Skip Navigation
Doctor of Nursing Practice - Clinical Nurse Specialist (onsite & online)

Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Clinical Nurse Specialist (online)

Now Online!

Diversifying Your Nursing Career


Become a DNP-prepared Clinical Nurse Specialist while taking advantage of resources found only at Johns Hopkins.  With a DNP, you’ll gain the analytical skills, evidence-based practice principles, and leadership expertise to drive health care innovation forward. The CNS track will develop your competencies in clinical theory and nursing practice, providing you with the tools to improve the delivery of patient care, manage resources while controlling costs, and promote education for the future nursing workforce.


Earn your DNP Clinical Nurse Specialist degree online at the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing with the added benefit of course immersions. The online DNP CNS track includes three mandatory and two optional course immersions that position students to take advantage of the rich and varied learning opportunities found only at Johns Hopkins. The immersions will specifically support the development of the DNP scholarly project, encouraging a thorough understanding of problem solving, translation of evidence, and evaluation methods to maximize the impact of the project outcomes. 


World renowned faculty, who have broad experience in advanced clinical practice, leadership, and patient safety, have developed a curriculum and sequence of clinical experiences to provide students with a well-rounded education in comprehensive, coordinated first-contact, and longitudinal patient care. Through our immersive learning approach, get the professional development guidance you need to emerge as a nursing leader. Our faculty have identified superb mentors and will work with you to identify DNP projects that build upon work currently being done at Johns Hopkins and partner institutions. 

Back to Top

Program Overview

No. 1 DNP Program

The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Clinical Nurse Specialist Track at Johns Hopkins School of Nursing prepares nurses for advanced roles as clinical and health care leaders. You’ll build competencies in clinical theory and research-based nursing practice.

DNP-prepared clinical nurse specialists are certified in a niche nursing specialty where they can make an impact on patients, nurses, and/or health systems. Prepare to:

  • Support patients and families when you manage the care of complex and vulnerable cases through knowledge of special populations;
  • Improve the health care worker workforce by educating and supporting interprofessional staff to provide optimal care through evidence-based best practices;
  • And facilitate a culture of safety that improves health care systems.

Students have options that facilitate flexible learning. Stay where you are and complete coursework online, and travel to Baltimore for onsite course immersions, or move to Baltimore and immerse yourself in the Johns Hopkins community (we call this the online local experience). If you choose to live in Baltimore, you’ll complete coursework online and faculty will work with you to set up clinical learning experiences within the Johns Hopkins network of partners, including settings such as Henderson Hopkins (a JHU community partnership school), the House of Ruth (a Baltimore domestic violence center), or in a Johns Hopkins Health System hospital or practice.

Get Certified

Students are prepared for licensure exams through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) or the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN).

Track Options

  • Adult-Gerontological Health      
  • Adult-Gerontological Critical Care
  • Pediatric Critical Care

Online Availability

Check out the chart to see the online availability of the track that best fits your career goals.

Online Availability Chart

DNP Final Project

DNP graduates remain in practice, leading cross-professional teams in the improvement and provision of informed quality healthcare. The knowledge, skills, and abilities to conduct such work is developed across the program and applied in the conduct of the DNP final project.  The DNP final project is the student’s original work that establishes them as a Hopkins Nursing clinical scholar.

Project Requirements       DNP Projects

Johns Hopkins School of Nursing Assistant Professor Michelle Patch, PhD, MSN, RN, describes the Clinical Nurse Specialist role.


Dr. Jennie Peterson and Dr. Michelle Patch, both clinical nurse specialists, talk about the role of the clinical nurse specialist in the midst of Coronavirus.

Additional Information

View the recording of the DNP Clinical Nurse Specialist Track virtual information session.

Watch Now

DNP Advanced Practice Roles: Clinical Nurse Specialist and Nurse Practitioner.

Watch Now

NP and CNS Role Comparison

What are the differences between a Nurse Practitioner and Clinical Nurse Specialist?

NP and CNS Role Comparison 

Back to Top

Priority Application Deadlines

Fall Entry
November 1, January 15

Apply Now


Request Information

Speak with an admissions officer to learn more about our program.

