Yes! Registered nurses (RNs) with a bachelor of science degree in nursing (BSN) have several options available to them when enrolling in an online doctor of nursing practice (DNP) in women’s health and gender-based care.
Nurses seeking a DNP can earn this terminal degree without having to complete a separate master of science in nursing (MSN). Some schools even offer a bridge option for RNs with associate’s degrees (ADN), although those tracks generally include more on-campus requirements than distance-based programs.
All online BSN to DNP programs consist of online coursework and extensive clinical practice completed in a nurse’s home communities. Periodic campus visits may be required, although the number and duration vary widely across programs. Online DNP programs in women’s health are offered in full- or part-time formats, and usually can be completed in three to six years.
Women’s health nurse practitioners (WHNP) have advanced nursing degrees and specialize in the care of women throughout the lifespan. They provide patient education to women of all ages on healthy living and lifestyle choices and disease prevention, including wellness, gynecologic, reproductive, prenatal, postpartum, and menopausal care. They may also treat male patients dealing with sexually transmitted infections, infertility, and sexual dysfunction.
Women’s health NPs are vital to the community and the demand for NPs as a whole is growing. The American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) reports that there are about four times more NP job vacancies than qualified applicants. Additionally, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) has recommended that all advanced practice nurses have DNP degrees by 2020.
Online WHNP graduate programs use an experiential-learning model, combining theory and practice through in-depth study and extensive clinical practice. Students take classes taught by expert advanced practice nurses with years of experience and academic study. Many WHNP faculty members maintain their nursing practice while teaching, so students can learn from direct clinical experience.
Admission Requirements for Online BSN to DNP PNP Programs
Schools that offer women’s health DNP programs have many of the same requirements as other DNP degrees. The BSN to DNP pathway is designed for RNs who have a nursing bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution; however, as mentioned above, some schools such as Frontier Nursing University have an ADN-bridge program as well.
In general, all applicants must have an unencumbered RN license and a minimum cumulative undergraduate GPA of 3.0. They must also submit a resume and letters of recommendation. GRE scores are often only required of applicants with GPAs below the stated minimum.
Another common requirement of DNP programs in WHNP is that students have at least one to two years of nursing experience in women’s health before the start of their clinical practicum. New RNs should check directly with their prospective programs to confirm professional experience requirements before applying.
Online BSN to DNP WHNP Program Requirements
Online DNP programs involve 60 to 90 credits of in-depth study, research, and practical skills. All students take core courses on the science of nursing as well as specialized classes on women’s health as it relates to various stages of their lifecycle. Hands-on experience applying what is learned occurs during clinical portions of the DNP program and in the DNP residency.
Clinical practice is an integral part of all advanced practice nursing programs, and the women’s health DNP is no exception. The purpose is to provide students with the opportunity to gain leadership skills, expertise in women’s health, and experience in the improvement of quality healthcare. The WHNP-DNP practicum allows students to apply didactic knowledge to the change process, to synthesize evidence to identify areas in need of improvement, and to gain experience planning for implementation of these evidence-based findings into day-to-day nursing practice.
The DNP entails a significant amount of clinical practice—usually a minimum of 1,000 post-baccalaureate hours. Faculty members may assist students in securing an appropriate site for the practicum experience; however, most schools leave this responsibility to students and ask that they find a qualified preceptor to serve as a clinical practice mentor. In some cases, students have to work with a program coordinator to set up a relationship with a chosen site that has not been previously used for this purpose.
Students and applicants should consult a school’s list of clinical affiliations to find out if there is an appropriate facility nearby or if they might need to negotiate a practicum with their preferred site if a relationship is not already established.
DNP programs usually have a culminating experience in the completion of an evidence-based scholarly project. The result of the project is a “quality improvement change” that has an impact on patient outcomes. DNP projects may include a residency component completed in a local healthcare facility under the guidance of an approved mentor.
Campus visits are often required of students in online advanced nursing programs. The frequency and length of campus visits vary according to institution and purpose. On-campus visits take shape in orientations at the start of the program or before beginning clinical practice, lab work, hands-on application and simulation activities, assessments, and final capstone or scholarly project presentations.
The National Certification Corporation certifies graduates of women’s health DNP programs as advanced practice nursing professionals. To qualify for NCC exams, the candidate must have graduated from a program accredited by the ACEN or CCNE, which includes at least 200 hours of didactic learning and 600 hours of clinical practice. Applicants are eligible to take the certification exam for up to eight years after obtaining their degree.
Length of an Online WMNP BSN to DNP Program
Online advanced practice nursing programs are designed with the needs of working professionals in mind. Accordingly, many BSN to DNP WHNP programs can be taken in part- or full-time formats. Some schools offer both, while others offer only one option.
Clinical practicum placements are usually available in students’ local communities, and on-campus visits are limited so that students can focus on completing the program with the least amount of disruption to their schedules. The WHNP BSN to DNP can be completed in as little as three years of full-time study and between five to six years part-time.
Online BSN to DNP WHNP Curriculum and Sample Courses
Most BSN to DNP applicants must have completed a statistics undergraduate course before beginning the program. They must have also taken nursing classes in community and public health, health assessment, and research.
In BSN to DNP in women’s health programs, students can expect to take core courses in the following topics:
- Advanced pathophysiology
- Advanced health assessment
- Advanced clinical pharmacology
- Health policy, politics, and perspectives
- Health promotion and disease prevention
- Clinical prevention and population health
- Epidemiology and biostatistics
- Evidence-based practice in nursing
- Translating evidence into practice systems
- Cultural perspectives in healthcare
- Ethics in nursing and healthcare
- Informatics in healthcare delivery
- Advanced research methods
- Roles and issues in advanced practice nursing
- Nursing theory and leadership
- Regulatory issues in nurse leadership
- Principles of practice management
- Healthcare policy and finance
- Clinical seminar
- Scholarly project
Students also take women’s health specialization courses in:
- Advanced women’s health
- Health promotion and disease prevention
- Issues for women’s health
- Primary care of women
- Care of the childbearing woman
- Complex care of the childbearing woman
- Midwifery care during pregnancy
- Postpartum care
- Clinical concentration course in WHNP