Doctor of Nursing Practice FAQs
The University of Maryland School of Nursing (UMSON) intends to transition its six Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) specialties from the present Master of Science (MS) to the nationally recognized practice doctorate for advanced practice nursing known as the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). Effective with the entering class of fall 2014, the following UMSON specialties will no longer accept MS applicants and will accept only to the DNP program:
- Adult and Gerontological Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
- Family Nurse Practitioner
- Pediatric Nurse Practitioner - Primary Option
- Pediatric Nurse Practitioner - Acute Option
- Nurse Anesthesia (pending approval from the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs)
- Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
- Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
- Adult & Gerontological Acute Care Nurse Practitioner/Clinical Nurse Specialist
The current master’s specialties in Community Public Health Nursing, Health Services Leadership and Management, Nursing Informatics, and Clinical Nurse Leader will remain at the MS level.
The current post-master’s DNP program will also continue.
What is the DNP?
The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) is the terminal practice degree for the advanced practice nurse. It integrates advanced theoretical and clinical skills for providing leadership in evidence-based practice. This degree requires competence in translating research into practice by evaluating evidence, applying research in decision-making, and implementing viable innovations based on research findings that improve delivery of care, patient outcomes, and effective health care systems.
How was the DNP developed?
On October 25, 2004, American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) member schools voted to endorse the Position Statement on the Practice Doctorate in Nursing (http://www.aacn.nche.edu/DNP/DNPPositionStatement.htm). The position statement called for moving the current level of preparation necessary for advanced practice nursing from the master’s degree level to the doctoral degree level by 2015.
This decision was preceded by three years of research and consensus-building by an AACN task force charged with examining the need for the practice doctorate with a variety of stakeholder groups (http://www.aacn.nche.edu/DNP/pdf/DNProadmapreport.pdf). Regional forums were conducted to gain input from practicing nurses and key stakeholders. In October 2006, AACN members voted to adopt the Essentials of Doctoral Education for Advanced Nursing Practice (http://www.aacn.nche.edu/DNP/pdf/Essentials.pdf). This document serves as the national guideline for DNP curriculum development and implementation.
Why the DNP?
Some of the factors that are building momentum for the change in nursing education at the graduate level include:
- The continuous expansion of health care knowledge and technology
- An aging patient population with more acute, complex, and chronic needs
- National concerns about the quality of care and patient safety
- A shortage of nurses who can lead the design and assessment of care delivery
- A shortage of doctoral-prepared nursing faculty members
- Increased educational expectations for all health professionals
In a 2005 report, Advancing the Nation's Health Needs: NIH Research Training Programs, the National Academy of Sciences called for nursing to develop a non-research (similar to the practice-focused) doctorate to prepare expert practitioners who can also serve as clinical faculty members (http://sites.nationalacademies.org/PGA/bhew/PGA_044407).
In October 2010, the Institute of Medicine and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released a visionary report, The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health. This landmark report was the result of an interprofessional committee of experts chaired by Dr. Donna Shalala, president of the University of Miami and former secretary of Health and Human Services (http://www.iom.edu/Reports/2010/The-Future-of-Nursing-Leading-Change-Advancing-Health.aspx). A key recommendation of the report is to double the number of nurses with a doctorate by 2020. The increasing complexity of the nation’s health care environment requires that advanced practice nurses develop expanded competencies. The DNP joins other practice disciplines in offering practice doctorates such as medicine (MD), dentistry (DDS), pharmacy (PharmD), psychology (PsyD), physical therapy (DPT), and audiology (AudD).
What organizations besides the AACN support the DNP?
The American Association of Nurse Anesthetists Council on Accreditation will not, after 2015, accredit new master’s programs for nurse anesthesia. The council is requesting that all certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) programs transition to the DNP by 2022. All new CRNA graduates must hold a DNP by 2025 to be eligible for certification.
The National Nurse Practitioner (NP) Coalition, which includes the following NP organizations: American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, American College of Nurse Practitioners, Gerontological Advanced Practice Nurses Association, National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties, National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women’s Health, and the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners states, “The DNP degree more accurately reflects current clinical competencies and includes preparation for the changing health care system.”
National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties (NONPF) endorses the DNP and has developed competencies for NP practice at the doctoral level.
How many schools of nursing have DNP programs?
184 DNP programs are currently enrolling students; 101 DNP programs are in the planning stages. DNP programs are available in 40 states and the District of Columbia (http://www.aacn.nche.edu/Media/FactSheets/dnp.htm). Because this information changes frequently, check the AACN website for current numbers and locations.
