Doctor of Nursing Practice, Healthcare Leadership

Doctor of Nursing Practice, Healthcare Leadership


A Doctor of Nursing Practice in Healthcare Leadership comes with the confidence and authenticity needed for the highest levels of practice. Our fully online asynchronous program with optional synchronous sessions allows you to complete the DNP program on a timeline that works best for your life. Learn from experts in the field, perform an evidence-based quality improvement project catered to your preferences, and walk alongside a mentor throughout the process.

A DNP in Healthcare Leadership will build on your expertise and prepare you for leadership, management, high-level decision making that will affect the direction of entire teams or departments of nurses. PLNU values your calling, meeting it with leadership and practical skills you’ll need to grow into prominent roles within complex health systems.

While a Ph.D. in Nursing is most suited for advancement in research and academia, a DNP is ideal for professionals who want to expand their expertise working chiefly as effective leaders within health care organizations.

Upon completion of this program, graduates are eligible to take the national certification exams, such as Nurse Manager and Leader Certification, Executive Nursing Practice Certification, or Nurse Executive Advanced Certification.

How to Earn Your DNP

MSN to DNP in Healthcare Leadership

If you already have an MSN degree, you can earn your DNP in healthcare leadership in as few as 24 months. This fully asynchronous online program is 34 units and requires 1000 clinical hours related to your DNP project and direct patient care clinical hours completed during your MSN program.

The School of Nursing will assist San Diego residents with clinical placements, however, out-of-state students will need to find their own placements. PLNU will create a legal MOU with all placement sites in or outside of San Diego.

You have the flexibility to complete your required clinical or research-based project catered to your preferences and passions. Based on your project, you will be able to select a mentor who will work alongside you.

The Pathway to Your DNP

Learn more about the path you can take to earn your DNP in Healthcare Leadership at Point Loma.

Who is it for?

Nurses with an MS degree looking to earn a DNP.

Number of Units

34 units

Completion Time

6 semesters (24 months)

Program Start Fall with Spring and Summer early start options
Program structure

Online asynchronous with in-person clinicals

Program Highlights The online program allows for flexibility in the completion of courses, residency hours, and ability to perform a DNP project catered to your preferences.
Typical # of Students in Class

Classes are intentionally small. Most education classes will generally have between 15 and 20 students.

Degree Needed to Apply

Masters of Science in Nursing 

Scholarships Available? Yes

Speak with your admissions counselor to identify where you are at.

Apply Now

Schedule a Meeting with a Counselor

The baccalaureate degree program in nursing, master's degree program in nursing, Doctor of Nursing Practice program, and post-graduate APRN certificate program at Point Loma Nazarene University are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

Which DNP is right for me?

PLNU offers three DNP programs including:

  • DNP Family Nurse Practitioner
  • DNP Healthcare Leadership
  • DNP Clinical Nurse Specialist

Each program is geared to equip you with skills needed for specific nursing roles. While FNPs perform primary care for patients, CNSs provide specialized clinical care for specific patient populations. A DNP in Healthcare Leadership will prepare you to effectively lead entire teams or departments of nurses.

Three female Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program members are discussing a patient's plans. They are all wearing white coats and are in a clinic.

How to Choose the Right Doctor of Nursing Program

It's crucial to know your future doctor of nursing program. Here you can look at three of PLNU's top programs and how they best fit you and your vocation.

Space to Fully Invest in Work and School

PLNU’s DNP is a fully online asynchronous program where you can pace yourself with online coursework and continue working as a nurse in your field. Our program is CCNE accredited and aligns with the core competencies of an AACN Essentials for Advanced Level Nursing Practice program.

Multiple entry points allow those at most degree levels to earn the DNP. Enter as BSN-prepared and have the option to finish with an MSN or use your MSN clinical work as credits toward the DNP.

Leadership as Your Fullest Potential

Not only will you be prepared for the evolving standards and demands in your field, you will also gain confidence as you develop inside a cohort of confident, experienced, empowered individuals who are faithful to their own callings and to the future of nursing. Increase your influence; our graduates are highly sought-after by employers and highly regarded by those in their field.

Work that is Authentic and Sacred

Nursing as sacred work is a cornerstone value of PLNU’s nursing programs. Learn alongside faculty and colleagues who value it the same way. Any program can teach you skills and best practices; at PLNU seasoned professors serve as academic and professional mentors not only in class but in helping you discover your unique calling.

