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

Nurses with a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) are equipped to provide both direct patient care and take part in leadership roles ranging from forming healthcare policy to serving as faculty to help educate new generations of nurses needed to maintain Virginia’s standards of health care. These highly educated nurses will be essential to mitigating the shortage of doctors in the state.

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Virginia has faced a critical shortage of nurses for a number of years. The Health Resources and Services Administration reported that Virginia dropped from 40th in the country to 45th in the number of nurses per capita between 2004 and 2008. In 2010, the Virginia Nursing Association reported that by 2020, it is projected that one in three of the state’s residents may not receive the healthcare they need because of the shortage of RNs in the state.

In 2016, Governor Terry McAuliffe stated that the total enrollment in Virginia’s healthcare marketplace exceeded expectations. As of January 31, 2016 nearly 421,900 Virginia residents had signed up for healthcare through the Affordable Care Act. The Robert Graham Center predicted that Virginia would need 29% more primary care physicians by 2030 to maintain the current rates of utilization.

The number of students enrolled in DNP programs skyrocketed between 2005 and 2014 according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN). The levels of enrollment in such programs increased nearly 47-fold over this time frame, and 347 students were enrolled in DNP programs in Virginia during the fall of 2015 according to the AACN.

Current nursing professionals enrolled in a DNP often advance while remaining with their current employers. Such programs are available to both nurses with bachelor’s degrees and those with master’s degrees, allowing nurses to receive the highest level of education possible in their practice specialty.

Doctorate-prepared nurses often serve as Virginia’s most influential healthcare leaders. Just some of the Doctors of Nursing Practice that provide active leadership in Virginia’s nursing field include:

  • Nancy Littlefield – SVYP/System Chief Nursing Officer for Riverside Health System
  • Jeff Doucette – Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer at Virginia Nurses Association
  • Loressa Cole – Chief Nursing Officer at Virginia Nurses Association
  • Kelly McDonough – Chairperson of the Virginia Board of Nursing

Earning a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) in Virginia

Virginia’s DNP programs are designed to accommodate RNs that hold a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, as well as Master of Science in Nursing-prepared RNs and APRNs:

  • Post Bachelor’s BSN-DNP programs enable BSN-educated nurses to first complete their MSN before transitioning into their DNP program. These types of programs are commonly used to attain initial APRN certification, since having an MSN enables these nurses to sit for national certification and earn their license as an APRN. BSN-DNP programs typically consist of about 90 credits that are taken over 3-4 years of full-time study.
  • Post Master’s MSN-DNP programs enable MSN-prepared nurses who may already be licensed APRNs to complete a DNP to advance to careers in clinical leadership and other functions. These programs provide options for APRNs to continue in their current field or choose training in additional patient population focus areas or specialties. These types of programs typically consists of 30 to 36 credits taken over at least 18 months of full time study depending on the nurse’s specialization.

National accreditation standards require all DNP students to obtain at least 1,000 hours of post-baccalaureate clinical hours to earn their degree. Clinical sites for DNP students in Virginia have included, but are not limited to:

  • Walter Reed National Military Medical Center
  • Sibley Memorial Hospital
  • Northern Virginia Mental Health Institute
  • N Street Village
  • Inova Health System
  • Holy Cross Hospital
  • Greater Southeast Community Hospital
  • Georgetown Medical Center, Inc. – Medstar
  • George Washington University Hospital
  • Children’s National Medical Center
  • Arlington County Department of Health Service

In addition to pursuing their education on college campuses in Virginia, a growing number of nurses in the state are choosing to pursue their DNP through accredited online programs. Students of these distance-learning DNP programs would complete the program’s clinical requirements at partner clinical sites. Depending on the institution, students may have to travel to complete their program’s clinical requirements where there are established partnerships.