Get Started

View Other DNP Tracks

Would you like to learn more about the other DNP Advance Practice Tracks?

Learn More

Back to Top


Admission Criteria

  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing Degree or an entry-level nursing master's degree from an ACEN or CCNE accredited college or university or an equivalent degree from a comparable foreign institution
  • Scholastic GPA of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale
  • Applicants must submit evidence of current nursing license. Online students must have or obtain RN license from an authorized state.
  • One year of related full-time RN experience preferred
  • Three letters of recommendation (both academic and professional references; check FAQs for detailed guidance on completing this requirement)
  • Official Transcripts (from all previous colleges/universities)
  • Current Resume /CV (check FAQs for detailed guidance on completing this requirement)
  • Goal statement
  • GRE scores are accepted but not required
  • Interview with faculty (if moved forward by admissions committee)
  • TOEFL or IELTS if English is not your native language

Information for applicants with international education

Admissions Application


Undergraduate Statistics  Take at Hopkins Nursing. Course must be completed at a regionally accredited college or university with a letter grade of B or better. Grade of B- will not be accepted.

For greatest flexibility in the clinical placement and DNP project process, it is strongly recommended that DNP Advanced Practice students obtain Maryland RN licensure (or licensure from a compact state) before beginning clinical coursework or DNP Project coursework.

State-Specific Information for Online Programs

Students currently cannot conduct clinical activities in Louisiana, New York and Oregon. For more information, please contact an admissions representative. Students should be aware of additional state-specific information for online programs.

Student Sponsorship

This program does not qualify for F-1 or J-1 student sponsorship. Legal Permanent Residents and non-immigrants who are otherwise physically present in the U.S. and in a status that allows for full or part-time study, may pursue this program.

Transfer of Credit

Transfer of credit is granted on an individual basis. Please see the transfer of credit policy and complete the form to make a request.

Back to Top


This program is offered in the online with course immersion format.

Program may be completed in 73 credits and provides 880 clinical nurse specialist clinical hours and 160 DNP practicum hours. Students have the option to take the Diagnostics Skills and Procedures for APN course as a 2 credit elective. Please note that this course requires an immersion.

Plan of Study

For Current Students Admitted Fall 2023 and prior, please reference your Plan of Study:

DNP CNS Pediatric Critical Care 4 year
DNP CNS Adult Critical Care 4 year
DNP CNS Adult Health 4 year

3 Year Plan

  • Fall I (10 Credits)
    • Biostatistics for Evidence-Based Practice (2)
    • Advanced Physiology/Pathophysiology I (2)
    • Health Promotion and Risk Reduction Across the Lifespan (2)
    • Clinical Pharmacology I (2)
    • Advanced Nursing Health Policy (2)
  • Spring I (12 Credits)
    • Clinical Pharmacology (2)  
    • Advanced Physiology/Pathophysiology II (2)
    • Pediatric Growth, Development and Supervision (Peds CNS track only) (2)
    • Advanced Health Assessment and Measurement (3)
    • CNS Clinical Judgment I (3)
  • Summer I (7 Credits, 160 Clinical Hours)
    • CNS Clinical Judgement II (3)
    • The Research Process and its Application to EBP (2)
    • Clinical Practicum I CNS (2, 160cl)
  • Fall II (10-13 Credits, 160 Clinical Hours)
    • CNS Clinical Practicum II (2, 160cl))  
    • Heath Finance (2)
    • Organizational and Systems Leadership for Quality Care (2)
    • Advanced Diagnostics/Procedures (2)
    • Optional Elective (Adult Tracks only) (2-3)
  • Spring II (10.5 Credits, 200 Clinical Hours)
    • CNS Clinical Judgement 3 (3)
    • Nursing Inquiry for Evidence-Based (3)
    • DNP I Problem Discovery (2)
    • CNS Clinical Practicum III (2.5, 200cl)
  • Summer II (7 Credits, 80 Project Practicum Hours) 
    • Analysis and Evaluation of Individual and Population Health Data (2)
    • Translating Evidence into Practice (2)
    • Problem Advancement Practicum with Advisors (3, 80PPR)
  • Fall III (9 Credits, 80 Clinical Hours) 
    • CNS Clinical Judgement IV (3)
    • Clinical Practicum IV (2, 160cl)
    • DNP3 Project Implementation Practicum with Advisors (2, 80cl)
    • Health Information Systems and Patient Care Technologies (2)
  • Spring III (9.5 Credits, 200 Clinical Hours)
    • Clinical Practicum V (2.5, 200cl)
    • Clinical Data Analysis and Management (2)
    • DNP 4 Project Evaluation Practicum with Advisors (2)
    • Elective (3)


* Curriculum, credit hours, and sequencing are subject to change.

