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Online BSN-DNP and MSN-DNP Programs Available in Washington

According to the Nursing Education Programs 2013-2014 Annual School Report published by the State of Washington Department of Health, the number of DNP graduates in Washington increased by 45% between 2013 and 2014. In contrast, the number of PhD nursing students stayed relatively constant during that period as more nurses opt for the versatility of a practice-focused doctorate that better supports careers in leadership, both in clinical practice and in roles with a systems and organizational focus.

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As we look to the future staffing needs of Washington’s hospitals, the importance of increasing the number of nursing faculty who prepare RNs and other staff nurses to enter the field becomes acutely clear. A 2011 study conducted by the University of Washington School of Medicine predicts that the state will face a shortage of about 3,800 nurses by 2020. While this number represents a vacancy rate of 6%, it is feared that by 2031 the state will see a 21% shortfall of RNs and other staff nurses. As advanced clinical experts and experienced nurses, DNP-prepared faculty are recognized as being key to increasing the enrollment rate in the state’s nursing schools while ensuring the highest quality instruction.

In 2014, Washington received its second in a series of $300,000 grants from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to help increase capacity in the state’s nursing schools by expanding facilities and increasing staff. This program is administered under the auspices of the Washington Nursing Action Coalition. While an MSN used to suffice for faculty positions, it is increasingly common for nursing schools to require a doctorate.

With the proliferation of accredited BSN-to-DNP programs now available online, and with an increased focus on the DNP as the preferred credential among nurse practitioners and other advanced clinicians, many bachelor’s-prepared RNs are now choosing to earn a DNP as a path to initial ARNP certification and state licensure. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) reported that 545 students in Washington state were enrolled in DNP programs as of the fall of 2015. According to the AACN report, 5.7 times more of Washington’s nursing doctoral students sought a DNP over a PhD that year. Most were enrolled in tracks specific to advanced practice (nurse practitioner, nurse midwife, clinical nurse specialist, nurse anesthetist), while those enrolled in executive leadership, informatics, public health and health policy tracks also made up a significant proportion.

Earning a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) in Washington

Qualifying DNP programs in Washington that have received accreditation through the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), as well as online programs that may hold accreditation through the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) incorporate at least 1,000 post-baccalaureate practice hours, 500 of which can be carried over from a master’s program.

All accredited programs are available in one of two general areas of focus, with specialty tracks in each:

  • Advanced practice nursing direct care focus (nurse practitioner, clinical nurse specialist, nurse midwife, nurse anesthetist)
  • Aggregate/organizational/systems focus (health policy, informatics, public health, administration, executive leadership)

More working RNs and ARNPs in Washington are opting for the flexibility of accredited online programs. These programs include all the rigor of a campus-based experience while offering convenient 24/7 access to online study materials. Students of online programs would complete their practicum requirements at local partner sties.

Many online and campus-based DNP programs offer either an accelerated or part-time pace:

  • Traditional DNP programs entail about 1.5-2 years of study
  • Part-time DNP programs take about 2.5 years of study
  • Accelerated programs are usually completed in a year

DNP programs are available to both bachelor’s-prepared RNs and MSN-prepared RNs and ARNPs:

  • Post-Bachelor’s BSN-to-DNP programs designed for BSN-educated nurses allow students to earn an MSN before transitioning to DNP-level coursework, all in one program. Those in an ARNP track would obtain national certification in their role and primary patient population focus as well as initial ARNP licensure before they make the transition to the DNP component of the program. Tracks in an aggregate/organizational/systems focus are also available.
  • Post-Master’s MSN-to-DNP programs designed for nurses that already possess an MSN enable RNs to pursue advanced practice certification and licensure and existing ARNPs to advance their expertise in their current patient population focus or add another specialty or population focus. Tracks in an aggregate/organizational/systems focus are also available.

DNP Program Components and Practicum Requirements

  • DNP Core – The DNP consists of coursework in health policy, health information systems, nursing theory and research, evidence-based practice, quality improvement, and statistics.
  • Specialty Courses in Students’ Chosen Focus – Courses align with the specialty track, whether in direct patient care or in an aggregate/organizational/systems focus.
  • DNP Project – Students conclude their DNP studies by working in concert with faculty members to choose and implement a research project in their specialty. Completion of a DNP Project entails producing a manuscript suitable for publication in a peer-reviewed journal or for presentation at a conference. Students generally defend their results on campus, although one of Washington’s programs allows its students to use Skype for their defense. Examples of DNP Projects presented recently in Washington include:
    • Delivering Culturally Competent Care to LGBTQ Adolescents
    • Development of a Post-Graduate FNP Residency Program at a Community Health Clinic
    • Investigating Barriers in Healthcare to meet Women’s Needs in Early Pregnancy Loss
    • Healthy Eating and Active Living of Youth in Malheur County
  • Practicum Hours – National accreditation standards for DNP programs require that these students obtain at least 1,000 hours of post-baccalaureate training. As many as 500 hours gained during a master’s program can be applied to this total.

