FAQ: Are there online BSN to DNP PMHNP programs?

Yes! There are many online doctor of nursing practice (DNP) programs for registered nurses (RNs) with bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degrees who want to specialize in psychiatric mental health.

PMHNP stands for psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner and is an advanced graduate degree for registered nurses. Some programs offer a DNP pathway for licensed RNs with non-nursing bachelor’s degrees. Regardless the track chosen, these programs are for RNs seeking a DNP without first completing a separate master of science in nursing (MSN).

Online BSN to DNP programs in PMH entail online coursework and significant clinical practice. Campus visits are often required as well, typically one to three a year. Online DNP programs can usually be completed in three to six years with full-time or part-time options available.

A DNP enables nurses to take on the increasing demand for healthcare professionals with a more advanced scope of practice of RNs. What’s more, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) recommends that advanced practice nurses (APRNs) obtain this degree and plans to require all APRNs to have one by 2025.

Outside of fulfilling this possible future requirement, earning a DNP has many benefits. For one, nurses with a DNP enjoy a wealth of career options. They can hold positions in direct-care clinical settings and are trained to assume administrative, executive, managerial, and academic roles within their specialization. DNPs can exercise their leadership and expertise by overseeing healthcare facilities, teaching in nursing education programs, and influencing patient care from an organizational or policy perspective.

BSN to DNP programs in PMH can be structured in several different ways. Some may grant students both an MSN and a DNP, while others only award the culminating DNP degree. More information about BSN to DNP programs in PMHNP, including details of their admission requirements and program structure, follows.

Online BSN to DNP PMHNP Admission Requirements

Online BSN to DNP PMHNP programs require applicants to have a current and unencumbered registered nurse license in the United States. They also must have a baccalaureate degree in nursing from a program accredited by either the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). All programs require official transcripts to be mailed directly from the university in question to the school’s admissions department.

In addition to these two requirements, DNP programs in this specialization may ask applicants to submit the following as part of the application process:

  • A current resume or CV
  • One or multiple letters of recommendation
  • A personal statement
  • An academic writing sample
  • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) scores, if applicable

Many DNP programs prefer applicants to have at least one year of professional nursing experience, and some require it. Most online DNP programs do not require GRE scores for applicants who have an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or above. However, undergraduate coursework in physical assessment, community and public health, research, statistics, and psychology and mental health may be required. Some schools conduct interviews as part of the application process as well.

Online BSN to DNP PMHNP Program Requirements & Duration

Like other online nursing degrees, BSN to DNP programs in PMH are tailored to fit the needs of working professionals. Part- and full-time study plans are available at many schools; however, some offer one or the other. Part-time BSN to DNP programs in psychiatric mental health can take up to six years, whereas full-time programs generally take around three years.

Courses are offered online, most often asynchronously, so that students can complete coursework anywhere and at any time. Some programs incorporate synchronous learning activities using video and teleconferencing tools as well. Many of the faculty members of PMHNP programs are practicing nurse practitioners themselves and can offer the added perspective of their own professional experience applying theoretical knowledge to the nursing field in their current clinical work.

Online DNP programs typically have periodic campus-visits—one to three days in length, rarely more than one week—that provide opportunities for students to network, participate in experiential learning activities such as labs and complete hands-on assessments.

Online BSN to DNP PMHNP Curriculum

To earn a DNP in psychiatric mental health, students have to fulfill several program requirements. These vary by school, but all DNP programs generally require the completion of 60 to 90 credits of coursework, extensive clinical practice, and a culminating DNP project.

Coursework covers core and specialization classes. Students are expected to maintain a 3.0 GPA to be eligible for graduation. Core courses cover nursing theory, leadership, ethics, evidence-based practice, quality and patient safety, and healthcare policy. Other typical classes include:

  • Advanced pathophysiology
  • Advanced clinical pharmacology
  • Advanced health assessment
  • Epidemiology and biostatistics
  • Health promotion and disease prevention
  • Cultural perspectives in healthcare
  • Organizations theory and systems leadership
  • Advanced research methods
  • Informatics in healthcare

Specialization courses in the psychiatric mental health track include:

  • Mental health assessment
  • Psychiatric mental health diagnosis and management
  • Psychopharmacology
  • The theory and practice of contemporary psychotherapies

The final component of a DNP degree is a culminating project, which often takes the form of a scholarly project or thesis; this might involve conducting original research based on clinical practice experiences. An oral defense or poster-presentation may also accompany the written product of the project.

In addition to these standard program requirements, some schools may have additional demands, such as the fulfillment of service, multicultural, diversity, or interprofessional credits. Program pages detail these requirements and include information about elective and international clinical placement opportunities.

Online BSN to DNP PMHNP Clinical Practice Hours

For the most part, students can fulfill their clinical practice hours at a healthcare facility in their home community. Nursing schools often provide guidance in selecting an appropriate setting that matches students’ academic and professional goals and identifying a qualified preceptor that serves as a mentor throughout the clinical practicum experience. There are programs, however, that ask students to take the lead on locating an appropriate site and preceptor for their clinical work.

DNP programs generally require 1,000 hours of post-baccalaureate clinical practice. Some schools honor candidates’ prior professional nursing experience, and thus, the number of clinical hours required for program completion may vary by student.