Doctor of Nursing Practice - Family Nurse Practitioner Online Program

By integrating clinical excellence with an understanding of patient and healthcare system needs, DNP-FNPs are uniquely equipped to create and lead innovative care models and deliver patient-centered solutions that are vital in today's dynamic health environment.


  • Online

Program Duration

  • Full Time 2.5 years (8 semesters) | Part Time-3 years (10 semesters)

Upcoming Deadlines

Summer Application

A New Level of Care

In an era where the landscape of healthcare is rapidly evolving, the role of DNP-FNPs has never been more crucial. As healthcare systems grapple with complex challenges such as an aging population, increased prevalence of chronic diseases, and a pressing need for accessible, quality care, DNP-FNPs stand at the forefront of this transformation. Their advanced training not only prepares them to meet these challenges head-on but also positions them as key players in shaping the future of healthcare. By integrating clinical excellence with an understanding of patient and healthcare system needs, DNP-FNPs are uniquely equipped to create and lead innovative care models and deliver patient-centered solutions that are vital in today's dynamic health environment. At Samuel Merritt University, our DNP-FNP program is designed to empower nurses to excel in this changing landscape, providing them with the skills, knowledge, and perspective to make a significant impact in the lives of patients and the broader healthcare community. 


FNP Expanding Role & Impact

FNPs are increasingly recognized for their pivotal role in enhancing community health, particularly in addressing healthcare needs in underserved communities where they often serve as primary care providers. DNP-FNPs provide a wide array of services including detailed health assessments, development of individualized care plans, and coordination of care with other healthcare professionals.

Through comprehensive training, DNP-FNPs play a crucial role in disease prevention and health promotion, helping to reduce long-term healthcare costs through effective patient education and lifestyle counseling. This is another benefit of the DNP-FNP program aiming to produce compassionate leaders in preventative care

Comprehensive Scope of Practice

DNP-FNPs provide a wide array of services including detailed health assessments, development of individualized care plans, and coordination of care with other healthcare professionals. Graduates of DNP-FNP programs find diverse career opportunities in various settings such as community health centers, private practices, hospitals, and healthcare administration and leadership, reflecting the versatility of the FNP role.

DNP-FNPs often express high levels of job satisfaction due to their significant impact on patient lives, particularly through personalized patient education and counseling, which are central to their practice. In addition, graduates are highly sought after due to their advanced skills, with the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) and National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties (NONPF) calling for moving to the DNP degree as the entry-to-practice (preferred) degree for FNPs. 

The Doctor of Nursing Practice Degree: Entry to Nurse Practitioner Practice by 2025 Statement

Reaffirming the Doctor of Nursing Practice Degree: Entry to Nurse Practitioner Practice by 2025 Statement 

Innovative Program Structure 

The DNP-FNP program offers a blend of online synchronous and asynchronous classes as well as two on-campus residencies. A full-time and part-time curriculum is available providing flexibility and convenience for working RNs. We are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and courses are aligned to the latest CCNE essentials, ensuring high standards of education. Students benefit from practicing in a supervised educational environment with expert mentors. A faculty chair is assigned to each student at the start of the program to guide them through the creation, implementation, and dissemination of their project. The DNP-FNP program at Samuel Merritt University distinguishes itself through its pioneering results.  

Samuel Merritt University Difference

  • Remarkable student-teacher ratio of an average 12:1
  • 100% of the faculty hold doctorates and are currently practicing NPs
  • SMU has one of the lowest loan default ratings in the nation (top 5% of over 4000 nationwide universities)
  • SMU’s BSN to DNP program was ranked top 8 in California indicating strong career prospects (
  • Our program includes a minimum 1,000 clinical and DNP-FNP project hours through which you are supported by 1:1 preceptors, 1:1 chairs and advisors assigned at the start of the program, and faculty

Featured Events

Program Requirements & Info


SMU’s College of Nursing | Graduate | DNP programs has a rolling admissions policy; applications will be reviewed and evaluated as they are received until class roster slots are at capacity for the incoming class. If an application deadline falls on a weekend and holiday, applications will be accepted through the end of the next business day.

Applications for the Doctor of Nursing Practice program are accepted using theCentral Application Service for Nursing Schools (NursingCAS). Students are admitted to this program for summer and fall terms.

The admission review process is fairly quick once all documents have been received and your application has been verified by NursingCAS. In general, once a complete application is verified by NursingCAS, you will be contacted for a phone interview. Upon successful completion of the interview, your admission will be processed, and you will be notified within a week.

