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

Physician shortages are commonplace throughout the U.S. In West Virginia, the physician shortage is particularly dire, given that the majority of the state’s residents reside in rural areas that have historically been underserved due to the difficulty with recruiting and retaining physicians outside of major metro areas.

But a shortage of doctors here means more opportunities than ever before for APRNs, many of whom are choosing the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) to gain the expertise needed to succeed at the highest levels of clinical practice and administration.

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And thanks to a 2016 law that allows nurse practitioners to practice independently after gaining three years of experience in a physician supervised arrangement, more West Virginia residents are enjoying access to high quality primary care than ever before. For example, an August 2018 report published by the West Virginia Rural Health Association revealed that in many rural pockets of West Virginia with no physicians, nurse practitioners are the ones more often providing reliable, cost-effective care.

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The DNP allows West Virginia’s APRNs to display a commitment to the profession while also positioning them for exceptional professional opportunities and higher paychecks. RNs choose the DNP as a direct path to initial APRN certification, while practicing APRNs pursue it when they want to advance their clinical expertise and leadership skills, add another patient population focus, or transition into administrative and other nurse leadership positions.

To satisfy the increased demand for the DNP, many colleges and universities are now offering these programs online, and most offer entry points for both BSN- and MSN-educated nurses.

Earning a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) in West Virginia

West Virginia’s nurses have alternatives to campus-based DNP programs in the many accredited online DNP programs now available in the U.S. These online programs usually offer a great deal of flexibility and make it easier for nurses to earn a DNP while working in their current career. In contrast, one of West Virginia’s campus-based programs strongly urges students not to work full-time while they work towards their DNP. Part-time or accelerated options are frequently available in online DNP programs.

Post-Bachelor’s DNP – Both of West Virginia’s campus-based programs offer BSN-to-DNP programs, allowing RNs to earn an MSN in the process so they can become certified in their APRN role and patient population focus and gain experience at the advanced level when completing the clinical hours required to earn the DNP. Other BSN-to-DNP tracks are available for those interested in an aggregate/organizational/systems focus. BSN-DNP programs typically involve taking about 90 credits over the course of 3-4 years.

Post-Master’s DNP – MSN-educated RN and APRNs have the option to enter the post-MSN phase of DNP the program. Typically, post-MSN programs allow nurse practitioners and other APRNs to continue to study in a track that aligns with their existing patient population focus, add an additional focus, or pursue a track in administrative/executive leadership, informatics, public health, healthcare policy, among others. Post-MSN programs typically involve taking about 30 credits over an 18-month period of full-time study.

Program Components and Clinical Hour Requirements

DNP programs have three main components:

  • DNP core – DNP programs include a core of coursework such as health information systems, health policy, evidence-based practice, nursing theory and research, quality improvement, and statistics.
  • Specialty courses in the student’s chosen focus – Students will focus on their chosen specialty through dedicated courses specific to their track
  • DNP Project – The final phase of a DNP program offers students the opportunity to perform a research project in a chosen area. Students work in concert with their faculty members to design a DNP Project. These projects typically entail a rigorous statistical analysis and result in a research paper suitable for publication. Students usually return to their campus to formally defend their results.

DNP programs require that students obtain at least 1,000 hours of post-baccalaureate practicum. Students must track these hours precisely. For instance, West Virginia University requires that its DNP students record their clinical experiences in a log that verifies the site, the specific preceptors, and the nature of the practicum. After completion, this log will become part of the student’s permanent file.

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Students that enter post-MSN DNP programs can count their previous post-baccalaureate hours towards the 1,000-hour requirement as long as they have the hours documented precisely. Obtaining an MSN typically requires about 500 clinical hours. West Virginia University requires that 300 clinical hours be completed during the student’s DNP program there.

Nationally Accredited BSN-to-DNP and MSN-to-DNP Program Available in West Virginia

Currently, prospective DNP students that seek a campus-based CCNE-accredited education in West Virginia have just one school available to them:


Shepherd University

School of Nursing


Accreditation: CCNE

BSN-DNP (hybrid)

  • Family Nurse Practitioner

Post-Master’s-DNP (hybrid)

  • Family Nurse Practitioner


West Virginia University

School of Nursing


Accreditation: CCNE and COA

BSN-DNP (campus)

  • Nurse Anesthetist

Post-Master’s-DNP (online)

  • Family Nurse Practitioner

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

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 West Virginia

Nurses in West Virginia who obtain a DNP pursue career opportunities in clinical practice, research, administration, nursing education, and more.

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The following job posts highlight the many opportunities available to DNP-prepared nurses in West Virginia:

Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Program Director, Marshall University, Huntington, WV

  • DNP with national board certification as a family nurse practitioner
  • Evidence of expertise in clinical practice, evidence of excellence in didactic and clinical teaching at the graduate level, and a record of scholarship

Nurse Manager – General Adult Inpatient, Medical University of South Carolina, Institute, WV

  • BSN and a master’s degree in a related field
  • MSN or DNP preferred
  • Minimum of five years of nursing work experience


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.

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