It’s no mystery why the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree has become the advanced degree of choice for many Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) holders. The National Academy of Medicine has called for a doubling of the number of doctoral nurses, sparking skyrocketing interest in pursuing online and in-person DNP degrees.
For example, by 2025, the DNP degree will be mandatory for all certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs). Other advanced practice nursing specialties are also expected to make it a requirement. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) notes that from 2007 to 2019, the number of DNP programs increased by more than six times. Additionally, from 2018 to 2019 the number of DNP graduates jumped 12%, to 7,944 graduates from 7,039 graduates.
Some advanced degree options, such as an online BSN to DNP program, have attracted great interest because they enable students to apply for the advanced degree without submitting any Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) scores. The program provides BSN nurses with a DNP curriculum that typically features multiple focus areas, which students can complete online on a schedule that makes sense for them — without having to earn a master’s degree in nursing first.
What Is a BSN to DNP Program with No GRE?
A BSN to DNP program without a GRE requirement helps BSN nurses advance to high-level roles in health care. The DNP is a practice-based program that aims to enhance students’ knowledge of patient care, policies and procedures, and research to the highest levels.
The highest degree in practice-based nursing, DNP programs generally offer tracks that students can choose from to pursue their selected specialty in advanced practice. Common outcomes for DNP graduates include the following:
- Teaching roles in nursing programs
- Health care administration, government, or policy roles
- Nursing practice leadership
- Management positions
What Is BSN to DNP?
A BSN to DNP program offers BSN nurses the opportunity to pursue an advanced practice career by directly linking bachelor’s degree-level work to doctoral education. Students in these programs can bypass master’s work — and some programs also allow them to skip the GRE, which many other postbaccalaureate programs require, creating a more seamless admissions process. Curricula for BSN to DNP programs typically include core courses covering topics such as:
- Advanced clinical pharmacology
- Advanced pathophysiology
- Cultural perspectives in health care
- Health policy
- Nursing leadership
- Nursing theory
- Regulator issues
The programs also include classes that can prepare students for leadership in the specialty area they want to pursue, such as nurse practitioner (NP) roles caring for specific populations or conditions. BSN to DNP programs typically have clinical practice experience requirements as well.
Online BSN to DNP programs provide the added benefit of convenience, with most work completed remotely. Many online programs offer a flexible schedule that allows for a quicker or slower pace of study according to the student’s professional and personal commitments.
Why Choose a No GRE Program?
The GRE is a standardized test that many graduate and doctoral programs require applicants to take to gauge their qualifications for the program. With BSN to DNP programs that do not require a GRE, BSN nurses can pursue an advanced nursing education with fewer barriers to entry. Many of these programs require a valid registered nurse (RN) license as main requirement to transition from BSN to DNP study.
The GRE and optional products and services, such as test preparation materials, cost hundreds of dollars — so pursuing a program that doesn’t require the exam can save students money in addition to study time.
Benefits of a BSN to DNP Program
Employer requirements, job competition, and expanded opportunities are among the reasons why many RNs pursue a BSN to DNP program that doesn’t require a GRE. The following are some benefits of this advanced nursing program:
Changing Requirements for Advanced Nursing
With the AACN endorsing a shift to setting DNP as the minimum nursing education level for advanced roles, the degree makes sense for BSN nurses who want to pursue the highest ranks of the profession. Moreover, with the number of nursing professionals earning a DNP on the rise, the degree makes sense for job applicants who want their education and leadership skills to compare favorably with the competition.
Projected Job Growth for Advanced Practice Nurses
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 45% growth in advanced nursing roles from 2019 to 2029 — thanks largely to the health care needs of an aging population. Nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and NPs will have opportunities for 117,700 new jobs during that time period.
BLS projections for advanced practice nurses (APNs) puts this category of professionals at a much faster than average growth rate, considering the anticipated growth in jobs for all professions the BLS tracks is 4% from 2019 to 2029.
In 2020, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) also projected a shortfall of as many as 139,000 physicians by 2033. The AAMC has called for measures including the increased reliance on other health care professionals, such as NPs, to help fill these gaps.
The Critical Skills Taught in the BSN to DNP Degree Program
One trend defines the health care industry’s evolution: Nurses continue to take on new roles with much greater responsibility. Preparing RNs who currently hold BSNs for advanced practice roles requires the right mix of skills and experience. Regis College’s online BSN to DNP program doesn’t require GRE scores and is geared to prepare RNs for advanced practice in a range of specialties. Students receive instruction from experienced, dedicated faculty on nursing theory and evidence-based research and practice.
Students in Regis’ online BSN to DNP program benefit from the same support and values-based education as those in its on-campus program. The program’s curriculum is infused with the same social justice principles that are part of the school’s long tradition. The courses also emphasize the importance of lifelong learning as key to a successful career as an APN. The online program’s flexibility removes many obstacles that prevent BSN holders from pursuing DNP degrees.
