FAQ: Are there any online BSN to DNP PNP programs?

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Yes! Registered nurses (RNs) with a bachelor of science degree in nursing (BSN) who wish to pursue graduate study in pediatric nursing can enroll in an online doctorate of nursing practice (DNP) with a pediatric nurse practitioner (PNP) specialty.

For RNs who love children and have a nurturing spirit, the pediatric nurse practitioner (PNP) specialization may be a good fit. PNPs provide care for patients from infancy to young adulthood. Notably, the demand for NPs in all subfields is growing. The American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) estimates that there is only one qualified candidate for every four nurse practitioner job vacancies.

Online BSN to DNP PNP programs involve online coursework and significant clinical practice. These programs offer a direct pathway to the terminal DNP degree without having to complete a separate master of science in nursing (MSN) first. Campus visits are often needed as well, though this requirement varies significantly across programs. Online DNP programs are available in full- and part-time formats, and can usually be completed in three to six years.

Online PNP graduate programs, like all APRN degrees, are highly experiential, incorporating theory and practice through extensive hands-on clinical practice. Students have the added benefit of faculty members who are often practicing nurse practitioners themselves. As such, they serve as models for students learning to apply theoretical knowledge to the real-life nursing challenges they face in their clinical practicum experiences.

Primary vs. Acute Care Sub-Specializations

Primary care nurses can further specialize their degree in one of two sub-specializations: primary care (PNP-PC) or acute care (PNP-AC).

Primary care PNPs have a more generalized focus, similar to pediatricians. In addition to performing office procedures related to caring for pediatric patients, PNP-PCs are trained to conduct developmental and health screenings, recognize unhealthy habits, and educate patients and caregivers on healthy sleep, nutrition, and exercise habits. They are also charged with identifying and addressing issues in mental health, functionality, mobility, and cognition.

Acute care PNPs tend to the needs of children and infants with complex, chronic, and critical conditions such as disease, illness, or injury. AC-PNPs monitor and manage treatment in both inpatient and outpatient settings in emergency and critical care units, on transport teams and with acute care specialty and home services. The role of an acute care pediatric nurse practitioner often requires collaboration with a team of healthcare professionals to deliver necessary patient care.

Using information gained from screening and assessments, all PNPs order and interpret lab and diagnostic tests, develop corresponding treatment plans (including prescriptions as needed), and refer young patients with chronic and acute conditions to specialists.

Admission Requirements for Online BSN to DNP PNP Programs

Online BSN to DNP PNP programs have two main admission requirements:

  • A bachelor of science in nursing from an accredited program, either the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN)
  • An active and unencumbered registered nurse license

In addition to these two requirements, DNP programs typically require the following to be submitted with an application:

  • A current resume or CV showing at least one year of RN experience in a relevant setting
  • Official transcripts from one’s BSN program with a GPA of at least 3.0
  • One or multiple letters of recommendation
  • A personal statement
  • An academic writing sample
  • CPR certification
  • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) scores, if applicable

Additional requirements, such as a declaration of financial support may be required of International applicants.

DNP applicants are often required to have at least one year of professional nursing experience to gain admission, and some PNP doctoral programs may ask students to complete up to two years of experience with pediatric patients before beginning coursework. Most online DNP-PNP programs do not require GRE scores of applicants with the requisite undergraduate GPA. However, prior coursework in health assessment, community and public health, research, and statistics (descriptive and inferential) may be required. An interview may be conducted as part of the application process as well.

Program Requirements for an Online BSN to DNP PNP

Online BSN to DNP PNP programs are designed for working professionals with both part- and full-time study options, although not all schools offer both plans. Full-time BSN to DNP programs in pediatric nursing can take two to three years to complete, although some programs have fast-track options that can be completed in as few as 36 months.

Part-time DNP PNP degrees may take four to six years to complete. Students can do all of their coursework online, mostly at their convenience, though some online classes have synchronous components, requiring participation in real-time learning activities through the use of video, teleconferencing and other web-based tools.

DNP students become eligible for degree conferral upon fulfillment of several program requirements. These include the completion of 60 to 70 credits of coursework, more than 1,000 of clinical practice, and a DNP capstone project.

Core and Specialty Courses

Credit-hours entail an in-depth study of topics relevant to both DNP core classes and PNP specialization courses. PNP students are expected to maintain a 3.0 GPA to graduate. DNP core courses include:

  • Nursing theory
  • Nursing leadership
  • Health policy, politics, and perspectives
  • Advanced pathophysiology
  • Advanced clinical pharmacology
  • Advanced health assessment
  • Epidemiology and biostatistics
  • Health promotion and disease prevention
  • Clinical prevention and population health
  • Regulatory issues in nurse leadership
  • Principles of practice management
  • Evidence-based practice in nursing
  • Translating evidence into practice systems
  • Ethics in nursing and health care
  • Cultural perspectives in healthcare
  • Advanced research methods
  • Informatics in healthcare delivery
  • Clinical concentration
  • DNP project

PNP specialization courses cover:

  • Interprofessional collaboration
  • Care of childbearing women
  • Care of the child and adolescent
  • Health promotion of the pediatric population
  • Pediatric assessment and diagnosis
  • Applied pharmacology-pediatric
  • Pediatric pharmacotherapeutics
  • Advanced pediatric primary care
  • Pediatric acute care
  • Palliative care
  • Complementary therapy

Clinical Practice Hours

National certification as a pediatric nurse practitioner requires 500 hours of post-baccalaureate clinical practice. DNP programs typically involve 1,000 hours or more. Clinical practice hours are usually completed in a healthcare facility in students’ home communities under the leadership of an approved preceptor. While some PNP programs help students locate clinical sites and mentors, others leave this responsibility to students to arrange for themselves. Some schools of nursing honor candidate’s prior professional nursing experience; therefore, the number of clinical hours required for program completion may vary by individual.

PNP students in the acute care subspecialty participate in a series of rotations to gain experience with pediatric patients dealing with a variety of health issues. Students complete clinical rotations in the pediatric emergency room (ER), the intensive care unit (ICU), and general care floors and healthcare facilities, such as pediatric critical care, radiology, cardiovascular surgery, endocrinology, nephrology, neurosurgery, oncology, infectious diseases, emergency care, pediatric surgery, pain, and palliative care.

Capstone Project

The final component of a DNP degree is a capstone project, which often takes the form of a scholarly project; this might involve conducting original research based on clinical practicum experiences, production of a paper or article documenting research and findings, and an oral defense or poster-presentation. Some DNP projects have unique residency requirements, which can typically be fulfilled in students’ home communities.

On-Campus Visits

In addition to these standard program requirements, many schools require periodic campus visits in addition to online coursework and practicum hours. These visits range from one to two throughout the entire course of study, to once per term. Duration of visits may be from one to three days up to one week in length and may include participation in orientation, laboratory, presentation, and hands-on assessment and patient simulation activities.