** Up to 16 credits can be applied from the JHSON MSN (Entry into Nursing) Program to the DNP Advanced Practice Track.

*** A minimum of 1000 practice hours is required for DNP.

Back to Top

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is a DNP?

    The DNP is a doctoral degree focused on the clinical practice of nursing. The degree represents the highest academic preparation for nursing practice. The DNP curriculum focuses on the knowledge needed to provide comprehensive direct care across settings. It can be conferred in conjunction with any specialty in advanced practice.

  • What academic preparation is preferred in a DNP Advanced Practice candidate?

    A strong foundation in courses such as anatomy and physiology, microbiology, pharmacology, and physical assessment with a grade of B or above is one key to success.

  • What knowledge and skills will I gain through this program of study??

    The curricular content will enable the graduate to make complex diagnoses, provide evidence-based treatment modalities, utilize sophisticated informatics and decision-making technology, and assimilate in-depth knowledge of biophysical, psychosocial, behavioral and clinical sciences.

  • How is this different from current APN practice?

    Through expanded preparation to become a Clinical Nurse Specialist, graduates learn to independently manage the care of complex and vulnerable populations across all settings, including ambulatory, acute, community and home settings, at the doctoral-level. The expanded curriculum will focus on implementing evidence-based decisions at the system level to improve patient outcomes.

  • How long will it take?

    The DNP Clinical Nurse Specialist tracks are all three year programs. They do not offer a part time plan of study.

  • Can I work while in the program?

    The DNP Advanced Practice Track is completed over a four year period.  Students may be able to work in the first year as a Registered Nurse in settings that offer flexible scheduling.  As students begin to take specialized courses that prepare them for the respective role (i.e., NP or CNS), they will be engaged in settings to learn their future role and in which the DNP Project is situated. Hence, it will be challenging to maintain employment that is not flexible beyond the first year.

  • How does the DNP differ from the PhD or other research doctorates?

    The DNP, or clinical doctorate, prepares the graduate to practice independently with the most complex patients, in any setting where the patient requires care, utilizing complicated informatics and evidence-based decision-making. Research doctorates prepare graduates to initiate and conduct sophisticated research projects, serving as the principal investigator.

  • How many credits can I transfer?

    The school accepts up to six credits of transfer from outside the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing. Once admitted into the program you can request to transfer credits by completing the transfer of graduate credit form.

  • What academic terms do students attend?

    The School of Nursing follows the regular academic schedule (prospective students should note that these courses are not self-paced). Students are enrolled for the fall, spring, and summer terms. Prospective students should refer to the plans of study found on the curriculum pages for each specialty.

  • What is the cost per credit hour?

    Please visit School of Nursing’s Tuition and Fees page for the current program costs.

  • How are courses delivered?

    CNS coursework is delivered online with periodic onsite immersions.

  • How will I get clinical experience if I don’t have experience working as a RN?

    The DNP program requires a minimum of 1000 practice hours.  The majority of these hours will be in the clinical practicum where you will apply what you learn in the theory courses to gain the competence required for your particular specialty.  The balance of the practice hours are devoted to the DNP practicum which focuses on the DNP Project. Ideally, you will have one-year of RN experience before starting the first specialty clinical.

  • How many students are in a class?

    Many of the core courses will be taken by all DNP Advanced Practice students at the same time. This could be as many as 60 students. However, the track specialty courses will be taken with only students in that specific specialty. In clinical courses, there is a ratio of 1 to 6 students per clinical instructor with each student assigned to a preceptor.

  • Do we attend the same classes with our cohort?

