While the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) has traditionally been the standard entry-level education for family nurse practitioners (FNPs) and other advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), there has been a push in recent years to raise this requirement to the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) and several other prominent nursing organizations support this transition, and although states still only require FNPs to possess an MSN in order to obtain licensure, the DNP is becoming more prevalent among advanced clinical nurses and nursing administrators.
Online BSN to DNP FNP programs are designed to help registered nurses (RNs) take the most direct path to earning a DNP. These programs are for licensed RNs who possess a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), and want to pursue a DNP in the specialty area of family nurse practitioner without first completing a separate MSN program.
Overview of Online BSN to DNP FNP Programs
There are a number of options available for students who wish to pursue their BSN to DNP FNP program online. These programs are a great fit for RNs who want to continue working full-time while pursuing their doctorate, as well as those who do not live near a school that offers a BSN to DNP FNP program. While not as common as online MSN to DNP programs, online BSN to DNP programs are becoming more widely available as schools start to combine their traditional BSN to MSN and MSN to DNP programs.
Online DNP FNP programs offer several potential benefits over traditional campus-based programs. For one, they give students access to program options and degree paths that may not be available at a local campus. This is particularly beneficial for students who would otherwise have to relocate to pursue a BSN to DNP FNP program.
Another benefit of online programs is that they are typically more flexible in terms of class scheduling, allowing students to watch lectures or complete coursework at night or on the weekends. This amount of flexibility, however, depends largely on if the program offers synchronous or asynchronous instruction. With synchronous instruction, lectures are delivered through live video feeds, and students must be at their computer at the prearranged time to watch and participate in virtual classroom discussions. Asynchronous instruction utilizes pre-recorded lectures that students can access anytime, giving them the freedom to learn when it is most convenient for them. Students can choose a program that offers the type of instruction that best complements their individual learning style and fits with their schedule.
Keep in mind that all DNP students, whether they are online or campus-based, must complete at least 1,000 clinical practice hours at a local health care facility before graduating. Many online BSN to DNP programs also require students to visit campus for certain in-person activities such as clinical orientations, immersion events, or hands-on training sessions. The number and length of these required on-campus intensives varies by program. Students should make sure they fully understand all campus visitation requirements before enrolling in an online program, especially if they may have difficulty traveling to campus. On OnlineFNPPrograms.com, we define online programs as those that require three or fewer campus visits per year.
Accreditation for Online FNP Degree Programs
Online and campus-based FNP programs must both meet the same set of standards in order to earn national accreditation. In order to qualify their graduates for APRN licensure, BSN to DNP FNP programs must be accredited by either the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). This confirms that the program offers the highest quality training, and is properly suited to prepare graduates to take on the duties of a family nurse practitioner.
Both the CCNE and the ACEN have a strict set of guidelines that programs must follow to receive and maintain accreditation. Online FNP programs go through a rigorous accreditation process which requires submitting evidence that they have been approved by their state’s board of nursing, providing a detailed breakdown of their curriculum, and verifying that their faculty members hold the proper credentials. OnlineFNPPrograms.com only lists online FNP programs offered by non-profit universities that are accredited by either the CCNE or ACEN, or programs that are pursuing initial accreditation.
Online BSN to DNP FNP Programs: Full-Time vs. Part-Time
Prospective online BSN to DNP FNP students can choose to pursue their doctorate through either a full-time or part-time program. Full-time BSN to DNP programs generally take three to four years to complete, while a part-time program can take up to six years. Some schools offer both full-time and part-time options, while some only offer one or the other. When deciding between a full-time or part-time program, students should consider their ongoing personal and professional obligations, and determine how much time each week they have to commit to a degree program. RNs who anticipate working full-time while they pursue their degree, or those with otherwise busy schedules, may want to consider a part-time program.
BSN to DNP FNP Program Requirements
Online BSN to DNP programs can consist of anywhere from 65 to 95 credit hours. Students must also complete at least 1,000 clinical practicum hours over the course of the program before earning their DNP. For online students, these clinical hours are typically completed at a facility in their community or a nearby area. Some schools help online students find clinical placements and preceptors in their area, while others expect students to find and secure their own placements.
In addition to fulfilling all curriculum and clinical hour requirements, DNP students must design and complete a capstone DNP project before graduating. This is an original work meant to synthesize everything they have learned over the course of the program, and demonstrate their mastery of doctoral-level FNP theory and practice. This project is typically developed and implemented over several practicum courses, culminating in a final oral defense before the student’s DNP project team.
Admission Requirements for Online BSN to DNP Programs
Most online BSN to DNP FNP programs have a similar set of admission requirements. First and foremost, students must already possess a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree from a nationally accredited school of nursing. Typically, they must have graduated from their BSN program with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher. Students are also required to hold current, unencumbered RN licensure in the state where they practice, and in most cases, must have professional experience as an RN. The required length of practice experience varies by program.
While the admissions process is different at every school, students often must provide the following documents at the time of their application:
- Resume or CV
- Three letters of recommendation
- Transcripts from all previous postsecondary institutions
- Proof of passing an undergraduate statistics course
- Personal essay or goal statement
Most schools also have applicants undergo a faculty interview before they are accepted. Prospective online students should note that this interview may take place over the phone, via web conference, or in person, which would require travelling to campus.
Online BSN to DNP FNP Programs: Sample Courses
BSN to DNP FNP programs contain both MSN-level courses and DNP-level courses. The master’s-level courses generally focus on FNP specialty training and clinical practice. DNP-level courses aim to prepare students in the eight core competencies outlined by the AACN in The Essentials of Doctoral Education for Advanced Nursing Practice, such as the scientific underpinnings for practice, systems leadership, and analytical methods for evidence-based practice. While exact curriculum and course names will vary by school, here are some example courses students can expect to take as part of a BSN to DNP FNP program:
Sample MSN-Level Courses:
- Advanced Health Assessment: How to comprehensively evaluate a patient’s health based on their physical symptoms, behavior, and medical and personal history. This course emphasizes taking a holistic approach to health evaluations, analyzing both the physical signs of illness or injury as well as each patient’s unique background, psychology, and social development to come up with the best care strategy. Classes may contain a practicum component where students apply these diagnostic methods and decision making skills in a clinical setting.
- Advanced Pharmacology: This course examines the physical and psychological effects of different pharmaceutical drugs, and how they can be used to treat specific afflictions. Students learn how to properly assess the need for prescription medication, as well as administer drugs in a safe and cost-effective manner, including how to determine dosage based on a patient’s unique physiology.
- Management of Common, Acute, and Chronic Health Problems Across the Lifespan: FNPs must be prepared to provide primary care to family members of all ages. This course focuses on treating health problems and promoting wellness in patients from infancy to late adulthood. Students learn to draw upon theory, research, and clinical knowledge to diagnose health issues and deliver the best possible patient outcomes.
Sample DNP-Level Courses:
- Leadership for Advanced Practice Nurses: This course explores the methods and theories of leadership in complex health care organizations. Students learn how to effectively manage teams and projects, as well as influence change at the systems level. In addition, most classes cover best practices for conflict resolution and interprofessional collaboration.
- Epidemiology and Population Health: Focuses on health promotion and disease prevention at the local, national, and global levels. Students investigate the sources and causes of different infectious diseases, analyzing how these diseases spread in specific populations. Screening and treatment methods are also covered.
- Health Care Policy and Economics: In this course, students examine legal and economic issues currently facing advanced nursing practice, medical administration, and the larger health care system in the United States, including regulations surrounding health care services and access to care. Students are also prepared to lead change and innovation though health policy development, implementation, and advocacy.