Why is the University of Maryland School of Nursing (UMSON) moving to the DNP for advanced practice nursing?
UMSON evaluated many factors, including the positions of the nursing education and clinical practice organizations. Some key factors were:
- The changing national landscape in health care requiring new roles and competencies for all health professionals (for example, interprofessional practice)
- The changing health care delivery system and demographics in Maryland and nationally that will oblige advanced practice nurses to have knowledge and skills that are not presently required in master’s programs
- The needs of Maryland hospitals seeking magnet status for doctoral-prepared nurse practitioners
- The Institute of Medicine recommendation that the number of doctoral-prepared nurses should double by 2020
- The pace at which nursing schools across the nation are adopting the Post-BSN-to-DNP program for APRN programs
Will master’s-educated NPs be required to have a DNP to practice?
While most specialty-accrediting bodies have not yet mandated a DNP to practice, the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists Council on Accreditation will no longer accredit programs that have not changed to a doctoral format after 2025 and will admit no new programs at the master’s level after 2015.
How will this degree help me in my work?
- The DNP is based on essentials that prepare graduates for today’s complex health care environment. The essentials include evidence-based practice and translation, informatics, and health policy.
- In a fully integrated curriculum, baccalaureate-prepared nurses would receive the competencies for advanced clinical practice and the skills and knowledge associated with the practice doctorate – leadership, clinical scholarship and analytical methods for evidence-based practice, information systems and patient care technology, health care policy, and interprofessional collaboration. Nurses must be prepared to meet the greater challenges of the complex health care system, including the use of advanced technologies and evidence-based practice to ensure quality and safety of patient care.
- The change from master’s- to doctoral-level preparation would enhance the education nurse practitioners and nurse anesthetists receive at UMSON. In addition to building on the nationally recognized advance practice nursing specialties at UMSON, the new program will incorporate preparation for leadership in nursing and health care evidence-based advanced nursing practice and use of technology in health care at the doctoral level.
Will there be a different licensure requirement for the DNP?
Scope of practice is determined by state law and varies from state to state. Graduates in the Post-BSN/Post-CNL-to-DNP program will be able to sit for licensure within their specialty.
What roles will the DNP graduate assume?
Post-BSN/CNL graduates will be qualified to assume roles in the APRN specialty they complete (NP, CRNA, CNS). Post-master’s DNP graduates assume roles as practice experts within their current area of expertise such as nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, community public health nurses, nurse executives, informaticians, and clinical nurse specialists.
How will the DNP benefit me?
DNP graduates will have a different and more advanced skill set to integrate evidence into practice and to utilize policy, informatics, and interprofessional competence to improve outcomes for patients and families within the complex health care environment.
What is the difference between the DNP and MS?
The AACN states that the DNP is the preferred degree for advanced practice nursing. The DNP is expected to become the standard for advanced practice nursing.
What is the difference between the PhD and the DNP?
The DNP is a practice doctorate similar to the practice doctorates in other health disciplines such as pharmacy, physical therapy, and medicine. DNP students focus on advanced practice areas of specialization, acquiring a population perspective in addressing common patient problems within a specialty. DNP students complete a scholarly portfolio throughout their program and complete a final practice project that applies existing knowledge to address a clinical problem. The practice project is a culmination of the DNP essentials and results in a publishable paper that demonstrates the effectiveness of practice-focused projects.
The PhD is a research degree and the PhD program is specifically designed to teach students how to conduct original investigation that advances the knowledge of a discipline. The distinguishing characteristic of the DNP educational program is an intense, mentored immersion experience in practice, while the distinguishing characteristic of the PhD program is intense mentorship in an area of research by an experienced cadre of nurse investigators. The completion and defense of an original research project is required for the PhD, while the final project is the last component of the scholarly portfolio for the DNP.
Will DNP graduates be able to assume the nurse educator role in schools of nursing?
Yes. DNP degree graduates are able to assume academic and advanced clinical roles. Tenure and promotion is institution specific.
Is there a resource that indicates a pay differential for DNP-prepared nurses versus master’s-prepared nurses?
Because the degree is new, there is limited information on salaries for DNP-prepared nurses.
Requirements for Applicants
(Requirements below are for Post-BSN/Post-CNL applicants to the DNP program. Requirements for Post-master's applicants can be found here.)
Is clinical experience required for admission?
