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Accelerated DNP Programs for Non-Nurses

Students without a bachelor's degree in nursing can pursue a DNP thanks to direct-entry programs. These accelerated offerings can be completed in just a few years and prepare graduates for a range of career options.

Admissions Requirements for Accelerated DNP Degree Programs

The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree is the highest credential one can earn in the discipline. You may be surprised to learn, however, that the degree can be earned without having a bachelor's degree in nursing. These programs are also known as ''direct-entry'' and may also be offered at an accelerated pace, allowing prospective students to obtain the degree in just a few years.

Although applicants will not need a BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing), they will still need an accredited bachelor's degree. Other frequently required application items include:

  • Prerequisite coursework in anatomy, microbiology, and other relevant subjects
  • Minimum college GPA of 3.0
  • Personal essay and/or statement of purpose
  • Standardized test scores, such as Graduate Record Examination (GRE)
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Resume

Course Offerings in Accelerated DNP Programs

Accelerated programs still contain a full load of courses even though they take less time to complete. Students learn clinical skills and acquire theoretical knowledge as they earn their degree.

Healthcare Ethics

This course provides an introduction to the common ethical dilemmas that nurses encounter on the job. Students explore a range of decision-making frameworks and problem-solving methods that can be used to navigate these issues. Other topics commonly covered in this course include health care policy, national health issues, and health care resources.

Leadership as an Advanced Practice Nurse

In this course, candidates acquire the communication and leadership skills needed to thrive as an advanced practice nurse. The course introduces students to fundamental communication, teamwork, and supervision techniques and provides a framework for applying these concepts to clinical practice. Students explore the relationship between proper leadership, improved health outcomes, and enhanced patient safety.

Pharmacology

This course examines and explores the science of medicinal drugs and their role in the health care system. This multidisciplinary course touches on topics in microbiology, chemistry, and anatomy as it teaches students about important principles such as toxicities, pharmacokinetics, and pharmacodynamics. More advanced offerings of this course may delve into absorption, metabolism, and excretion of drugs.

Evidence-Based Practice

This practical course aims to equip candidates with the skills to comprehend research and use it to make informed clinical practice decisions. The course considers legal, ethical, and cultural aspects of evidence-based practice. In addition to learning how to analyze literature, candidates also learn how to evaluate the overall quality of research.

Health and Social Policy

This offering takes a look at the laws and regulations that most affect contemporary health care practice. Candidates examine and come to understand the legal, social, and political factors that most impact health care policy in the U.S. Special attention is also given to the future of health care policy as students try to determine new developments that may have an impact on advanced practice nursing.

Career Options for DNP Graduates

Registered Nurse

Registered nurses (RNs) provide direct, hands-on care to patients. They assess conditions, record medical histories, and operate medical equipment. They also coordinate with doctors to devise care plans and provide assistance during medical procedures. DNP degrees are naturally an excellent way to train for this career, as they provide instruction in nursing practice, pharmacology, and evidence-based practice that qualifies students for RN licensure within the early stages of their degree program.

Nurse Anesthetist

Nurse anesthetists are experts in applying anesthesia to patients in need of pain relief. Typical job duties include performing pre-anesthesia assessments, administering medicine, and devising and administering an anesthesia care plan. Depending on a patient's progress, these nurses also conduct post-anesthesia follow-up and adjust plans as needed. Graduates of a DNP program with a nurse anesthetist specialization can qualify for these positions.

Nurse Midwife

Nurse midwives' area of expertise is women's health care, primarily the stages of pregnancy and childbirth. They educate future mothers about best practices to ensure a healthy delivery, provide prenatal patient services, and provide on-call support throughout the birthing process. DNP programs can cover child and infant care through nurse-midwife or women's healthcare concentrations, qualifying graduates from these programs to pursue this career.

Nurse Practitioner

A nurse practitioner (NP) has all the same duties as an RN as well as additional responsibilities when it comes to providing care to patients. Like the other types of advanced practice registered nurses mentioned above, NPs have the ability to prescribe medication, conduct comprehensive patient examinations, and diagnose illnesses. These professionals often choose a specialization in fields such as family, psychiatry, or gerontology.

Chief Nursing Officer

Nurses with a mind for business can take the executive route and become a chief executive at the hospital where they work or another, similar medical organization. CNOs set targets for an organization, oversee budgets, and supervise nurse training programs. DNP graduates can use skills learned in their ethics and leadership courses to become strong candidates for these positions.

Healthcare Lobbyist

Outgoing DNP graduates looking to enact change can use the knowledge earned in the degree to become a lobbyist. Lobbyists work with government officials, agencies, and offices to influence healthcare decisions and represent the interest of their chosen organization. Coursework in a DNP program provides advanced knowledge of nursing policy and can be extremely beneficial for lobbyists, who interact with both lawmakers and health care companies.

Job Title Median Salary (2018) Job Growth (2018-2028)*
Registered Nurse $71,730* 12% (Much faster than average)
Nurse Anesthetist $167,950* 17% (Much faster than average)
Nurse Midwife $103,770* 16% (Much faster than average)
Nurse Practitioner $107,030* 28% (Much faster than average)
Chief Nursing Officer $189,600* (for all Chief Executives) -2% (for all Chief Executives)
Healthcare Lobbyist $72,410** N/A

Sources: *United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Payscale.com

Accelerated, direct-entry DNP programs are an accessible means for students without a background in nursing to jump into the field quickly. With this degree, graduates have multiple career paths available to them after just a few years of study, including jobs as nurse practitioners and executives.