DNP Executive Leadership Programs

Sep 10, 2018

Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree programs may offer executive leadership as a track or specialization. Some of these degree programs can be completed in as little as 28 months and may be available online with in-person residencies. Learn more about this degree program that aims to prepare nurses for advanced leadership positions in healthcare.

Information for DNP Executive Leadership Programs

DNP Executive Leadership programs equip students with the necessary leadership and research skills to help improve and lead health care initiatives. Most of these programs conclude with a final project and include some of the common courses discussed below.

Evidence-Based Practice

Students in DNP Executive Leadership programs usually take at least one course that discusses various topics in evidence-based practice. Some of these courses may be split up into different topics, such as finding and analyzing evidence or evaluating practices, but are all usually lecture-based. Students learn about different theories, how to evaluate research and how research could apply to clinical practice.

Health Statistics

These degree programs usually require a course in advanced statistics that specifically addresses the statistics used in health sciences. These courses train students in statistical concepts so they can understand and evaluate research data in the field and discuss how findings may affect decision-making. Some of these courses may have students design their own data collection and analysis methods for a research project.


Students typically take a course that explores the use of informatics in healthcare and its role in evidence-based care. Students in these courses usually get hands-on experience with a variety of technology tools in the field and how they are used to improve practice. Specific topics in these courses may also include the use of social media, simulations or patient portals in healthcare.


Another common course is one that addresses how to identify the need for and implement improvement in healthcare. Some of these courses may focus on the data behind these improvements and how it can be utilized to support ideas and change, but all of these courses usually address quality improvement and how it affects patient care. In addition to metrics used for improvement, students may also discuss factors like ethics and use their findings in action learning experiences to implement change.

Capstone/Scholarly Project

Most DNP Executive Leadership programs require some sort of final project that is discussed and completed through multiple capstone courses throughout the program. Students typically have the freedom to choose the subject of their project, but they must apply the various leadership skills and knowledge they gain throughout the program. Usually these projects have students develop an idea, such as a practice change or how to improve safety, and then plan, put into practice and evaluate the change.

Common Entrance Requirements

It is fairly common for DNP Executive Leadership degree programs to require applicants to have prior work experience and/or managerial or leadership experience. Applicants also typically need to hold a master's degree in a nursing-related field, but some programs may also accept applicants with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and a master's degree in another health-related field, such as a Master of Public Health or Master of Health Administration. Students need to hold a current Registered Nurse (RN) license and may need to meet a minimum GPA requirement and/or undergo an interview process. Other common application materials for these programs include official transcripts, letters of recommendation, a resume or CV and personal statement.

Students interested in pursuing a DNP Executive Leadership degree program usually need to have prior work and/or leadership experience. These programs require a final project and equip students with advanced research and leadership skills to lead in the field of healthcare.

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