New BSN-to-DNP pilot begins in August

Incoming AGACNP students who intend to earn DNP degrees can do so in only eight semesters. Photo by Joe Howell.

Vanderbilt University School of Nursing is launching a pilot BSN-to-DNP program that gives registered nurses with Bachelor of Science in Nursing degrees the ability to earn the Doctor of Nursing Practice degree in only eight semesters. The program will integrate the advanced practice courses typically associated with the master’s-level nursing degree with DNP courses.

The BSN-to-DNP pilot program is in conjunction with VUSN’s Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (AGACNP) specialty; students will earn the DNP degree with a focus on expert clinical practice in acute and critical care. They also will have the option to focus their studies as hospitalists or intensivists.

“Vanderbilt’s DNP program is well known for educating outstanding nurse scholars who use evidence-based knowledge to improve health care outcomes, nursing management and education,” said Linda D. Norman, DSN, FAAN, dean of Vanderbilt University School of Nursing and the Valere Potter Menefee Professor of Nursing. “The DNP is the highest clinical degree in nursing, and many nurses have it as their professional goal. We decided to assess interest in a BSN-to-DNP program with this pilot program that combines our DNP education with our nationally known AGACNP specialty.”

Terri Allison, DNP, FAANP, directs Vanderbilt’s DNP program. “Health care needs and health care delivery are increasingly complex,” Allison said. “A DNP degree adds a skill set not attained in a master’s program. That skill set provides graduates with the ability to impact patient and system outcomes in practice and within their organizations.”

Vanderbilt’s BSN-to-DNP program is shorter and will require fewer credit hours — 67 hours — than the current path many students take for obtaining a Master of Science in Nursing degree (40 credit hours) and then advancing to DNP studies (an additional 36). For students who intend to earn a doctoral degree, the program will translate into savings of time and money.

The pilot is structured so that students will complete AGACNP and core DNP coursework first and then transition into DNP-specific practice courses. They will be eligible to take AGACNP certification exams upon completion of specialty-specific course work and will be doctorally prepared nurse practitioners upon graduation.

Allison and AGACNP Academic Director Brian Widmar, PhD, FAANP, co-developed the curriculum for the program and will work collaboratively on student and clinical site selection.