The passage of the Affordable Care Act and the aging population increase the demand for primary care services in Montana. Hospitals and other healthcare facilities are straining to capacity to meet the health care needs of newly insured individuals. Like other states, Montana has been utilizing the services of nurse practitioners to deliver primary care services to increase access to primary care in underserved areas. At the close of 2014, there were 1,116 advanced practice registered nurses in Montana. Nurse practitioners formed the largest group of APRNs. There were 838 NPs serving patients in a wide variety of settings, with and without the supervision of a physician. In their expanded role with access to prescriptive authority, nurse practitioners in Montana perform many of the primary care services of physicians and achieve positive patient outcomes and a high level of patient satisfaction.
Although the master’s degree in nursing remains the standard for entry into advanced practice, based on the Montana Board of Nursing’s requirements, enrollment in the DNP program outpaces enrollment in MSN programs. In the Fall of 2014, there were 50 students enrolled in a DNP program compared to 20 students in the MSN program. A shortage of faculty has been identified as the primary obstacle to expanding the advanced nursing workforce within the state. DNP graduates will have the knowledge and technical abilities to not only fill the vacancies for qualified faculty but also meet the primary care needs of individuals in the state’s 55 medically underserved areas/populations (MUA/Ps).
Reasons to Get A DNP
Obtaining a DNP can take 2 to 5 years depending on your prior education and experience. The degree is not required for advanced practice in Montana. However, it can be your ticket to nurse leadership roles on the clinical side of nursing.
Over the last decade, there has been much debate surrounding the benefits of the DNP degree. On one side, critics cite the degree as just another title that nurses do not need. On the other, advocates support the AACN’s recommendation to make the DNP the minimum requirement for advanced practice citing the need for APRNs to have advanced competencies for the increasingly complex practice, faculty, and leadership roles.
Patient outcomes and advanced skills aside, there are tangible and intangible benefits of the DNP degree. Ultimately, APRNs must carefully consider their short-term and long-term goals and make a decision from there. If you want to develop in the area of health policy, information technology, leadership, ethics, and evidenced-based practice, then there’s no better option than the DNP. The purpose of the program has been and will always be to equip nurses with the highest level of practice to form solutions to the innumerable challenges within the health system.
Most DNP practitioners find that they could collaborate easily with other health care professionals as the degree provides parity with those professions that require a doctoral degree for practice. Examples of professionals DNPs collaborate with are pharmacists, physicians, and dentists.
The ongoing shortage of faculty to educate future nurses is troubling to state officials and doesn’t bode well for the profession and the future of nursing in Montana. As more students enroll in the program, there will be an increase in the pool of candidates available fill the much-needed role.
Closer to home, the degree will improve your practice on a fundamental level as your understanding of the discipline of nursing expands. Nursing is unlike other health professions, and the program provides a vivid reminder or a recommitment to nursing at its most basic level. The education will equip you with the skills to use evidenced-based practice, research methodologies, and information technology to do more for your patients without losing sight of the compassion and support that is at the core of the profession.
The DNP curriculum includes preparation for many aspects of nursing beyond diagnosing and treating patients. The practice-focused doctorate emphasizes the direct care of individuals, management of care for populations, and the development of health policies to influence health care outcomes. The areas covered will serve to enhance nursing practice.
DNP Admission Requirements Montana
The sole DNP program in Montana is available at the University of Montana – Bozeman Campus. If you’re considering a program at campuses in another state, the requirements for entry may differ from the University of Montana. Keep in mind that the area of specialty may influence the entry requirements. Clinical specialties vary from pediatrics to geriatrics. Other programs cover the preparation for hospital administration or cross-cultural health.
The University of Montana’s DNP program focuses on nurse practitioner for family/individual. If you’re considering another area of specialty, you’ll need to research other campuses in nearby states. Fortunately, the content delivery for most programs is via distance learning. However, you should visit your shortlisted campuses to learn more about the program and determine how it will fit your goals. Research the program’s accreditation status, the background of the faculty members, and the full cost of completing the program because graduate education can be expensive.
The University of Montana enrolls DNP candidates with a BSN degree. However, some programs across the country require students to have an MSN degree.
Admission Requirements – Post-Master’s Entry
An APRN with a master’s degree can complete the DNP requirements in 12 to 24 months.
General admission requirements include:
- A master’s degree in nursing from a nationally accredited institution.
- A graduate GPA of 3.0 or above.
- A current unencumbered license to practice as a registered nurse in Montana or another state.
- Current certification in the chosen area of specialty.
- Professional and/or academic references.
- Current CV or resume.
- A personal statement of career goals related to the chosen area of study.
Admission Requirements – Post-Baccalaureate Entry
To apply for the DNP program at the University of Montana, you must submit an application online after creating an account. Chose the area of specialty, which would be Family/Individual or Psych/ Mental Health. The application deadline is February 15 annually.
To qualify for enrollment in Montana ’s DNP programs, the applicant must have:
- A baccalaureate degree in nursing from a nationally accredited institution. The program must have included clinical practice in community health and management and other settings.
- Undergraduate courses in research, statistics, physical assessment, and community/public health.
- A current license to practice as a registered nurse.
- TOEFL score of 580 or above if applicable.
- A minimum of one year’s clinical experience.
The estimated average cost for a graduate student enrolled in 6 or more credits per semester is $2,600. The reflected cost does not include books, supplies, insurance, and other miscellaneous expenses.
DNP Programs Montana
Montana State University
P.O. Box 173560
Bozeman, MT 59717-3560