Nursing can be a wonderful career to get into. You are able to help people in a meaningful way every day, have a positive impact on your local community and society more generally, plus meet lots of interesting patients and colleagues along the way. So naturally, it’s also a job that gives you plenty of opportunities to learn new things. From specialist knowledge to complex clinical skills and brand new technological developments, it’s a field in which you must always be developing in order to fulfill your role successfully.
Yet, at the same time, nursing is an extremely busy profession. Many nurses work very long hours, with almost every minute of their shifts dedicated to helping their patients. So how do you find the time to fit in all this important professional development and ongoing learning? For lots of busy and ambitious nurses, online study is the answer.
These days there are a wealth of BSN to DNP programs online, as well as master’s courses and shorter modules, which enable you to earn a high-level qualification without having to give up your day job or attend classes in person. That means you can fit your studies around all of your existing work and family commitments while still benefiting from a top-quality educational experience and gaining a widely respected degree.
In this article, we’ll go into more detail about what studying for BSN to DNP programs online is like, as well as the numerous benefits of doing so. If it sounds like a path you’re interested in taking, there are also some tips at the end for how to balance your academic studies with your work responsibilities. The good news is that all it takes is motivation and dedication! Let’s get started.
What are BSN to DNP programs online?
A DNP is a doctor of nursing practice, which is a doctoral-level degree within the field of nursing. This makes it the same academic level as a Ph.D., however rather than being focused on research, it puts an emphasis on clinical skills and preparing students for top leadership roles. Most DNP courses will give you the option to specialize in an area of nursing that is of most interest to you. For instance, this could be a specific patient population group such as pediatrics, geriatrics, or women’s health, or a specific health condition such as oncology or emergency care. There’s also the chance to concentrate on indirect patient care issues, such as health policy or executive leadership.
Ordinarily, you are required to first complete a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) and then a master’s degree in nursing (MSN) before you can enroll on a DNP. However, for those who know early on that they wish to progress all the way to a DNP, there is the option to enroll on a bridge program that combines the curriculum of an MSN and DNP. This is known as a BSN to DNP program. By avoiding any repetition, it can accelerate your studies and enable you to graduate slightly quicker than if you took the MSN and DNP separately. To be precise, on BSN to DNP programs online, you can expect to study for 3 to 4 years full-time or 4 to 6 years part-time.
What will I study on a DNP?
Most DNP courses are split into three modes of study: academic modules, clinical placements, and an independent research project. The modules you will take will vary depending on which college you enroll with and which specialty track you choose; however, you can anticipate being offered a list like the one below. Some modules will be mandatory, while others will be optional.
- Advanced Pathophysiology
- Clinical Pharmacology
- Healthcare Finance
- Theoretical and Scientific Foundations of Nursing
- Epidemiology and Population Health
- Healthcare Policy and Advocacy
- Evidence-Based Practice
- Leading Organizations
- Transforming Nursing Through Technology
- Advanced Health Assessment and Diagnostic Reasoning
- Advanced Psychopathology
- Psychotherapy with Multiple Modalities
- Clinical and Applied Nursing Ethics
- Advanced Practice Care of Older Adults
- Advanced Pediatric Development and Behavior
- Primary Care Approaches for Children
- Primary Care of Adolescents
- Primary Care of Adults Across the Lifespan
- Advanced Nursing Practice in Reproductive Healthcare
For BSN to DNP programs online, these modules might be delivered through a mixture of virtual lectures, seminars, tutorials, discussion groups and forums, interactive exercises, and other similar activities. You can also expect to have read and written assignments to complete for each one.
In terms of your clinical placements, you will be expected to complete around 1,000 hours across the duration of the program. When it comes to BSN to DNP programs online, your college will assist you in finding a suitable location close to where you live and which aligns with your personal career goals. You’ll work under the supervision of expert professionals, who can offer you valuable advice and feedback. It’s also a great chance to expand your network ready for when you’re applying for your next job.
Finally, the independent research project is where you will translate evidence into practice and demonstrate all the skills and knowledge you have acquired during the program. You will be able to choose a topic that interests you and is relevant to your specialty, then conduct an in-depth investigation of it. This is often a very rewarding part of the course because it has the potential to make a genuine impact in the real world.
What are the advantages of doing a DNP?
There are plenty of benefits to be gained from taking a doctor of nursing practice program. Firstly it gives you the opportunity to delve deeply into subjects that are of interest to you and develop both your specialist knowledge and clinical skills to the highest possible level. Not only is that personally fulfilling, but it also enables you to do your job to the very best of your ability. This benefits your patients, your workplace, and your colleagues too.