Students must obtain their clinical hours at healthcare sites that have established agreements with their school, so they must prepare in advance to secure a clinical site and a preceptor to supervise them. Almost all nursing school programs provide clinical sites in long-term and acute care settings, and many expanded their use of outpatient sites. While healthcare organizations throughout Washington serve as sites for clinical training, demand is exceptionally high in the Puget Sound area, so clinical opportunities are limited there.

To streamline the process of identifying a clinical site and to help students maintain record of their practicum hours, Washington state instituted clinical consortia that schedule student experiences in major areas of the state. This process has improved access to available sites and decreased the workload involved in tracking clinical hours.

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

The following DNP programs have been accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) (current as of 2016). An additional campus-based DNP program in the state will start accepting students in 2017.

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

  • Gonzaga University, Spokane
    • Post-MSN and BSN-DNP
      • Family Nurse Practitioner
      • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
  • Seattle University, Seattle
    • Post-MSN
      • Health Systems Leader
  • University of Washington, Seattle
    • Post-MSN and BSN-DNP
      • Adult Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist
      • Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
      • Community Health Nursing
      • Family Nurse Practitioner
      • Nurse-Midwifery
      • Pediatric Clinical Nurse Specialist
      • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
      • Perinatal Clinical Nurse Specialist
      • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
  • Washington State University – Spokane and Vancouver 
    • Post-MSN and BSN-DNP
      • Family Nurse Practitioner
      • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
      • Population Health
  • Seattle Pacific University (available in 2017)

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 Washington

In addition to executive leadership positions in healthcare organizations, direct care advanced clinical practice and nurse faculty positions, Washington state offers positions for DNP-prepared nurses in the high-tech biomedical companies that serve the area.

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing identified 98 faculty vacancies between 2011 and 2015, and the demand for nursing faculty members should increase even further in the coming years. The State of Washington Department of Health’s Nursing Education Programs 2013-2014 Annual School Report reported that impending faculty retirements coupled with the growing demand would make it difficult to recruit an adequate number of new nursing faculty members. At the time of this report, 57% of Washington’s nursing faculty were more than 50 years old, and 21% were older than 60. As is the case in much of the nation, a wave of retirement will take place in the near future.

The 2013 report by the Washington State Nurses Association entitled Nursing Education in Washington State described how tenure track academic nursing positions require a doctorate. In addition, accrediting bodies require that the directors of RN-BSN programs in community colleges also possess a doctorate.

A survey of job listings for DNP-educated nurses in Washington performed in April 2016 identified several opportunities as shown below. These positions are shown for informational purposes only and do not represent job offers or an assurance of employment:

Medical Science Liaison Neuroscience Pacific Northwest for Novartis Pharmaceuticals

  • DNP, PhD, MD, or PharmD strongly preferred
  • At least 2 years of postdoctoral experience in a healthcare environment required
  • Candidate will serve as liaison to the medical/scientific community

Assistant Professor, School of Nursing and Human Physiology at Gonzaga University in Seattle

  • Tenure-track
  • DNP or PhD required
  • MSN (or a related degree in another field if the doctoral degree is in nursing)
  • RN license for Washington state
  • Previous teaching experience desired

Assistant/Associate Professor of Nursing: Advanced Practice at Seattle Pacific University

  • Tenure-track
  • Earned doctorate in nursing or closely related discipline required
    • May consider candidates with an MSN currently enrolled in a doctoral program
  • Must have an unencumbered RN license in Washington state by the starting date of the position
  • At least one graduate-level degree must be in nursing

Clinical Track Assistant/Associate Professor, Nursing at Washington State University in Vancouver

  • Doctoral degree in nursing or related field required by the date of hire
  • Must have current national board certification and be eligible for licensure as an ARPN and RN in Washington state
  • Must have clinical expertise and demonstrate current clinical practice

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