Many campus-based and online DNP programs offer flexible formats to accommodate their student’s needs. These include part-time and accelerated formats:

  • Traditional DNP programs consists of about 1.5-2 years of study
  • Accelerated programs typically take 1 year to complete
  • Part-time DNP programs take about 2.5 years of study

DNP programs consist of three main components:

  • DNP core – DNP core coursework includes such topics as methods for evidence-based practice, clinical scholarship, epidemiology and social determinants of population health, transforming the healthcare organization, and scientific underpinnings for practice)
  • Specialty courses for the student’s chosen focus – Specialty coursework focuses on an aggregate/systems/organizational focus or an advanced practice nursing focus
  • Final project – The final project of a DNP program enables students to document and demonstrate their mastery of an advanced nursing specialty by conducting research on an area germane to their focus. DNP Projects usually consist of a written paper that is suitable for publication in a peer-reviewed journal and a formal presentation in which the students defend their results.

BSN-to-DNP Programs for BSN-Prepared Nurses

Many DNP programs, both on-campus or online, offer students with a BSN the opportunity to earn both their MSN and DNP in one combined program. A BSN-DNP program enables students to transition to their DNP program immediately after they complete their MSN

BSN-DNP programs that are specific to one of the four APRN roles would involves satisfying all clinical requirements (usually about 500 hours) and sitting for national certification in their chosen APRN role and patient population focus.

At the master’s level, nurses typically complete 30 core credits and additional coursework based on their chosen concentration.

BSN-to-DNP and MSN-to-DNP Programs Available in Virginia

The following DNP programs have been accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) (current as of 2016).

A larger selection of CCNE and ACEN (American Commission for Education in Nursing)-accredited DNP programs are available online.

James Madison University

    • APRN
    • Leadership in health systems

George Mason University, Fairfax and Prince William

    • Family Nurse Practitioner
    • Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
    • Family Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
    • Nursing Administration

Marymount University, Arlington

    • APRN

Old Dominion University, Norfolk

    • Clinical Nurse Specialist/Educator
    • Family Nurse Practitioner
    • Nurse Executive
    • BSN to DNP Nurse Anesthesia

Radford University, Radford

    • Family Nurse Practitioner
    • Nurse Executive Leadership
    • Psychiatric Mental Health NP or CNS

Shenandoah University, Winchester

    • Family Nurse Practitioner
    • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

University of Virginia, Charlottesville

    • Adult-Gerontology Acute Care (CNS and/or NP)
    • Family Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
    • Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
    • Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
    • Public Health Nursing

Liberty University

  • Post-MSN
    • Nurse Leadership
    • Nurse Practitioner
    • Clinical Nurse Specialist

Other DNP programs in the state not shown here 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 Virginia

Doctor of Nursing Practice programs prepare graduates for the most important administrative and clinical careers in nursing. After graduating, DNP-prepared nurses in Virginia often expand their current role or even advance to a higher position outright with their current employer.

Other nurses who earn this degree take leadership roles with a new employer that requires the specialized expertise of a doctorate-prepared nurse. Such jobs can range from serving as a Chief Nursing Officer to being on the faculty of a nursing college.

Virginia strongly emphasized its educational programs for nurses and took tangible steps to increase the number of nursing school students in the state. It did so by increasing its nursing school capacity by 900 in the five-year period leading up to 2011. In addition, the state raised nursing faculty salaries by 10% during this time.

While faculty positions used to require an MSN as the terminal degree for applicants, the increase in the number of DNP-educated nurses resulted in a change in the standards for nursing faculty applicants. It is now common to require a DNP for these positions.

Nurse faculty in Virginia seems to be in sync with the national trend of having a large cohort nearing retirement age. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing reported that the average age of Virginia’s nurse faculty was 53 years in 2015. Thus, many of these faculty members are likely to retire soon and will need to be replaced. Nursing schools in Virginia had 25 vacancies during 2015.

The following job listings for doctorate-prepared nurses in Virginia were surveyed in March 2016. They are shown for illustrative purposes only and are not meant to represent job offers or provide any assurance of employment.

Assistant Professor of Nursing at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise

  • Doctorate in Nursing or another field required
  • Nurse would teach undergraduate nursing students
  • Tenure-track position

Assistant Professor of Nursing FNP at Marymount University in Arlington

  • Doctoral-prepared nurse preferred
  • Nurse must provide both didactic and clinical instruction
  • Nurse will evaluate student practicums in their area of clinical expertise
  • Tenure-track position

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