What Is a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)?

What Is a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)?

most affordable doctor of nursing practice programs

The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree stands as a crucial educational pathway, providing nurses with the necessary skills and knowledge essential for success in leadership roles within the healthcare sector.
The importance and demand for these roles in the United States are indisputable, evident from the growth of DNP programs in the last 15 years and a projected job market expansion exceeding 38% over the next decade, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics.
For individuals eager to enter this promising field, we have meticulously gathered all the vital information you need to explore the top ten most affordable DNP programs. We also offer insights into their prerequisites and requirements, salary expectations after graduation, and address frequently asked questions.

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What Is a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)?

A DNP is a terminal degree for nurses and an excellent option for those aspiring to be nurse leaders and influence healthcare delivery. This degree also places significant emphasis on integrating evidence-based research into daily practice, positively impacting patient outcomes and distinguishing it from a Ph.D.

DNPs typically operate in three primary settings: leadership, education, or as advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs).

If leadership is the chosen path, this often involves higher-level roles, such as Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) of a hospital. In education, the DNP may instruct at all nursing levels, ranging from adjunct to the dean of a nursing program. As an APRN, they may function as a nurse practitioner in various specialties, including family medicine, pediatrics, and acute care, or as certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs), administering anesthesia to patients before and after surgery. The APRN may work in either the inpatient or clinic setting, offering flexibility based on their specialty.

Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (ACNP): Job Description, Salary, and How to Become One

DNP Coursework

The DNP program encompasses a comprehensive curriculum designed to prepare nurses for advanced roles in healthcare. The coursework usually includes:

– Advanced Practice Nursing: Developing skills for advanced clinical practice in various specialties such as family medicine, pediatrics, and acute care.
– Healthcare Leadership: Preparing nurses for leadership roles, covering understanding healthcare systems, policy-making, and administration.
Evidence-Based Practice: Placing significant emphasis on integrating research into clinical practice to enhance patient outcomes. This involves learning how to analyze, interpret, and effectively apply research findings.
– Healthcare Policy and Advocacy: Training to influence healthcare delivery through policy development and advocacy.
– Informatics: Understanding and utilizing healthcare informatics to enhance patient care.
– Ethics in Nursing Practice: Exploring ethical considerations in advanced nursing practice and leadership.
– Quality Improvement: Focusing on methods to enhance healthcare quality and safety.

DNP Clinical Training

Clinical training in a DNP program is essential for practical experience and skill development. It includes:

– Direct Patient Care: For those specializing in advanced practice nursing, significant clinical hours are devoted to direct patient care in their chosen specialty.
– Clinical Leadership: For those focusing on leadership, clinical training may involve managing healthcare teams, developing policies, and overseeing healthcare delivery systems.
– Teaching Experience: For DNPs interested in education, clinical training might include teaching and mentoring nursing students.
– Specialized Training: Depending on the specialty, clinical training can involve specific skills such as administering anesthesia for CRNAs or managing acute care scenarios.
– Research Application: Implementing evidence-based practices in a clinical setting is a crucial part of the training, allowing students to apply their research skills in real-world scenarios.
– Flexibility in Settings: Clinical training can occur in various settings, including hospitals, clinics, and community health centers, providing a broad range of experiences.

DNP Prerequisites and Requirements

Nurses must fulfill prerequisites and requirements before entering a DNP program, including required degrees, years of experience as a registered nurse (RN), an active RN license, and completing necessary classes before admission to the DNP program.

To apply to most DNP programs, you must hold a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree and have passed the NCLEX. Most DNP programs also necessitate at least one year of experience as an RN before applying.

Additionally, there are often requirements such as a minimum GPA from previous nursing programs. Some programs may also require the GRE, and it is not uncommon for online programs to have specific guidelines regarding state licensure.

Pathways and Curriculum

There are two pathways to becoming a DNP— completing a BSN to DNP program or an MSN to DNP program. The average time for a BSN to DNP program is three to four years, compared to the average length of the MSN to DNP program, which is two years.

