So you’ve spent a few years (or maybe a few decades) working as a registered nurse—what’s next? If you want to assume a high-level leadership role, you might think about adding a terminal nursing degree to your resume.
The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) is for nurses who wish to advance their careers and step into advanced nursing practice roles. According to the American Nurses Association, “the DNP prepares graduates for multiple roles including health policy development, leadership, administration, advanced clinical practice and information technology in an environment of interprofessional collaboration.”
Compared with the other terminal nursing degree—the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Nursing—the DNP is a clinical practice degree that focuses on translating research evidence into nursing practice; the PhD option is a research degree that’s better suited for nurses looking to enter academia as nurse educators.
f you’ve put off going back to school until now and are interested in completing an advanced nursing degree program, you can now take the direct path to a DNP—and possibly even earn your Master’s of Science in Nursing at the same time along the way.
The RN to DNP online bridge program, also referred to as a post-RN DNP, provides the opportunity for experienced registered nurses to earn a DNP through a nontraditional path. In other words, you don’t need to earn a master’s before you can pursue a DNP. Instead, RN to DNP programs bridge the gap between your training and experience as a registered nurse and the skills and knowledge you need to advance to the doctoral level of nursing practice.
Post-RN DNP programs are available to RNs who have a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN). Some programs are designed for RNs who have bachelor’s degrees in a non-nursing field, as well as for nurses who only have an associate’s degree in nursing. These latter two options may take longer to complete since additional coursework may be required.
According to The Essentials of Doctoral Education for Advanced Nursing Practice by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), practice-focused doctoral nursing programs are comprised of the following foundational competencies:
- Scientific underpinnings for nursing 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 health care
- Health care policy for advocacy in health care
- Interprofessional collaboration for improving patient and population health outcomes
- Clinical prevention and population health for improving the nation’s health
- Advanced nursing practice
How long does it take to complete an RN to DNP bridge program?
RN to DNP programs generally take between three and five years to complete. However, programs vary in length. The time it takes to complete required coursework also depends on the number of credits you take each semester and your standing as either a full-time or part-time student.
Do I need a bachelor’s degree in nursing to enroll in a post-RN DNP program?
Most RN to DNP programs require students to hold an undergraduate nursing degree from an accredited institution to enroll. However, some programs will accept RNs with non-nursing degrees as well as those with associate’s degrees in nursing. These students may take longer to complete the RN to DNP degree because of additional coursework requirements.
Will I be awarded a Master’s of Nursing and a Doctor of Nursing Practice?
The RN to DNP online bridge program combines a master’s degree and doctorate in one accelerated program. As such, graduates may be awarded two degrees after meeting all program requirements. As you research RN to DNP programs, make sure to find out if a Master’s of Science in Nursing is conferred along with the Doctor of Nursing Practice degree.
Ready to start comparing programs?
See which DNP program is right for you.