Doctor of Nursing Practice (D.N.P.)

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the DNP?

The DNP degree is designed for those nurses with a MSN or BSN degree who are interested in a practice focused doctorate. DNP graduates will be prepared as clinical experts with a focus on critical thinking, leadership and political policy skills needed to advocate and create changes in healthcare practice at individual, population and organizational systems levels. The DNP is similar to other practice doctorates such as the MD, DPT, AudD, and PharmD. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing has called for the adoption by 2015 of the DNP as the terminal nursing practice degree.

How does the DNP degree differ from the PhD degree?

The Ph.D. is the research intensive doctoral degree in nursing. Research-focused programs are designed to prepare nurse scientists and scholars, and focus heavily on scientific content and research methodology. Research-based programs typically require an original research project and the completion and defense of a dissertation.

In contrast, a practice-focused DNP program is designed to prepare experts in specialized advanced nursing practice. The focus is heavily on clinical practice, one that is "innovative and evidenced-based, reflecting the application of credible research findings" (AACN, 2006, p. 3). Practice-focused doctoral programs require a practice application-oriented "final D.N.P. project" instead of a knowledge-generating research effort (AACN, 2006, p. 3). The focus is on translating evidence into practice for improved health care outcomes. DNPs use research to influence their practice. 

The two types of doctoral programs differ in their goals and the competencies of their graduates, and therefore, their coursework. However, they represent complementary approaches to the highest level of preparation in nursing. Both are considered terminal degrees in nursing, one in clinical practice, one in research.

How long will it take?

Depending upon the entry pathway, the DNP can be completed within 2-4 years of full-time study. UNC has two DNP pathways:

    1. Post Bachelors in Nursing and
    2. Post Masters in Nursing.

What will I learn?

Post Bachelors in Nursing - APN specialty preparation for the Post Bachelors in Nursing pathway is as a family nurse practitioner. Detailed course information can be found HERE.

Post Masters in Nursing - Coursework builds on the MSN base providing additional depth in information technology, health policy, population health, and evidence based practice. The capstone project is a scholarly project that reflects evidence based practice and is derived from practicum immersion experiences. Detailed course information can be found HERE.

Admission Pre-requisite: SRM 602 (Statistical Methods I) or equivalent

NOTE: Provisional admission possible without this admission pre-requisite.

How does the program work?

The Post Bachelors in Nursing is designed for the practicing RN as a four year part-time hybrid program.  In general, the clinical courses are held on campus on Thursdays.

The Post Masters in Nursing DNP program is designed for the practicing APN as a two year part-time hybrid program to offer you flexibility and convenience. There will be some selected on-campus intensive experiences.

Can I continue to work while completing the DNP program?

Yes. Most DNP students continue to work full-time as they complete the program.   In general, two courses/semester does allow for work and personal life. 

When will students be admitted?

Students will be admitted once a year via a competitive admission process. Class size is limited. DNP admission preference is given to those submitting applications by Feb 1st.

Is there an orientation?

Post Bachelors - A one (1) day ON-CAMPUS orientation is required for the Post Bachelor DNP students. It is typically scheduled the week before fall classes begin.

Post Masters - A three (3) day ON-CAMPUS orientation is required for the Post Masters DNP student..  It is typically scheduled during mid July.  During the orientation, the students meet University Administrators, program faculty and other students.  Resources for success are introduced including the online course software, library resources, program handbook with policies and  procedures, and writing center.  Individual advising and an opportunity to meet mentors from previous classes is provided.

Is the GRE required for admission?

The GRE is not required.

Will clinical practice be required? How are prior practicum hours documented?

The DNP requires a minimum of 1,000 clinical hours upon graduation.
Documentation of prior practicum hours in an advanced practice program will be reviewed for acceptance towards clinical hour requirements in the DNP program for Post Masters in Nursing applicants. Examples of official documentation of nursing practicum hours include a copy of the form submitted to take national boards, a letter from the nursing school where master’s level clinical hours were completed, transcript documentation or a copy of certificate showing national certification (500 hours max is awarded for this option).

Is the DNP program accredited?

The UNC nursing programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

Is a dissertation required?

No, a dissertation is not required. The student will complete a 6 credit hour DNP Capstone project. This will be an evidence-based, scholarly project designed by the student in collaboration with a faculty advisor.