Apply Now 

Samuel Merritt University Alumni students are invited to apply using the Alumni Application Academic Year 2023-2024. If you have questions regarding this application, contact Rudy Torres, Assistant Dean of Admissions, at

  Alumni Application


  • A virtual interview is required to be selected for admission.* The Format of the interview is at the discretion of the program’s admissions committee.
  • The selection of candidates for interviews is competitive and will be based on the following:
    • A holistic application review of the content submitted to NursingCAS.
    • Professional behavior and communication throughout the admission process.
    • An informed understanding of the role of an FNP in the programs offered.
  • Not all qualified candidates may be interviewed.
  • Not all interviewed candidates will be accepted.
  • The program’s admissions committeereserves the right to interview and accept qualified students at any time after the application deadline.

    *In lieu of an interview, SMU alumni who have met all requirements will be invited to a 1:1 discussion with faculty to answer any questions.


The DNP-FNP program is designed for nurses who have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. To be considered for admission, applicants must meet the following criteria:

  • Must be an unencumbered RN (registered nurse) with a BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) in an SMU-approved state. 

  • RNs who hold a bachelor’s degree in a field other than nursing may still apply and will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. 

  • A minimum of a 3.0 GPA in BSN and/or Bachelor coursework is recommended, but not required.  A GPA less than 3.0 will require a letter of explanation.  

  • Prior RN experience is preferred, but not required.   

  • Proficiency in English (both spoken and written) is mandatory for success in the program 

  • If you are an international student, you may be required to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) examination. You must achieve a minimum score of 100 on the internet-based TOEFL. 


Students Educated Outside of the United States


The need for the TOEFL will be assessed based on information provided by the applicant on the application for admission. If the TOEFL is required, applicants must achieve a minimum score of 100 (Internet-Based Test). Scores must be submitted during the application process.

International Transcript Evaluation Agencies

Students who have completed their degrees outside of the United States will have to have their degrees evaluated for United States baccalaureate equivalency, also known as a course-by-course/comprehensive evaluation. Please click here for more information related to international applicants.

Application Fees
Application fees are payable to Nursing’s Centralized Application Service (NursingCAS). Samuel Merritt University does not charge an additional admission fee.

Non-Refundable Deposits and Fees
Students offered admission pay a non-refundable tuition deposit of $350 to secure their seat in the class.

Application fees and tuition deposits are non-refundable, whether or not the student withdraws in the first week of the term.

Tuition Calculator
There is a tuition calculator that provides a detailed summary of annual tuition, all fees for the program, and a cost estimator for the entire program.

Tuition Calculator

Your nursing education at Samuel Merritt University is an important and valuable investment in your future.  Not only will you have the opportunity to pursue a rewarding career in health care, but Samuel Merritt University graduates have a loan default rate of less than one percent.  This means that students who borrowed to attend Samuel Merritt University have found employment in their chosen field that allows them to pay off their loans. 

Samuel Merritt University is proud to offer a variety of ways to assist in funding your education including scholarships, work study and student loans. The first step in applying for financial aid at SMU is to submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

SMU offers scholarships and an assortment of resources for funding opportunities outside of the program. Most scholarships are awarded on the basis of financial need. A limited number are awarded for academic merit. Scholarships for Nurses include:

  • Sharon Clark Diaz
  • Employee Campaign
  • Marshall Steele, Jr.
  • Hitchcock Heydman
  • Henry & Bernice Bigge
  • Faculty Scholarship
  • Alumni Scholarship
  • Elks of the Year
  • William Breslin

In addition to the cost of tuition, books and fees, financial aid can also cover other indirect educational costs, so the total cost of attendance includes:

  • Books and Supplies
  • Room and Board
  • Transportation
  • Personal Expenses
  • Other fees as determined by program/college

Once you receive your financial aid package, check this budget against your actual living expenses and we can make necessary adjustments to meet your needs.

Detailed information about financial aid, budgeting, total cost and application processes are available on the webpage.

We realize that the financial aid process can be difficult and overwhelming.  We are here to help.  Financial Aid staff can assist with budgeting, understanding your awards and understanding the process.  The SMU staff is committed to each and every prospective student and enrolled student.  We have an open door policy and are available via phone or email. or 510-879-9200

Graduation and Employment Rates

Please refer to the university's Student Success Measures webpage for graduation rates, employment rates, and additional success indicators. 

These frequently asked questions are general to the degree options to become an FNP, not specific to Samuel Merritt University.

How does the DNP curriculum differ from the MSN curriculum to prepare me for practice as an FNP
The curriculum for a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) in Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) and a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) in FNP differ in their focus and depth of study. 

MSN-FNP Curriculum: This program is centered around developing the necessary nursing skills to become a nurse practitioner. It covers essential patient care topics like physical assessments, pharmacology, pathophysiology, and care of acute and chronic conditions, emphasizing the enhancement of clinical skills for advanced practice roles. 


DNP-FNP Curriculum: The DNP-FNP goes beyond the clinical skillset. It incorporates elements of policy, leadership, and pragmatic healthcare change, focusing on the broader healthcare system and the integration of technological innovations. This approach is designed to prepare graduates for roles that involve not just clinical expertise but also administrative and leadership responsibilities within the healthcare sector. 