Depending on a student’s specialization of choice, here’s a look at the skills graduates can gain when they enroll in the online BSN to DNP program at Regis.
Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
The pediatric nurse practitioner (PNP) specialty focuses on addressing the needs of young patients in pediatric settings. Skills most valued in this area include compassion, communication, analytical abilities, and decision-making. The PNP specialty features courses such as Care of the Childbearing Woman, Complementary Therapy, and Teaching and Learning Seminar in Nurse Education.
Family Nurse Practitioner
In the family practice environment, NPs address the health care needs of people of all ages and backgrounds. The family nurse practitioner (FNP) specialty emphasizes interpersonal communication, critical thinking, empathy, and leadership skills, among others.
Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
Patients receiving mental health care span a wide range of ages and backgrounds — from children to the elderly. The psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP) specialty provides students with deep knowledge of mental health issues while also teaching empathy, technical competence, and interpersonal skills. The PMHNP specialty includes courses such as Theory and Practice of Contemporary Psychotherapies and Psychopharmacology.
Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner
The women’s health nurse practitioner (WHNP) specialty emphasizes women’s primary care, gynecological, and obstetric health care needs. Among the skills most prized in this area are compassion, communication, organizational acumen, and a deep appreciation of cultural dynamics. These and other skills are taught in the program’s core courses such as Care of the Childbearing Woman; Cultural Perspectives in Health Care; and Health Policy, Politics and Perspectives.
Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
An aging population drives demand for the adult gerontology nurse practitioner (AGPCNP) specialty, which studies issues relating to chronic illness and aging. The AGPCNP specialty covers areas such as palliative care, polypharmacy management, and end-of-life matters. AGPCNP coursework emphasizes patience, communication, decision-making, and interpersonal abilities. Political, Financial and Social Issues in Gerontology is a key course in the specialty.
Learn Critical Skills
A primary benefit of a BSN to DNP program is that it offers BSN-credentialed nurses the opportunity to advance and specialize in clinical practice, research, and leadership roles. The goal of Regis’ online BSN to DNP program is to prepare DNP holders to take lead roles in communitywide efforts to improve health care outcomes. The curriculum’s courses demonstrate the college’s commitment to enhanced delivery of quality health care.
The Nursing Theory course is a foundation class that explains what students need to know about nursing practice now and in the future. Various nursing theories share characteristics:
- They’re centered on the patient, whose health is the most important consideration.
- They consider the overall health care environment.
- They focus on the patient’s specific health conditions.
- They attempt to define the duties, responsibilities, and desired outcomes of nursing staff.
In terms of emphasis, nursing theories can be placed in one of four categories:
- Those that base care decisions on the specific needs of the patient
- Those that focus primarily on interactions between nurse and patient
- Those that are concerned first and foremost with the outcomes that nurses are able to effect
- Those that are centered on the person in that they take a humanistic approach that sees the patient as a unique individual
Concepts in Nursing Leadership
Graduates of Regis’ online BSN to DNP program will be prepared to step into leadership roles in delivering quality health care to their communities. The Concepts of Nursing Leadership course is part of the program’s core curriculum; students use role theory to investigate role mastery, congruence, conflict, and nursing leadership’s organizational impact.
Roles and Issues in APN
The Roles and Issues in APN course examines the impact on advanced practice nursing of issues such as professional licensing, credentials, regulatory requirements, and legal and ethical standards of care. Among the topics covered are trends that affect APNs today and in the future.
Cultural Perspectives in Health Care
The quality of health care delivery depends on the practitioner’s ability to navigate the complexities of the modern cultural and health environment. In addition to considering culture and health generally, the Cultural Perspectives in Health Care course examines specific populations from a cross-cultural perspective. It prepares students for direct care, education, leadership, and research roles that consider individual, family, group, and community needs.
The nursing profession continues to evolve as nurses’ roles expand with new skills and responsibilities. Regis’ online BSN to DNP program helps address the growing demand for nurse leaders by bringing a DNP within easier reach of current BSN holders. Explore Regis’ online BSN to DNP program to learn how it helps nurses reach the pinnacle of their professions.
The Primary Care Provider Shortage and Strategies to Help
How Does Nursing Influence Health Care Policy?
Benefits of Earning a DNP Degree
American Association of Colleges of Nursing, DNP Fact Sheet
American Association of Colleges of Nursing, Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
American Association of Colleges of Nursing, PhD in Nursing
American Nurse Journal, “Rescuing Nursing Theory”
Association of American Medical Colleges, “U.S. Physician Shortage Growing”
Current Nursing, Nursing Theories
ETS, About the GRE General Test
Incredible Health, The Essential BSN to DNP Guide
National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties, NONPF DNP Statement May 2018
Regis College, 5 Indispensable Nursing Skills That DNP-Educated Nurse Practitioners Possess
Staff Care, “Raising the Bar in CRNA Education: What the 2025 Deadline Means”
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners