FAQ: Beginning in 2015, will nursing students be required to earn a DNP to become an FNP or APRN?

Answer: While the AACN encourages students who wish to become APRNs to earn a DNP, an official date in which a DNP will be a requirement to become a family nurse practitioner has not been set.

In October 2004, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) and its affiliated nursing schools voted to endorse the “Position Statement on the Practice Doctorate in Nursing.” This statement would require APRNs to complete a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree program instead of a traditional master’s degree program in nursing, which is the current standard for licensure. The AACN set a target date of 2015 for nursing schools to transition their APRN programs from masters to doctorate programs.

While doing research for OnlineFNPPrograms.com, we found the 2015 endorsement and requirements for students to earn a DNP to become an APRN to be unclear, especially since many nursing schools have begun to offer new online MSN programs with APRN specialties. Therefore, we decided to interview Robert Rosseter, Chief Communications Officer for the AACN, about the 2015 target date for the transition of MSN to DNP programs.

[OnlineFNPPrograms.com] Will registered nurses interested in graduate nursing school have to enroll in a DNP program if they wish to become an APRN, since they will most likely earn their degree after 2015?

[Robert Rosseter] The AACN set 2015 as the target date for schools to transition their master’s programs to the doctoral level. Though the majority of schools offering APRN programs now offer a DNP option, not all schools will be able to make the transition by 2015. AACN has commissioned a new report from RAND, Inc. to look at barriers and facilitators for schools transitioning to the DNP. Our hope is that this report will provide AACN with strategic guidance regarding our next steps in the movement to the DNP. This report is expected to be released later this summer. Though a DNP will not be required to practice as an APRN next year, AACN still encourages students to complete the DNP which is fast becoming the expected level of preparation for tomorrow’s APRN.

[OnlineFNPPrograms.com] Since licensure as an APRN depends on regulatory, certifying, and accrediting agencies, when do you think the DNP requirement for APRNs will go into effect for the different APRN nursing specialties?

[Robert Rosseter] It’s difficult to determine exactly when the requirements for the DNP will go into effect, since so many stakeholder groups will need to come into alignment on this issue. All we know for sure is that a DNP will be required for new Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists entering the workforce in 2025.

[OnlineFNPPrograms.com] When dates are officially set, will practicing APRNs without doctorate degrees need to earn a DNP for re-certification or will they be grandfathered in under the old requirements?

[Robert Rosseter] Typically, when educational requirements change in a profession, current practitioners are able to continue their work and practice on re-certification. When requirements for Nurse Practitioners moved from the post-RN certificate to the master’s degree, licensed NPs were allowed to continue to practice in the states in which they were currently working. We expect that this practice will likely be used when the transition to the DNP is complete.

[OnlineFNPPrograms.com] Along those same lines, when dates are officially set, when will students have to complete their degree program and be licensed in order to fall under the old requirements? (For example, for CRNAs the deadline is 2025. So will nursing schools stop offering masters level programs before that date?)

[Robert Rosseter] Yes, all master’s level CRNA programs must transition to the DNP by 2022. Beyond CRNAs, the transition milestones for the other professions have not been set.

[OnlineFNPPrograms.com] Finally, how are nursing schools progressing towards meeting the timeline of 2015 to transition their programs from MSN to DNP programs? From our research, it seems like nursing schools are still offering new MSN programs for APRN specialties such as FNP and Nurse Midwifery.

[Robert Rosseter] Since the endorsement of the AACN position statement, the number of schools offering the DNP has grown from 7 programs in 2004 to 243 programs in 49 states today. Further, AACN’s latest survey shows that 14,699 students are currently enrolled in DNP programs nationwide, and 2,443 students graduated as newly minted DNPs last year. Despite this great progress, most schools offering the DNP still offer a post-MSN degree option in order to accommodate practicing APRNs who wish to transition to the DNP as well as for new students who wish to enter advanced practice at this level.

Thank you Mr. Rosseter for your time and insights!

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