, which typically involves earning an MSN along the way. In contrast, MSN-educated nurses proceed directly into DNP programs, often referred to as post-MSN or MSN-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
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
Department of Nursing
- Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
- Family Nurse Practitioner
- Nurse Practitioner
- Executive Nurse Leader
Opportunities Available to DNP-Prepared Nurses in Vermont
Nurses with a DNP in Vermont have an array of exciting professional opportunities available to them. They can assume organizational roles in healthcare companies, faculty positions in nursing schools, and direct clinical care positions in hospitals, healthcare systems, clinics, and more.
The following job posts highlight a number of opportunities available to DNP-prepared nurses in Vermont:
Vice Chair and Program Director of the Graduate Program, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT
- Doctoral degree and experience with graduate nursing programs
- Clinical expertise as a nurse practitioner in his/her specialty and significant experience with curriculum development for DNP and CNL programs
- Eligibility for Vermont licensure
- Successful experience in teaching at the college/university level
Assistant or Associate Professor – Tenure Track, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT
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.