RN to DNP Degree Programs
This article summarizes a range of program options for registered nurses (RNs) who want to pursue a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). These programs cater to students who are already practicing nurses and wish to receive the top qualification in their field.
Comparing RN-to-DNP Degree Programs
DNP Adult Gerontology
An adult gerontology DNP (Doctor of Nursing Practice) program prepares registered nurses to further specialize their nursing skills, learn the principles of evidence-based practice, and become leaders in clinical and research settings. Adult gerontology is the area of advanced nursing practice focused on serving adults from adolescence through late age. Students who choose this program can further specialize their studies in either acute gerontology (to work in fast-paced emergency settings like ICU, ER, and medical surgery care) or primary care adult gerontology. Students complement their study of clinical practice with courses on organizational behavior, nurse leadership, and healthcare policy.
DNP Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)
Another common concentration in programs for RNs seeking to advance their careers is a family nurse DNP track. Like adult gerontology, these programs last 2-3 years and prepare graduates for a nationally administered test to become family nurse practitioners (FNPs). Students learn about common pediatric problems, chronic problems for adults and elders, gynecologic management, and advanced pharmacology. Graduates are qualified to care for patients across their lifespan, providing primary care for the entire family. While DNP programs can be completed online, students must complement their academic work with on-site clinical work and/or practicums in various healthcare settings. Because they are experts in evidence-based practice, graduates can also go on to leadership positions in research, education, and clinical settings.
DNP Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP)
A DNP in Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) program prepares graduates to meet the growing need for medical professionals with advanced understanding of mental health issues. Students complete both core coursework in research methods, evidence based practice, and nursing leadership, as well as classes on psychiatric mental health management, assessment, and diagnosis. By the end of the program, graduates are qualified psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners who can apply their skills in teaching, consulting, and clinical settings.
DNP Nurse Anesthetist (NA-DNP)
This program prepares registered nurses (RNs) to work alongside surgeons and anesthesiologists monitoring the safe use of anesthesia and other intense painkillers. Applicants must have a bachelor's degree in nursing and a valid RN license. Students balance academic courses and research with clinical practice in the medical setting of their choice. Students become experts in conducting their own research and pursuing evidence-based practice, or implementing the latest medical research into everyday healthcare. Graduates from the program are well prepared to take the national CRNA (certified registered nurse anesthetist) exam to earn their initial licensure as nurse anesthetists.
DNP Executive Leadership
This program prepares nurses to move out of clinical practice and into nurse leadership, policy making, and executive positions. Rather than focusing on a specific area of clinical care, students learn about the larger structures at play in quality healthcare delivery (like healthcare policy, organizational leadership, and management). Students may study topics as diverse as cost containment, alternative healthcare delivery systems, leadership theories, financial principles, and organizational development. The goal of the program is to train senior-level nurse executives to manage the complex issues that arise in healthcare settings.
|Degree Program||Program Length||Program Requirements||Related Careers|
|DNP Adult Gerontology||2-3 years|| Bachelor of Science in Nursing|
|Gerontological nurse practitioner|
|DNP Family Nursing||2-3 years||Bachelor of Science in Nursing|
|Primary care nurse practitioner|
|DNP Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner||2-3 years|| Bachelor of Science in Nursing|
| Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP)|
|DNP Nurse Anesthesia||2-3 years||Bachelor of Science in Nursing|
|DNP in Nursing Executive Leadership||2-3 years||Bachelor of Science in Nursing|
|Chief nurse executive|
Admissions Requirements for an RN-to-DNP Degree Program
A registered nurse's previous education and work experience qualify her for admission to DNP programs. To apply, registered nurses must complete a graduate degree application that may include sending in their bachelor's degree transcripts, letters of recommendation, a personal essay, and proof of RN licensure. These programs last 2-3 years and in many cases qualify students to become advanced practice nurse practitioners.
A post-bachelor's DNP program provides registered nurses the opportunity to become advanced practice nurse practitioners. Through these programs, RNs can improve their salary, develop their nursing skills, and rise to the top of their profession.