BSN to DNP Bridge Programs

An overview of BSN-to-DNP bridge programs, which allow nurses who hold BSNs to earn DNPs more quickly. Information on duration and more is also provided.
BSN-to-DNP Bridge Programs

To progress from holding a bachelor of science in nursing, or BSN, to holding doctor of nursing practice, or DNP, it's typically necessary to earn a master of science in nursing, or MSN, first. However, if you are a BSN-educated RN and want to earn your DNP to move into advanced practice nursing or to assume administrative, teaching, or managerial positions, you may be able to do so more quickly and easily through a BSN-to-DNP bridge program. Learn more about these programs and what they entail below.

What are BSN-to-DNP Bridge Programs?

Just as a bridge connects two sections of land, a BSN-to-DNP bridge program connects, or bridges, the gap between a BSN-level understanding of nursing and a DNP-level understanding of nursing. A terminal degree, a doctor of nursing practice is the highest that can be obtained in clinical nursing. Typically, an RN must hold an MSN to be admitted into a DNP program. However, through a bridge program, you can quickly progress through the MSN level to earn your DNP more quickly. The work is hard and intense, but the payoff is considerable.

Why Earn a DNP?

If you currently hold a BSN, what are the benefits of completing a BSN-to-DNP bridge program to obtain your DNP? Although you will be looking at several more years of school and training, earning your DNP will open up many doors. With a DNP, you can enter an area of specialization in advanced practice nursing like midwifery or anesthesia. Alternatively, you may opt to move into a managerial or administrative role. Because it is a "practice degree," a DNP is for those who want to practice in clinical settings as opposed to in research or education.

How Long Does It Take?

Normally, you would have to earn your MSN before starting a DNP program. It takes around two to three years to earn an MSN, and then it typically takes another three years to earn a DNP. That is if you focus on earning your DNP on a full-time basis. If you are only able to work toward your DNP on a part-time basis, it could take five or more years to complete all of the work. Through a bridge program, of course, you eliminate the step of having to earn an MSN. Therefore, rather than looking at five to eight years to earn your DNP, a bridge program allows you to do so in just three to five.

How Much Does It Cost to Complete a BSN-to-DNP Program?

On average, it may cost up to $30,000 to complete a DNP degree. Of course, the total cost varies widely based on a variety of factors. For example, you will probably pay less by attending a program through a public college or university as opposed to a private one. Similarly, you will save money by attending a program that is based in your state of residency, as out-of-state tuition tends to cost far more. You should also look into financial aid, as it may be available.

Is Accreditation Important?

It is crucial to complete a BSN-to-DNP program that holds the proper accreditations. Unfortunately, some programs are not properly accredited or approved, and graduates walk away unable to procure the licenses that they need to work professionally. Therefore, make sure that the program you elect is accredited by either the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, or CCNE, or the Association for Collegiate Education in Nursing, or ACEN. This applies whether you choose to complete an online program or a campus-based program.

Are Online BSN-to-DNP Bridge Programs Available?

Because the vast majority of people who work toward DNPs are working RNs, most colleges and universities go to great lengths to accommodate people with busy schedules and work and family obligations. Many BSN-to-DNP programs can largely be completed online, which eliminates the need to be on campus on a regular basis. Depending on your area of specialization, you may need to complete clinical hours during your program. If so, you will have to do this part of the program at a local healthcare facility. Ideally, choose a program that allows you to choose clinical training opportunities yourself, as you will have more flexibility that way.

What are the Requirements?

If you're thinking about completing a BSN-to-DNP program to more quickly earn your doctor of nursing practice, make sure that you are eligible to enroll in such a program in the first place. Typically, you need to show that you maintained a GPA of 3.0 or higher while earning your BSN. You also need a valid RN license. Many programs require applicants to submit GRE scores, so you may need to take the Graduate Record Exam if you haven't already. Finally, you may need to provide letters of recommendation or sit down for an interview before being accepted into the program.

Is There Anything Else that I Should Know about BSN-to-DNP Bridge Programs?

Finally, if you are earning your doctor of nursing practice to become an advanced practice nurse, you will have to choose an area of specialization to complete your DNP program. The available options vary depending on the program and school in question. However, most programs offer options for family nurse practitioner, midwife nurse practitioner, nurse anesthetist, and nurse psychiatrist. If you would rather progress into management or administration, you'll also be able to select from a variety of specializations in those areas, including nurse manager. Most programs will also customize their curricula to suit students' individual career needs and goals, so keep that in mind too.

If you are certain that you ultimately want a DNP and already possess a BSN, a BSN-to-DNP bridge program is the quickest and most efficient way to get there. A great deal of work is still required, but this is a terrific option for busy, working nurses.

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