What is a BSN to DNP?

The BSN-to-DNP (also often written BSN-DNP or post-bachelor’s DNP), is the Doctor of Nurse Practice degree entry-point for nurses who hold a BSN. It provides a path for BSN-educated RNs to earn the DNP in less time than it would take to earn an MSN first before going on to a separate DNP program. BSN-DNP programs are distinct from the MSN-DNP, which provides an entry-point for master’s-educated nurses.

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The BSN-to-DNP (also referred to as the post-BSN or post-baccalaureate DNP), is designed for practicing RNs who understands the value of achieving the highest clinically focused nursing degree through an efficient, streamlined educational path.

Chances are, if you’ve landed here you already have a BSN, and your commitment to clinical nursing shows. But you’ve always had aspirations of continuing your education, and while the MSN can take your career in the right direction, providing you with the education and training needed for advanced practice, the DNP has also been on your radar.

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From the National Academy of Medicine to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, there’s a national call to transition to the DNP – and you’re not one to back down from a little extra work, especially when it comes with a big payoff.

The DNP is your opportunity to futureproof your career, earn recognition and respect in your profession (and in many other medical professions that have transitioned to the practice doctorate), and make significant and last improvements on the delivery of care and patient outcomes. And for you, the BSN to DNP is how you’ll get there.

Why Go for the BSN-DNP Option Over the BSN-MSN?

The BSN to DNP combines the curriculum and clinical requirements of both the MSN and DNP into one, practical degree program. Enrolling in a post-BSN DNP requires just one application and features just one, streamlined curriculum that continues without interruption, thereby simplifying the process of earning the DNP.

And while most of these programs feature about four years of full-time study (two years for the MSN and two years for the DNP), a number of BSN to DNP programs also offer accelerated programs that allow students to complete both the MSN and DNP components in just three years’ time.

Choose a BSN to DNP program with a clinical focus and you’ll also be choosing a concentration in an APRN role (nurse practitioner, nurse-midwife, clinical nurse specialist, or nurse anesthetist), as well as a patient population focus (psychiatric/mental health, women’s health, pediatrics, gerontology, etc.). You can also find BSN to DNP programs with a systems focus outside of direct patient care in areas like administration and informatics.

Upon graduation from a post-baccalaureate DNP, you’ll effectively hold both the MSN and DNP, and you’ll qualify for national certification and state licensure in your chosen APRN role and patient population focus.

Am I Eligible to Enroll in a Post-Baccalaureate DNP?

Because the BSN to DNP is focused on translating evidence-based care into practice, you’ll need to come to the admissions table with a history of providing excellent clinical nursing care. As such, you’ll need the following to qualify for most BSN to DNP programs:

  • BSN from an accredited college or university
  • Minimum undergraduate GPA (usually a minimum of 3.0)
  • Proof of the completion of an undergraduate or graduate-level course in statistics
  • Current and unencumbered RN license
  • Current CV or resume detailing at least two years of full-time nursing experience
  • Professional and personal recommendations that speak to your professional competency and personal character
  • Personal statement and/or personal interview
  • GRE (not always required)

What are the Components of the Post-BSN DNP?

A post-BSN DNP consists of four years of full-time study (often called a 2+2 program) consisting of between 65 and 90 credits. The first two years consist of the program’s MSN component, which includes:

A nursing core:

  • Health Care Policy and Politics
  • Health Promotion
  • Healthcare Delivery Systems

A clinical core:

  • Advanced Pathophysiology
  • Advancement Health Assessment
  • Advanced Pharmacology

And the courses and clinical requirements related to the chosen APRN role.

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The last two years of the program are devoted to the DNP requirements, which include courses focused on the AACN’s DNP Essentials:

  • Scientific underpinnings of practice
  • Organizational and systems leadership for quality improvement and systems thinking
  • Clinical scholarship and analytical methods for evidence-based practice
  • Information systems/technology and patient care technology for the improvement and transformation of healthcare
  • Healthcare policy for advocacy in healthcare
  • Interprofessional collaboration for improving patient and population health outcomes
  • Clinical prevention and population health for improving the nation’s health
  • Advanced nursing practice

Along with at least 1,000 hours of supervised practice experiences and the completion of a final DNP project, both of which are structured according to your chosen APRN role and focus. The final DNP project is your opportunity to produce an original project based on improving nursing outcomes. This may include a pilot study, consulting project, practice portfolio, or other original piece.

What Should I Look for in a Post-BSN DNP Program?

The Post-BSN DNP program is only as good as the college/university and school of nursing in which it’s located. There are several points to consider when choosing a program that’s best for you:

  • Student and program outcomes (including first-time exam pass rates)
  • University and program recognition and accolades
  • Student resources (tutoring, writing resources, dedicated support services)
  • Clinical placement resources
  • Accreditation Commission for Nursing Education (ACEN) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).
  • Experienced, prominent faculty
  • National examination preparation resources
  • Flexible curriculum options (part-time, online, hybrid study)