If you have ambitions to move up to a more advanced job role, then BSN to DNP programs online are a fantastic way to make that happen. After qualifying, you’ll be eligible to work in a range of higher-level positions related to your specialist track. This includes roles in both direct patient care (such as an advanced practice registered nurse) and indirect patient care (such as nursing informatics or leadership positions). Even just the act of studying for the degree indicates to employers that you are serious about your personal development and dedicated to your career, which is sure to impress them.
In addition to the specific knowledge and skills related to nursing, studying BSN to DNP programs online also enables you to develop a wide range of transferable skills that are useful in almost every job role and industry. For example, you’ll work on your written and verbal communication skills, organization and time management, leadership and teamwork, critical thinking and analytical skills, and much more.
Lastly, doing a DNP is a good opportunity for networking in your industry. You’ll meet other motivated students on the course, as well as expert faculty staff and industry specialists. This is a great chance to widen both your professional network and your social network, and you’re sure to make some lifelong friends along the way.
What specific benefits are there to studying for BSN to DNP programs online?
When it comes to distance learning, taking BSN to DNP programs online can be very advantageous. Probably the main reason for this is the flexibility that these courses offer. You have the chance to study at a time that suits you and on days that suit you. So early birds can get their learning done before heading to work, while night owls can knuckle down after dark when their family has gone to bed. You could even fit in your studies on your lunch break or save it for your days off.
Similarly, you can study at whatever location works best for you. This could be the peaceful sanctuary of a home office or local library or the creative hustle and bustle of a coffee shop. The choice is entirely yours! Another advantage is that you can tailor your study methods to suit your learning style. So, for instance, you could study a little bit every day or in big chunks less often, and you can rewatch materials as often as you need to.
One great benefit of studying any online program is that it gives you the opportunity to get used to new technology in a supportive environment. There has been a lot of development in the field of virtual learning, particularly since the coronavirus pandemic forced universities around the globe to switch to online teaching, and a lot of this new software is likely to end up being used in workplaces too. By trying it out as a student, you’ll have an advantage when it comes to using it on the job.
Are there any disadvantages to taking BSN to DNP programs online?
You’ll be glad to hear that there are no specific disadvantages to taking BSN to DNP programs online. Although in the past online degrees might have been looked down on as less valid, these days, that is far from the case. Employers are well aware that virtual learning can be delivered at a very high standard, and in fact, is now the study mode of choice for busy but ambitious students. Therefore you don’t need to worry about being at any sort of disadvantage when applying for jobs in comparison to those who have studied a program based on campus.
It’s also worth remembering that your clinical placements will all be carried out in person, so your experience on that part of the program will be the same as it would be on a campus course. That means you can benefit from identical opportunities for networking and mentorship, as well as get plenty of hands-on experience in your specialist field.
The only other aspect to bear in mind is that you will be taking slightly more responsibility for your learning as an online student. You won’t have faculty staff looking over your shoulder or other students around you, keeping you on track. Of course, the flip side of this is that you enjoy greater independence, which many students consider a huge benefit to distance learning. It also means that you’ll develop your time management and organization skills even more, plus demonstrate to future employers just how dedicated and motivated you are.
How can I balance studying for a DNP with my work responsibilities?
Studying for BSN to DNP programs online while holding down a full-time job can feel like a daunting and intimidating prospect. However, it is absolutely possible, and plenty of students do so every year. The good news is that with some motivation and organization, you’re sure to find it easier than you expect! Here are some top tips:
- Set up a study schedule that fits around your work schedule and takes into account busy periods and deadlines. Then make sure you stick to it!
- Get started on your assignments as early as possible to avoid last-minute scrambles to meet deadlines.
- Let your work colleagues and managers know that you are studying for the program and your friends and family so that they can offer support.
- Take advantage of support services offered by your college.
- Set up a dedicated study space at home where you can work undisturbed. Having ergonomic furniture, good lighting, and space for all your materials is key.
- Establish weekly goals and semester goals to keep on track.
- Take care of your body. Getting regular exercise and eating healthy is important for brain function and will help you power through those tough assignments.
- Take care of your mind. Relaxation is also important to avoid stress building up, so try breathing exercises, walking in nature, a long soak in the bath, or whatever else makes you feel good.
- Set aside quality time with friends and family, or to spend on your hobbies. We all need a break sometimes!