Doctor of Nursing Practice FAQs
You still have time to apply to start your doctoral education in fall 2023.
Background and Overview
What is the DNP?
The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) is the terminal practice degree for the advanced practice nurse. It integrates advanced theoretical and clinical skills for providing leadership in evidence-based practice. This degree requires competence in translating research into practice by evaluating evidence, applying research in decision-making, and implementing viable innovations based on research findings that improve delivery of care, patient outcomes, and effective health care systems.
How was the DNP developed?
On October 25, 2004, American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) member schools voted to endorse the Position Statement on the Practice Doctorate in Nursing. The position statement called for moving the current level of preparation necessary for advanced practice nursing from the master’s degree level to the doctoral degree level by 2015.
This decision was preceded by three years of research and consensus-building by an AACN task force charged with examining the need for the practice doctorate with a variety of stakeholder groups. Regional forums were conducted to gain input from practicing nurses and key stakeholders. In October 2006, AACN members voted to adopt the Essentials of Doctoral Education for Advanced Nursing Practice. This document serves as the national guideline for DNP curriculum development and implementation.
Why the DNP?
Some of the factors that are building momentum for the change in nursing education at the graduate level include:
- The continuous expansion of health care knowledge and technology
- An aging patient population with more acute, complex, and chronic needs
- National concerns about the quality of care and patient safety
- A shortage of nurses who can lead the design and assessment of care delivery
- A shortage of doctoral-prepared nursing faculty members
- Increased educational expectations for all health professionals
In a 2005 report, Advancing the Nation's Health Needs: NIH Research Training Programs, the National Academy of Sciences called for nursing to develop a non-research (similar to the practice-focused) doctorate to prepare expert practitioners who can also serve as clinical faculty members.
In October 2010, the Institute of Medicine and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released a visionary report, The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health. This landmark report was the result of an interprofessional committee of experts chaired by Dr. Donna Shalala, president of the University of Miami and former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. A key recommendation of the report is to double the number of doctoral-prepared nurses by 2020. The increasing complexity of the nation’s health care environment requires that advanced practice nurses develop expanded competencies. The DNP joins other practice disciplines in offering practice doctorates such as medicine (MD), dentistry (DDS), pharmacy (PharmD), psychology (PsyD), physical therapy (DPT), and audiology (AudD).
What organizations besides the AACN support the DNP?
The American Association of Nurse Anesthetists Council on Accreditation will not, after 2015, accredit new master’s programs for nurse anesthesia. The council is requesting that all certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) programs transition to the DNP by 2022. All new CRNA graduates must hold a DNP by 2025 to be eligible for certification.
The National Nurse Practitioner (NP) Coalition, which includes the following NP organizations: American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, American College of Nurse Practitioners, Gerontological Advanced Practice Nurses Association, National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties (NONPF), National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women’s Health, and the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners states, “The DNP degree more accurately reflects current clinical competencies and includes preparation for the changing health care system.”
NONPF endorses the DNP and has developed competencies for NP practice at the doctoral level.
How many schools of nursing have DNP programs?
According to AACN, as of 2017, 303 DNP programs are currently enrolling students; 124 DNP programs are in the planning stages. DNP programs are available in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Because this information changes frequently, check the AACN website for current numbers and locations.
Why has the University of Maryland School of Nursing (UMSON) moved to the DNP for advanced practice nursing?
UMSON evaluated many factors, including the positions of the nursing education and clinical practice organizations. Some key factors were:
- The changing national landscape in health care requiring new roles and competencies for all health professionals (for example, interprofessional practice)
- The changing health care delivery system and demographics in Maryland and the U.S. that will oblige advanced practice nurses to have knowledge and skills that are not presently required in master’s programs
- The needs of Maryland hospitals seeking magnet status for doctoral-prepared nurse practitioners
- The Institute of Medicine recommendation that the number of doctoral-prepared nurses should double by 2020
- The pace at which nursing schools across the nation are adopting the Post-BSN to DNP program for APRN programs
- The AACN states that the DNP is the preferred degree for advanced practice nursing and expected to become the standard
How and when did the transition to the DNP take place?
The University of Maryland School of Nursing (UMSON) transitioned its Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) specialties from the Master of Science (MS) to the nationally recognized practice doctorate for advanced practice nursing known as the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). Effective with the entering class of fall 2014, the following UMSON specialties no longer accept MS applicants and accept only to the DNP program:
- Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner/Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist
- Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
- Family Nurse Practitioner
- Nurse Anesthesia
- Pediatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
- Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
- Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
- Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner-Family
The master’s specialties in Community/Public Health Nursing, Health Services Leadership and Management, Nursing Informatics, and Clinical Nurse Leader remain at the MS level.
Why earn a DNP?
Will master’s-educated NPs be required to have a DNP to practice?
While most specialty-accrediting bodies have not yet mandated a DNP to practice, the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists Council on Accreditation will no longer accredit programs that have not changed to a doctoral format after 2025 and will admit no new programs at the master’s level after 2015.
How will this degree help me in my work?
- The DNP is based on essentials that prepare graduates for today’s complex health care environment. The essentials include evidence-based practice and translation, informatics, and health policy.