Nurses must also decide which specialty to pursue in their DNP programs. Here are some examples of concentrations:

– Family Nurse Practitioner
– Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner
– Acute Care Adult Nurse Practitioner
– Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
– Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
– Pediatric Primary Care
– Nurse Anesthetist
– Nurse Midwife
– Nurse Educator
– Nursing Administration
– Nurse Informatics

The DNP curriculum is determined by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing’s (AACN) eight essential competencies. The guidelines set forth by the AACN mandate a minimum of 1,000 clinical practice hours and completion of the DNP scholarly project.

The Cheapest Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Programs in 2024

The selection of the following educational institutions is based on Online Nursing Writings’ methodology, which involves surveying our readers to understand their priorities when choosing schools. Additionally, we consider graduation rates, student-faculty ratio, price, mode, duration, and admission rates of hundreds of the most prominent nursing schools in the United States.

1. University of South Alabama

Situated in Mobile, Alabama, the University of South Alabama aims to equip nurses for advanced roles in nursing, addressing healthcare needs, implementing research into evidence-based practice, influencing healthcare policy, filling leadership roles, and educating future nurses at all levels. They offer three pathways to DNP: MSN to DNP, MSN to DNP bridge program for Clinical Nurse Leaders to Executive Nursing, and BSN to DNP.

– Cost: $423 per credit hour
– 15 different specialty certification programs
– Online DNP program

2. National University College

The DNP program at National University College in California features continuous enrollment with new classes starting weekly. Financial aid and scholarships are available to offset degree advancement costs. A minimum of 46 graduate-level credit hours beyond the master’s degree is required.

– Cost: $442 cost per quarter unit
– Three Specialties: Executive Leadership and Nurse Anesthesia Practice
– Executive Leadership DNP program (30 months) and Nurse Anesthesia DNP program (36 months hybrid program)

3. Rasmussen University – Florida

With multiple campuses throughout Florida, Rasmussen University offers financial aid and scholarship opportunities to make the DNP program more affordable. The school is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and CCNE.

– Cost: $695 cost per credit
– Two Specialties: Executive Leadership and Public Health and Policy
– Estimated 21 months as a full-time student (48 credits)
– Online DNP program

4. Purdue University Global

Purdue University Global’s accredited online DNP program through CCNE offers multiple start dates throughout the year with full-time and part-time plans.

– Cost: $700 per credit
– Duration: 18 months as a full-time student
– Expect to spend 15 to 18 hours per week on coursework

5. Grand Canyon University

Located in Phoenix, Arizona, Grand Canyon University’s DNP program, accredited by CCNE, prepares nurses to be leaders in their field, implementing research into daily practice to impact the healthcare system and patient care.

– Cost: $725 per credit
– 39 credit hours
– Hybrid program—courses offered online and in-person (evenings only)

6. University of Phoenix – Arizona

The University of Phoenix Arizona’s DNP program supports working nurses with strong leadership skills. The program offers multiple start dates for flexibility in personal and professional schedules. A total of 31 credits is required to complete the program.

– Cost: $810 per credit
– Online classes
– Approximately 20 months

7. University of Maryland

Located in Baltimore, the University of Maryland prepares graduates to implement research and evidence-based medicine into daily practice. The program offers full-time and part-time study plans, except for the nurse anesthesia program. Accredited by MSCHE under the U.S. Department of Education.

– Cost: $828 per credit hour; $26,820 for DNP Residents, excluding other miscellaneous costs
– 8 DNP specialties and an MSN-DNP program
– Hybrid Format

8. University of Cincinnati

Graduates at the University of Cincinnati in Ohio prepare to be nurse leaders, leaving a lasting impact on the healthcare system and healthcare delivery. The program has two pathways to acquire the DNP degree.

– Cost: $836 per credit (part-time); $8,359 per semester (full-time)
– Programs are primarily online, except for the Nurse Anesthesia DNP program, which is on campus
– Nine DNP specialties and one MSN-DNP program

9. Rutgers University

Located in New Jersey, Rutgers University graduates prepare to leave a lasting impact on the healthcare industry by reviewing and shaping healthcare policy. Their mode of learning is flexible, with hybrid virtual classes, but some higher-level courses and clinical experiences require on-campus training.