When you complete the DNP program, you will be able to:

  • Create dialogue and strategies supporting practice changes within the healthcare system.
  • Appraise evidence for best practice implementation through the utilization of information technology.
  • Synthesize evidence to implement change that affects client outcomes.
  • Recommend standards for holistic care that meet the client needs.
  • Analyze own self-care practices that advance optimal care of clients, nurses and organization(s).
  • Model graceful service through compassionate responses to patient, family, staff and organizational needs.
  • Design an environment of advocacy for patient care that honors the diversity of patients/families, healthcare staff and organizations.
  • Create opportunities to improve the quality of health within a community.
  • Defend ethical care consistent with professional practice.
Roberta Orozco Navy Nurse and PLNU MSN alum

The Heart of a Navy Nurse: Facing Challenges with Hope

While pursuing her advanced nursing degree as a Navy nurse, Roberta Orozco was diagnosed with advanced cancer. Read how her cohort and instructors rose to support her through it all and how she’s now working hard to cultivate a community of support among Navy nurses in her hospital.

Many nurses are going back to earn their DNPs, pictured above is a nurse in scrubs and a DNP professional in their lab coat.

What is the Difference Between a Ph.D. and a DNP in Nursing?

There are two doctorates available for nurses looking to earn an advanced terminal degree – the DNP (Doctor of Nursing Practice) and the Ph.D. If you are currently working as a nurse or are considering enrolling in a nursing graduate program, it’s worth thinking about which terminal degree makes sense to further your career.

Application Information

Program Start Date(s):

  • Fall 2024 —  September 2, 2024
  • Spring 2025 Quad I — January 13, 2025
  • Summer 2025 Quad I — May 12, 2025

Application Deadline(s):

  • Fall 2024 —  August 21, 2023
  • Spring 2025 Quad I — December 11, 2024
  • Summer 2025 Quad I — April 25, 2025

All applications submitted after this date will be reviewed based on availability of space.

Start Application

Application Checklist

Admission to the program is based on an overall appraisal of the applicant's ability to undertake doctoral study and their contributions to the discipline of nursing as evidenced by the following:

  1. Documentation of current RN license
  2. Current employment in nursing or at least 1 year of full-time practice in the last 5 years
  3. Online application for admissions (includes $50 non-refundable application fee)
    Fee waived if applicant is one of the following: PLNU alum, current or former military and their dependents, PLNU employee
  4. Submit official transcripts. (If you are a PLNU alumnus, please notify your counselor to have your transcripts retrieved. You do not need to request transcripts from the PLNU Office of Records.)

    Official transcripts must be sent to:
    Point Loma Nazarene University
    Office of Graduate Admissions
    3900 Lomaland Dr.
    San Diego, CA 92106

    Official electronic transcripts must be emailed to:
  5. Minimum grade point average of 3.200 (MSN)

  6. Curriculum Vitae or Resume

  7. Once you have submitted your admissions application, your two selected professional recommenders will automatically be sent the auto-generated document to complete on your behalf. If you'd like to include a written letter in addition to this required document, you may do so, but it's unnecessary. 
  8. A personal essay of approximately 250 words identifying a change of practice issue related to your professional goals

  9. After all application materials are submitted, an interview with the School of nursing is scheduled

The Selection Process

The educational context at PLNU will challenge you to live a full life that integrates the pursuit of knowledge with beliefs, values, and actions. While acknowledging diverse perspectives and beliefs, Christian values and principles are woven into the educational experience. We understand your application is not only a reflection of you as a student; it’s a reflection of you as a person.

At PLNU, we holistically evaluate your academic history, work and life experience, background, and circumstances to determine admission into a graduate program. If you do not meet all of the above criteria, PLNU offers an exceptions policy. Speak with your admissions counselor for more information.

Career Opportunities

PLNU’s DNP will prepare you for the highest levels of nursing leadership and to engage on policy-level decisions regarding patient care. Some DNPs even pursue entrepreneurship and open their own nurse-run clinics.

PLNU’s DNP program will prepare you for leadership in a variety of fields. 

  • University Faculty Member
  • Nurse Manager
  • Director
  • Administrator
  • Practice Nurse
  • Entrepreneur

Different  Career Outcomes for DNPs:

Nurse Manager
Average Salary in California: $128,200

Nurse managers play a vital role in managing the resources in a hospital or medical environment. They ensure that they maintain the right staff and financial resources, ensure patient satisfaction, create a safe environment for staff and patients and that the healthcare environment is maintaining a certain standard of quality care.

Nurse Educator 
Average Salary: $106,584
Job trajectory: 21.5% growth through 2031 (much faster than average)

A nurse educator works in an academic or clinical setting to teach the next generation of nurses. Part of the role includes guiding students through their clinical rotations, designing programs and lectures, collaborating with other healthcare professionals to ensure top educational outcomes, acting as a role model for students, and more. 

Clinical Nurse Researcher 
Average salary: $91,093 
Job trajectory: 45% between 2020 and 2030 (much faster than average)

As a DNP, you have the opportunity to research and develop new and improved methods of treating patients in a variety of fields from pediatrics, to oncology, and beyond. Your expertise and training allows you to partner with other healthcare professionals to coordinate and implement clinical studies, design research programs, and more in order to educate future nursing practices.

