If you have already earned your MSN degree and are working as an advanced practice registered nurse, you may have decided you are prepared to even begin managing caregivers, start leading education efforts for the next generation of nurses, and improving patient outcomes by integrating new research into practice and providung them with an even higher level of care. If so, an MSN to DNP program could be the right move for you to accomplish those goals.
MSN to DNP programs are designed to prepare nurses for advanced practice roles and to transform health care as leaders and educators. Coursework and concentrations vary by program, but the general learning outcomes are the same:
- Design, implement, measure and evaluate primary care delivery for diverse populations using theoretical knowledge and research evidence
- Synthesize and demonstrate knowledge from nursing and other sciences to generate and appraise evidence-based health care delivery systems that result in effective clinical outcomes
- Develop initiatives that promote health, reduce risk and manage the illness trajectory of individuals, communities and/or populations
- Lead and collaborate with interprofessional health care teams in the analysis of complex practice and organizational issues
For advanced practice nurses who have earned their Master of Science in Nursing, the MSN to DNP bridge program focuses strongly on professional practice leadership, enabling students to apply what they learn in the classroom to advance to the highest professional levels in nursing. Curriculum varies by program and concentration, but some of the topics you may explore include:
- Evidence-based practice
- Quantitative methods for evaluating health care practices
- Data-driven health care improvement
- Applied finance and budget planning
- Leadership for advanced nursing practice
Special certificate areas may be available for students enrolled in MSN to DNP bridge programs, though, requirements for adding a specialty certificate can vary. MSN to DNP concentrations may include:
- Adult-Gerontological Acute/Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (AG-ACNP/AG-PCNP)
- Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)
- Acute/Primary Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (AC-PNP/PC-PNP)
- Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP)
- Nursing Administration
- Nursing Informatics
- Health Systems Executive Leadership
Time to completion varies by program and specialty. Not all online MSN to DNP online degree programs require the same number of credits, nor do all online programs allow students to take the same number of credits each semester. Your standing as either a part-time or full-time student will also impact how long it takes to complete a DNP program. Some programs may also accept transfer credits.
In general, students take between two and three years to earn their degree. Specialty programs (e.g., MSN to DNP with a focus in nursing informatics or executive nurse administration) may take longer to complete.
To be considered for admission into an online DNP program, applicants may be required to satisfy the following requirements:
- Master of Science in Nursing degree plus GPA requirement (i.e., typically 3.0 or higher)
- Licensure, or eligibility for licensure, to practice as an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN)
- Registered nurse (RN) licensure
- Minimum GRE score (applicants with exceptional academic performance or experience may be eligible for a GRE waiver at some schools)
MSN to DNP application checklist
Update resume with all nursing licensure and certifications you’ve earned, as well as all relevant nursing employment. Your resume should demonstrate your ability to perform core clinical performance standards required for the nursing profession.
Ask for three letters of recommendation from colleagues, supervisors and/or former instructors that speak to your clinical expertise. Some programs require sealed letters of recommendation, while others allow you to submit LOR electronically.
Write a personal statement (750 – 1,500 words) that addresses your reason(s) for wanting to become a Doctor of Nursing Practice, your clinical experience and your potential area for practice inquiry. Programs may ask you to answer a specific question or address a certain topic, so be sure to read the admission requirements carefully in case you need to make changes to your personal statement.
Request transcripts from each institution attended. Official transcripts musts remain in sealed envelope with the registrar’s signature intact. You may also be able to submit official transcripts electronically.
Although it’s not required for all advanced nursing roles, the Doctor of Nursing Practice degree provides students and graduates with the skills needed to improve systems of care, quality of care and patient outcomes as clinical or administrative leaders. The Future of Nursing, a joint study by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, calls for the number of nurses with a doctoral degree to double by 2020.
The study also found that nurses are severely underrepresented on institution and hospital boards, with only two percent of seats in community health systems occupied by nurses compared with 22 percent filled by physicians. As a terminal nursing degree, the DNP helps foster and develop nurse leaders capable of advancing from the bedside to the boardroom.
For nurses who hold a Master’s of Nursing (MSN) degree, the online MSN to DNP bridge provides a path as a terminal degree for advanced nursing practice and clinical nursing education. Expand your role as a master’s-prepared nurse and take the next step in your development with the Doctor of Nursing Practice degree.
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