    Students in the same specialty and the same plan of study (3- or 4-year) will move through as a cohort. 

  • If I have a specific area that I would like to focus in, for example oncology, are there additional electives I can take or other opportunities where I could gain more insight and experience in that particular area? 

    It is possible for students to negotiate a clinical site within their area of interest, but these cannot be guaranteed. The DNP Scholarly Project could allow students to identify a problem within a specific area and bring that together with the specialty role. 

  • What is the difference between a Nurse Practitioner and a Clinical Nurse Specialist? 
  • How are clinical sites for clinical practicum determined? 

    Clinical practicum experiences are determined by the student’s advanced practice focus area, student interest, site and preceptor availability, and the student’s programmatic needs. The student will work collaboratively with the specialty Track Coordinator and the Clinical Placement Team to request sites and preceptors, with final approval by the Track Coordinator. There will be an orientation to an electronic software system where the student will take responsibility to complete requests and upload appropriate documentation.  Students will be working with the Clinical Placement Team from the time they enter the program until they graduate. The Clinical Placement Team will be a part of advising sessions, orientation and immersions.  The student is encouraged to work collaboratively and proactively with the team on an all-hands approach for optimal preceptor opportunities. Unauthorized states for clinicals include LA, NY and OR. 

  • What is included in a DNP Project?

    The American Association of Colleges of Nursing requires that all DNP Projects should:

    1. Focus on a change that impacts healthcare outcomes either through direct or indirect care.
    2. Have a systems (micro-, meso-, or macro- level) or population/aggregate focus.
    3. Demonstrate implementation in the appropriate arena or area of practice.
    4. Include a plan for sustainability (e.g. financial, systems or political realities, not only theoretical abstractions).
    5. Include an evaluation of processes and/or outcomes (formative or summative). DNP Projects should be designed so that processes and/or outcomes will be evaluated  to guide practice and policy. Clinical significance is as important in guiding practice as statistical significance is in evaluating research.
    6. Provide a foundation for future practice scholarship.
  • What is the process for the DNP practicum?

    There are four DNP Project courses that sequentially reflect the stages of evidence based practice quality improvement: Project Identification, Project Proposal, Project Implementation, and Project Evaluation. Each of the four courses has an associated practicum. The first course for the DNP Scholarly Project, DNP Problem Identification has an accompanying DNP practicum.  The DNP Scholarly Project is situated in the clinical setting where the student will carry it out.  As the project is a quality improvement focus, key stakeholders in the practice setting are necessary to identify clinical problems they want to address and for which they want to partner with a student or team of students.  See your plan of study for the number of practicum hours associated with each course associated with the DNP Scholarly Project. 

  • Who should I ask to complete my letters of recommendation?
    • At least one letter should come from a recent or current direct supervisor/manager (the person who is responsible for your performance evaluation)
    • At least one letter should come from an academic faculty member who can speak to your ability to successfully complete a demanding graduate level academic and clinical program.
    • The third letter can come from a second academic faculty member or an individual in a leadership position who can speak to your clinical abilities.
    • Personal references from colleagues, friends, or family members do not meet the requirement.
    • If you are unable to provide one of the reference letters above, please upload a statement of explanation to your application.

  • What information should I include in my resume/CV?
    Please include the following information in your resume or CV:
    • Work experience (include dates, sites and locations; paid and unpaid; any residency participation)
    • Education Background
    • Scholarly activities (research, presentations, publications, honors, awards)
    • Professional activities (leadership, certifications, professional organization membership, service on committees)
    • Community Service/Volunteerism
Back to Top

Funding Opportunities

Scholarships & Grants

Grants are awards based on financial need that do not have to be repaid. Many students also benefit from scholarships and awards based on merit.

Scholarships & Grants


Many students will avail themselves of loans to help finance their School of Nursing Education. If necessary, we encourage you to borrow only what is absolutely essential to cover your educational costs.



Many students locate part-time employment to help pay education expenses. Numerous positions are available on campus and within various community based organizations. These jobs provide students with opportunities to gain practical work experience. Most positions are funded through the Federal Work-Study Program. 


Back to Top

What We Are Saying

Explore Our Blogs

Explore All Blogs
Back to Top