The ideal candidate will have at least one year of RN clinical experience (Post-BSN or CNL graduation) at the time of application to the DNP program.
Is there a part-time plan of study?
Yes. A part-time plan of study will include courses over a five year period. Classes must be taken in sequence to assure timely completion of the program. Students will need to work closely with their advisors to ensure in-sequence progression through the chosen specialty.
How often are students admitted to the program?
Students will be admitted once a year, in the fall, except CRNA students, who will be admitted every summer.
Do I need to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) to apply?
What are the requirements for application?
All application materials for admission will be posted on the UMSON website by May 2013. There will be a rigorous application and interview process that involves an onsite writing exam and a critical thinking component.
Is it possible to be accepted into an advanced practice specialty program, but not the DNP program?
No. All applicants to the DNP program will choose an advanced specialty area. A master’s-prepared nurse practitioner will need to apply to the Post-Master’s-to-DNP program.
Is there an option to “stop out” and receive a master’s degree?
No. This is an integrated program combining the DNP essentials throughout the student’s specialty curriculum. Courses are in a specific sequence and must be taken as stated in the plan of study culminating in the DNP degree.
If I am accepted to a master’s program before fall 2014, can I have a place held for me in the Post-BSN/Post-CNL to DNP program and wait to enroll at that time (fall 2014)?
No. You would need to apply to the DNP program.
If I complete my master’s degree, can I bridge into the DNP program?
No. You will need to complete your master’s degree and then apply to the Post-Master’s-to-DNP program.
When are students eligible for national specialty certification examination?
Students will be eligible for national specialty certification examination after successful graduation from the DNP program.
Are online classes or distance learning opportunities available?
Yes. Many of the non-specialty core courses and a portion of the specialty courses will be offered in hybrid format (blended online and face-to-face). A completely online option is not available. Students will need to attend some face-to-face classes in Baltimore during each semester.
Do I have to live in the Baltimore area to complete the Post-BSN or Post-CNL-to-DNP program?
The format of courses in the plan of study varies. Many of the core courses are offered in an online format or hybrid format (blended online and face-to-face). Most of the specialty courses are held on campus with some online support.
How many days per semester will I have to be on campus or at clinical sites?
The number of days per semester you will have to be on campus or at a clinical site varies depending on your specialty and your plan of study. The core courses are often offered in a blended format (partially online and face-to-face) but the majority of specialty courses will meet on campus. All on campus/face-to-face courses are held one day per week.
Can I use my workplace as a clinical site?
Due to the potential for conflict, it is not advisable to use your specific work environment for learning. Your program specialty director will discuss your clinical experiences with you after admission to the program.
Is it possible to work full-time while enrolled full-time in the Post-BSN/Post-CNL to DNP program?
This is not advisable due to the rigorous demands of a doctoral program.
Are there resources to learn about hospitals that have committed to pay or subsidize tuition for Post-BSN or Post-CNL-to-DNP education?
Many organizations offer tuition assistance for doctoral education. Contact Human Resource Centers at potential institutions of interest to learn about tuition assistance.
What is the final project?
As students progress through the DNP program, a scholarly portfolio is completed, highlighting the various domains critical to doctoral education and culminating in a final practice project. The practice project is a synthesis of the DNP essentials and results in a paper suitable for submission for publication.
Programs of Study
Which advanced practice roles will be available in the Post-BSN/Post-CNL to DNP Program?
The program will be available in all six advanced practice specialty areas – Adult and Gerontological Primary Care Nurse Practitioner, Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (Acute or Primary), Family Nurse Practitioner, Adult & Gerontological Acute Care Nurse Practitioner/Clinical Nurse Specialist, Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, and Nurse Anesthesia.
The plans of study will be posted on the UMSON website.
Which master’s specialties will remain at UMSON?
- Community/Public Health
- Nursing Informatics
- Health Services Leadership and Management
- Master of Science for Clinical Nurse Leaders
What other programs will continue at UMSON?
I started my master’s program at another institution, but I would like to transfer to UMSON. What are my options?
You may apply to UMSON’s Post-BSN/CNL DNP program. After acceptance, your transcript will be evaluated and up to six credits from your current program can be applied toward the Post-BSN/CNL DNP. Only courses NOT used for another degree may be applied.
I am currently a student in UMSON’s master’s program, but want to switch to the DNP program. What do I need to do?
You are encouraged to complete the master’s program and then apply to the Post-master’s-to-DNP program.