- In a fully integrated curriculum, baccalaureate-prepared nurses receive the competencies for advanced clinical practice and the skills and knowledge associated with the practice doctorate – leadership, clinical scholarship and analytical methods for evidence-based practice, information systems and patient care technology, health care policy, and interprofessional collaboration. Nurses must be prepared to meet the greater challenges of the complex health care system, including the use of advanced technologies and evidence-based practice to ensure quality and safety of patient care.
- The change from master’s- to doctoral-level preparation enhances the education received by nurse practitioners and nurse anesthetists at UMSON. In addition to building on the nationally recognized advance practice nursing specialties at UMSON, the new program incorporates preparation for leadership in nursing and health care, evidence-based advanced nursing practice, and use of technology in health care at the doctoral level.
Will there be a different licensure requirement for the DNP?
Scope of practice is determined by state law and varies from state to state. Graduates in the Post-BSN to DNP option and the DNP with Specialties (Post-Master’s) option will be able to sit for licensure within their specialty.
What roles can the DNP graduate assume?
Post-BSN to DNP and DNP with Specialties (Post-Master’s) graduates are qualified to assume roles in the APRN specialty they complete (NP, CRNA, CNS). DNP (Post-Master’s) graduates assume roles as practice experts within their current area of expertise such as nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, community/public health nurses, nurse executives, informaticians, and clinical nurse specialists.
How will the DNP benefit me?
DNP graduates will have a different and more advanced skill set to integrate evidence into practice and to utilize policy, informatics, and interprofessional competence to improve outcomes for patients and families within the complex health care environment.
What is the difference between the PhD and the DNP?
The DNP is a practice doctorate similar to the practice doctorates in other health disciplines such as pharmacy, physical therapy, and medicine. DNP students focus on advanced practice areas of specialization, acquiring a population perspective in addressing common patient problems within a specialty. DNP students complete a scholarly portfolio throughout their program and complete a final practice project that applies existing knowledge to address a clinical problem. The practice project is a culmination of the DNP essentials and results in a publishable paper that demonstrates the effectiveness of practice-focused projects.
The PhD is a research degree and the PhD program is specifically designed to teach students how to conduct original investigation that advances the knowledge of a discipline. The distinguishing characteristic of the DNP educational program is an intense, mentored immersion experience in practice, while the distinguishing characteristic of the PhD program is intense mentorship in an area of research by an experienced cadre of nurse investigators. The completion and defense of an original research project is required for the PhD, while the final project is the last component of the scholarly portfolio for the DNP.
Can DNP graduates assume the nurse educator role in schools of nursing?
Yes. DNP degree graduates are able to assume academic and advanced clinical roles. Tenure and promotion is institution specific.
Is there a resource that indicates a pay differential for DNP-prepared nurses versus master’s-prepared nurses?
Because the degree is new, there is limited information on salaries for DNP-prepared nurses.
General DNP Application Information
How often are students admitted to the program?
Students will be admitted once a year, in the fall, except CRNA students, who will be admitted every summer.
Where and how does the application process begin?
Visit the DNP Degree Program page for admission requirements. Then visit the Application Instructions and Deadlines page to apply.
The selection process is very competitive. The admissions committee evaluates applicants’ past academic performance, work experience, and letters of recommendation. The number of applicants varies each year.
Do I need to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) to apply?
Do residents of Washington, D.C. need a Maryland RN license to participate in clinical rotations in Maryland?
Yes. Maryland is a compact state. Multi-State Licensure (MSL) will allow a nurse licensed in a compact state to practice across state lines in another compact state without having to obtain a license in the other state. However, Washington, D.C. is not part of the MSL and licensure must be obtained to participate in clinical rotations in this area.
More information on compact state information.
How many days per semester will I have to be on campus or at clinical sites?
This varies, depending on your specialty and your plan of study. The core courses are often offered in a blended format (partially online and face-to-face) but the majority of specialty courses meet on campus. All on campus/face-to-face courses are held one day per week.
Can I use my workplace as a clinical site?
Students should not complete their clinical rotations in the specific environments where they are employed due to a potential conflict of interest. Final approval of clinical site placement is at the discretion of the faculty.
Is it possible to work full-time while enrolled full-time in the UMSON DNP program?
This is not advisable due to the rigorous demands of a doctoral program.
Must a certain GPA be maintained?
All graduate students must maintain a “B” average, or a 3.0 GPA, to remain in good academic standing. Students must achieve a “B” or higher in Pathophysiology (NPHY 612) before progressing on to clinical coursework. All students must maintain a ”B” or better in the DNP core courses.
Please refer to the current student handbook for all academic policies and procedures.
What is the final project?
As students progress through the DNP program, a scholarly portfolio is completed, highlighting the various domains critical to doctoral education and culminating in a final scholarly project. The scholarly project is a synthesis of the DNP essentials and results in a paper suitable for submission for publication.
What do you mean by "an area of advanced nursing practice?"
Advanced nursing practice is any form of nursing intervention that influences health care outcomes for individuals or populations, including the direct care of individual patients, management of care for individuals and populations, administration of nursing and health care organizations, and the development and implementation of health policy. This term is not to be confused with advanced practice nursing.
