Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) - FAQs

Q. What is the DNP?

A. The Doctor of Nursing Practice is a practice-focused doctorate comparable to advanced clinical degrees in other health disciplines such as Medical Doctor (MD), Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD), Doctor of Public Health (DrPH), and Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT). The degree represents the highest academic preparation for nursing practice, focusing on expanded scientific knowledge related to providing comprehensive direct care across all settings. Grounded in clinical practice, the DNP moves the focus of advanced practice nursing from the level of the individual patient to the population level by using a cross-population perspective to assess, manage, and evaluate common problems.

Q. Why a DNP?

A. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), safe nursing practice in today's increasingly complex health care system requires improved translation of scientific evidence into practice. With a DNP, you'll be able to assume a leadership role in an increasingly complex healthcare system during this critical era of healthcare reform.

The future of nursing rides on the DNP, and the shift in the industry is occurring right now. Members of AACN voted in 2004 to support advanced practice nursing at the doctoral level by 2015. This means that the DNP is the preferred degree for students wishing to be a nurse practitioner (NP), clinical nurse specialist (CNS), nurse midwife (CNM), or nurse anesthetist (CRNA), and may be required after 2015. For more on why, visit AACN.

Q. Why a DNP at Fairfield?

A. Fairfield University offers:

  • Personalized attention & strong faculty-student mentorship opportunities
  • A rigorous, experiential, and inspirational academic experience
  • A reputation for graduating highly skilled nurse practitioners
  • Stellar on-site technological resources
  • A state-of-the-art simulation laboratory
  • Exceptional media resources available onsite and remotely
  • In keeping with our Jesuit mission, an emphasis on the ethical, legal, and socially-just implications of patient-centered care

Q. What is the difference between the DNP and the MSN?

A. The DNP is the preferred degree for advanced practice nursing (AACN, 2004). While programs are still available at the master's level, the DNP is expected to become the standard in the nursing practice.

Q. What is the difference between the PhD and the DNP?

A. The primary difference between the two is that a PhD is research-focused and the DNP is clinical-focused. The PhD is specifically designed to teach students how to conduct original investigation that advances the knowledge of a discipline. In contrast, a DNP is comparable to clinical 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 practice dissertation that applies existing knowledge to address a clinical problem. The practice dissertation results in a publishable paper that demonstrates the effectiveness of a clinical innovation on patient outcomes.

Q. Which advance practice roles do we offer for BSN to DNP?

A. We accept applications for family or psychiatric nurse practitioner specialties (fall start date) and nurse anesthetists (summer start date).

Q. Who can apply to the MSN to DNP program?

A. Nurses with a Masters degree are eligible to apply for the MSN to DNP students. Nurse Practitioners, Clinical Nurse Specialists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Anesthetists should select the advanced practice track (ADNP). Other Masters-prepared nurses who currently hold leadership positions in healthcare are eligible to apply for the Executive MSN to DNP (EDNP) program. Please note that 1000 clinical hours are required after completing the baccalaureate degree.

Q. If I am a BSN, how long will it take for me to become a DNP, and how much will it cost?

A. BSNs who pursue the DNP on a full-time basis will take 3 years; 4 years if they do so part-time. The approximate cost is $60-65,000 for the program, depending on the tuition rate per credit which could change slightly over the course of those years.

Q. Can DNP students be part-time?

A. Yes, the majority of our students attend school part-time while working full-time, but we have both full-time and part-time curricular plans available.

Q. What are the admission requirements for the DNP?

A. View the Fairfield's School of Nursing admission requirements.

Q. Do I need to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) to apply?

A. The GRE exam is not required for Nurse Practitioner Tracks; however, for BSN applicants that have earned a GPA below 3.0., or MSN applicants that have earned a GPA below 3.2, GRE scores may strengthen your application by demonstrating your ability to achieve the academic standards required at the doctoral level.

Nurse Anesthesia Track students must take the GRE and earn an analytical writing score of 4.0 or better.