– Cost: $1,040 per credit
– 12 BSN to DNP programs; 2 MSN to DNP programs
– Post-baccalaureate programs take between 3 to 5 years based on the specialty selected

10. University of Pittsburg

Available for working nurses wishing to advance their leadership skills, the University of Pittsburgh’s neonatal, health systems executive leadership, and nurse anesthesia (BSN to DNP) programs require experience before admission. Accredited by CCNE, ACME, and Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs.

– Cost: $1,190 part-time per credit; $29,266 total cost
– 7 DNP specialty programs offered
– All programs are online except the nurse midwife program, which is an onsite program

Clinical Nurse Specialist: Job Description, Salary, and How to Become One

Salary Expectations of a DNP in 2024

Numerous factors contribute to shaping the salary expectations for nurses with a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) qualification. These factors include the level of experience, geographical location, full-time or part-time employment, and specialization. The U.S. Bureau of Statistics provides the mean annual wages for various DNP specialties:

1. Nurse Anesthetist: $205,770
– Description: Administering anesthesia and monitoring patients during surgical procedures, this role stands out as one of the highest-paying in the field, with earnings often ranging between $150,000 to $200,000 or more.

2. Nurse Practitioner: $124,680
– Description: Functioning as primary care providers, nurse practitioners focus on health promotion and disease prevention. NPs specializing in acute care, pediatrics, or mental health tend to earn more than those in primary care.

3. Nurse Midwife: $122,450
– Description: Specializing in maternal health care, labor, birth, postpartum, gynecological, and family planning, the salary is influenced by demand in specific regions and increases with experience.

4. Nurse Leadership: $127,980
– Description: Nurse leaders assume roles such as nurse manager, nurse director, chief nursing officer (CNO), nurse educator, and clinical nurse specialist (CNS). Opportunities in leadership are expected to grow with the expansion and evolution of the healthcare industry.

5. Nurse Educator: $84,060
– Description: Working in academic institutions, nurse educators teach and train future nurses. Those with specialized degrees and extensive experience can earn between $80,000 to $120,000 or more.

Advantages of the Most Affordable DNP Programs:

– Cost-Effectiveness: Lower tuition fees increase accessibility and reduce the financial burden.
– Diverse Specializations: Affordable programs often offer various specialties, allowing customization of education to career goals.
– Flexible Learning Options: Many programs provide online or hybrid formats, accommodating working professionals.
– Quality Education: Despite affordability, accredited programs maintain high educational standards with a robust curriculum.
– Career Advancement: Graduating from an affordable DNP program can lead to significant career advancement, higher salaries, and leadership roles.

Disadvantages of the Most Affordable DNP Programs:

– Resource Limitations: Some affordable programs may have fewer resources, impacting access to cutting-edge technology or research opportunities.
– Larger Class Sizes: To offset lower tuition, some programs might have larger class sizes, potentially affecting individual attention and support.
– Networking Opportunities: Higher-cost programs may offer more extensive networking opportunities with renowned professionals and alumni.
– Perception of Quality: Despite often being unfounded, there may be a perception that more affordable programs are of lower quality.
– Competitive Admission: Affordable programs can be highly competitive due to lower costs, potentially making admission more challenging.

Frequently Asked Questions as a Doctor of Nursing Practice

Q: Can I work while completing my DNP degree?

A: Yes, most DNP programs are designed to allow students to work in their current roles, with many offering online or hybrid formats for greater flexibility.

Q: Are there financial aid opportunities to help cover the cost of the program?

A: Financial aid options vary, but most schools offer some form of assistance. Additionally, healthcare organizations often provide financial support, especially for those committing to work for the organization after graduation.

Q: How will my DNP benefit me and my career?

A: DNPs play a crucial role in implementing research to improve healthcare, influence policy, and impact patient care. This translates to higher salaries, career advancement, and significant achievements in the field.

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