Financial Aid and Student Support

We take seriously the role of providing you with financial, academic, and career support so you have the tools you need to be successful at PLNU and beyond. That’s why we offer a holistic support system that focuses on your unique experiences, particular needs, and personal and professional goals — resulting from our deep concern for you, our student.

With a focus on authentic relationships and personalized attention, our goal is to help transform you so you can follow your calling in your own career and life.

Financial Aid and Student Support

Faculty Discounts

PLNU is proud to offer discounts to faculty members across higher education for all graduate nursing programs. Full time faculty at PLNU receive a 50% discount, adjunct/part time faculty at PLNU receive a 25% discount, and faculty members at another institution will receive a 20% discount. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is required to be admitted into this program?

To be admitted into PLNU's DNP program, you must have a master’s degree from a regionally accredited institution, as evidenced by an official transcript from an institution indicating the completion of an undergraduate a graduate degree. You must also have a current RN license. and have held at least one year of full-time practice within the last five years.

Are clinical hours required?

1000 clinical hours related to your DNP project and direct patent care clinical hours completed during your MSN program are required. Reach out to your counselor for more information.

Do I need to find my own clinical placements?

The School of Nursing will secure clinical rotations for enrolled students, which are geographically accessible, in collaboration with each student. Students are also encouraged to seek out preferred clinical preceptors. PLNU will create a legal MOU with all placement sites in or outside of San Diego. Speak with your enrollment counselor for more information.

Can I work while completing the program?

This program is designed for working nurses. PLNU’s online asynchronous format allows you to complete your DNP at your own pace while working in your practice. 

What scholarship and financial aid opportunities are available to me?

You will have the option to apply for scholarships, grants, loans, and other special types of aid through Student Financial Services. Contact your enrollment counselor for more information.

How long does it take to complete the program?

The MSN-to-DNP track is expected to be completed in 24 months (or six semesters).

How many days a week do classes meet?

Classes are completed online at your own schedule. You have the option to participate in optional synchronous sessions.

How large will the classes be?

Classes are intentionally small. Most classes will generally have between 15 and 20 students.

What is Your State Authorization Policy?

State authorization is a formal determination by a state or U.S. Territory that PLNU is approved to conduct activities regulated by that state or U.S. Territory. PLNU is not required to obtain state authorization in every state or U.S. Territory, and the university has opted at this time not to seek authorization in some states. Additionally, PLNU meets the criteria for exemption from authorization in certain states.

Visit our disclosures page to view our color-coded state authorized map to view your state’s authorization status. If you have questions, please contact your enrollment counselor. 

Authorizations in specific states and U.S. Territories may change periodically.

Are international students eligible to apply?

Unfortunately, international students are not eligible to apply for our online programs. You are only eligible if you reside in one of our authorized states. Visit our disclosures page to learn more.

If you are a military spouse or serving overseas, contact military services.

We also will accept a 110 minimum score from DuoLingo as proof of proficiency. 

PLNU is a Christian university, but I am not a Christian. Would I feel out of place in this program?

We welcome and encourage people of all backgrounds as students in our programs. Issues that relate to faith may be discussed in some classes, and engaging in discussion with individuals with alternative points of view will be encouraged as learning opportunities. Students will work within a learning community that is supportive academically, spiritually, and emotionally.

What is the difference between a Family Nurse Practitioner and a DNP- Health Care Leadership?

 Family Nurse PractitionerDNP - Health Care Leadership
ObjectivePrimary care provider for patients Leader in nursing and provider of clinical expertise and excellence
Point of EntryBSN or MSN degreeMSN degree
Types of CoursesClinical practice, patient care, advocacyNursing leadership, healthcare policy, project management, evidence-based practice methods
Clinical Hours1000 hours minimum1000 hours minimum
Employment OpportunitiesPrimary care provider, patient advocateNursing management and leadership, nurse educator

Learn more.

What career opportunities are there for a DNP?

Management and leadership positions in nursing; policy and administration positions; nurse educator, and more.

Is this program CCNE accredited?

The baccalaureate degree program in nursing, master's degree program in nursing, Doctor of Nursing Practice program, and post-graduate APRN certificate program at Point Loma Nazarene University are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

Why get a DNP rather than a PhD?

ObjectivePreparation for research and academic careers in healthcarePreparation for the highest nursing leadership levels
Clinical HoursNone1000 hours minimum
Scholarly ProjectNoYes
Employment OpportunitiesNurse scientist, health policy academicNursing management and leadership, nurse educator


Will I be able to reach out to someone for help when we're not meeting face-to-face?

Yes. You will be paired with a faculty mentor and will have regular check-ins to ensure support and guidance is always provided.

Course List

For information about the courses required for the Doctor of Nursing Practice, Healthcare Leadership program, view the PLNU Catalog. 

Course Information