Advanced practice nursing refers to the four direct care roles − certified nurse-midwife, certified registered nurse anesthetist, clinical nurse specialist, and nurse practitioner.
The American Association of Colleges of Nursing affirms that the discipline of nursing education encompasses an entirely separate body of knowledge and competence and is not an area of advanced nursing practice.
I am interested in learning more about the DNP program options. Can I meet with someone to discuss the DNP program options in detail?
UMSON holds information sessions each semester to provide students with details about all of the programs. Faculty members from each program are available to answer questions. Most information sessions are held on campus, but several online information sessions about the DNP program are held each year. Dates and times for information sessions will be posted on the UMSON website in advance. You can find details about information sessions here.
DNP with Specialties Application Information
This additional information is for students who wish to pursue the post-baccalaureate DNP with specialty or the post-master's DNP with specialty. Learn more about the pathways to the DNP.
Is there a part-time plan of study?
Yes, except for CRNA. An extended plan of study will include courses over a four- or five-year period. Classes must be taken in sequence to assure timely completion of the program. Students will need to work closely with their advisors to ensure in-sequence progression through the chosen specialty. Please view the specialty page for available plans of study.
Is clinical experience required for admission?
The ideal candidate will have at least one year of RN clinical experience (post-graduation from a baccalaureate or master’s program in nursing) at the time of application to the DNP program. Please view the specialty page for specific requirements.
Is it possible to be accepted into an advanced practice specialty program but not to the DNP program?
No. All applicants to the DNP program will choose an advanced specialty area. A master’s-prepared nurse practitioner will need to apply to the DNP (Post-Master’s) option.
Is there an option to “stop out” and receive a master’s degree?
No. This is an integrated program combining the DNP essentials throughout the student’s specialty curriculum. Courses are in a specific sequence and must be taken as stated in the plan of study culminating in the DNP degree.
If I am accepted to a master’s program before fall 2014, may I have a place held for me in the DNP (Post-Master’s) option and wait to enroll at that time (fall 2014)?
No. You would need to apply to the DNP (Post-Master’s) option at the time of completion of your master’s program.
If I complete my master’s degree, can I bridge into the DNP program?
No. You will need to complete your master’s degree and then apply to the DNP (Post-Master’s) option.
When are students eligible for national specialty certification examination?
Students are eligible after successful graduation from the DNP program.
Are online classes or distance learning opportunities available for the Post-BSN to DNP and DNP with Specialties (Post-Master’s) options?
Yes. Many of the non-specialty core courses and a portion of the specialty courses are offered in hybrid format (blended online and face-to-face). A completely online option is not available. Students will need to attend some face-to-face classes in Baltimore during each semester.
Do I have to live in the Baltimore area to complete the post-baccalaureate DNP with specialty or post-master's DNP with specialty option?
The format of courses in the plan of study varies. Many of the core courses are offered in an online format or hybrid format (blended online and face-to-face). The specialty courses are held on campus with some online support.
Are any special supplies or equipment needed?
Students are required to purchase a full-length white lab coat and have a high-quality stethoscope (with diaphragm and bell functions), reflex hammer, tuning fork (256 Hz recommended), penlight, and tape measure. There are a number of highly recommended clinical references, and former students have benefited from utilization of a smartphone with the ability to download medical software. While we do not recommend a particular brand, we do recommend that you get a smartphone that fits your budget and meets your clinical needs.
Plans of Study
Which specialties and options are available in the Post-BSN to DNP, and the DNP with Specialties (Post-Master’s)?
The program and the specific plans of study are available in all eight advanced practice specialty areas:
- DNP: Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner / Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist
- DNP: Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
- DNP: Family Nurse Practitioner
- DNP: Nurse Anesthesia
- DNP: Pediatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
- Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
- DNP: Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
- Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner-Family
If you are interested in the DNP with Specialty (Post-Master’s) and you currently hold a master’s degree, a gap analysis is completed after you are accepted to determine a plan of study. Please refer to the specialty of interest above to review the full plan of study for a post-BSN student that includes the specialty specific courses. DNP with Specialty (Post-Master’s) students will be required to complete all courses in the Post-BSN to DNP plan of study or show evidence of completion with past transcripts.
Will the Post-Master’s DNP option remain?
Yes, the Post-Master's DNP option is continuing.
Which master’s specialties are remaining at UMSON?
I started my master’s program at another institution, but I would like to transfer to UMSON. What are my options?
You may apply to one of UMSON’s three DNP options. After acceptance, your transcript will be evaluated and up to six credits from your current program can be applied toward the option you select. Only courses NOT used for another degree can be applied. You will need to provide course syllabus.
I am currently a student in UMSON’s master’s program, but want to switch to the DNP program. What do I need to do?
You are encouraged to complete the master’s program and then apply to the DNP (Post-Master’s) option.
I completed my master’s degree and am interested in the DNP with Specialty (Post-Master's). Can any of my courses be waived?
If you are interested in the DNP with Specialty (Post-Master's) and you currently hold a master’s degree, a gap analysis is completed after you are accepted to determine a plan of study.