Essentially, while both MSN and DNP prepare students for FNP roles, the DNP offers a more expansive education, equipping graduates for higher-level positions that include aspects of healthcare management, policy, and education, in addition to clinical practice. 


What are my options to become an FNP if I already have my MSN?
Currently, an RN with an MSN degree can choose a DNP program to become an FNP, enter an MSN program as a certificate (non-degree) student, or obtain a second MSN degree in an FNP program. In contrast to the MSN degree to become an RN, the MSN FNP degree curriculum builds on the professional role, health policy role, and research role of the FNP. Therefore, the MSN FNP has a broader foundation in how an FNP can be relevant in FNP practice.   

What are my options to become an FNP if I am an RN with a BSN degree?
As an RN with a BSN degree, you can choose an MSN or a DNP degree path to become an FNP.

What are my options to become an FNP if I am an RN with an Associate degree?
You can complete an RN-to-BSN program (SMU RN to BSN Program) and then enter either an MSN or DNP program to become an FNP.  If you are an ADN with a non-nursing undergraduate degree and many years of practice you may be able to provide evidence of how you meet the AACN BSN Essentials through your work, scholarship, community service, and approach to care of the patient in all settings.  This approval is based on specific requirements of each university’s School of Nursing.

Are there any differences in practice opportunities or scope of practice for an MSN-prepared FNP compared with a DNP-prepared FNP? Are there changes known or under consideration in the future?

The AANP identified eight issues that need to be addressed for a smooth transition to the DNP for nurse practitioners. Included was, “Issues related to parity must be addressed to include providing reasonable methods for currently prepared NPs to obtain the DNP, if desired, and to prevent discrimination in reimbursement.”  (From: AANP Position Statement, 2013;

Are salaries different for FNPs based on the degree?
This depends on the employer.  For example, if you are an RN seeking advancement in your position to expand your professional capabilities, your employer will recognize your advanced degree as preferential thus an increase in income.  If a DNP FNP and a MSN FNP are new graduates from programs they most likely will be paid the same.

Does payment from Medicare, Medicaid/Medi-Cal, or private insurers differ based on the degree?
Not at this time. 

Samuel Merritt University is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC), 985 Atlantic Avenue, Suite 100, Alameda, CA 94501; 510.748.9001.

The doctor of nursing practice program at Samuel Merritt University is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, 655 K Street NW, Suite 750, Washington, DC 20001.

DNP Accreditation
Initial Accreditation Date: September 24, 2012
Most Recent Accreditation Date: September 25, 2017
Accreditation Term Expires: June 30, 2028
Last On-Site Evaluation: September 2020
Next On-Site Evaluation: Fall 2030

Doctor of Nursing Practice – Family Nurse Practitioner Program Technical Standards

The mission of Samuel Merritt University is to produce highly skilled and compassionate family nurse practitioners (FNP). Students are expected to develop a robust healthcare knowledge base and requisite clinical skills, with the ability to appropriately apply knowledge and skills, effectively interpret information, and contribute to patient-centered decisions cross a broad spectrum of clinical situations in all settings. The following technical standards, in conjunction with the academic standards, are requirements for admission, promotion, and graduation. The term “candidate” refers to candidates for admission to the FNP Program as well as current FNP students who are candidates for retention, promotion, or graduation.

These requirements may be achieved with or without reasonable accommodations, the cost of which will be borne by the institution. These standards should not serve as a deterrent to any candidate with disabilities who desires to pursue FNP education. Candidates with disabilities bring unique perspectives which contribute to the diversity of the student population and will create a diverse health care workforce of culturally competent practitioners who can meet the needs of their patients. Candidates with disabilities are encouraged to contact the Disability Resource Center immediately to begin a confidential conversation about possible accommodations necessary to meet these standards. Fulfillment of the technical standards for graduation from the FNP Program does not guarantee that a graduate will be able to fulfill the technical requirements of any specific clinical position.

Observational Skills
A candidate must acquire information as presented through demonstrations and experiences in foundational sciences. In addition, a candidate must be able to evaluate a patient accurately and assess relevant health, behavioral and medical information. Candidates must be able to obtain and interpret information through comprehensive bio-psycho-social assessment of patients, correctly interpret diagnostic representations of patient physiologic data, and accurately evaluate patient conditions and responses.

Communication Skills
Candidates must exhibit interpersonal skills to enable effective care and collaboration for patients, including the ability to communicate effectively in English with all members of a multidisciplinary health care team, patients and their families in person and in writing. Candidates must be able to clearly and accurately record information and accurately interpret verbal and non-verbal communication.

Patient Care Skills
Candidates must perform bio-psycho-social patient assessments. A candidate must be able to perform patient education related to the care coordination/discharge plan to enable a safe, effective, and patient centered transition. A candidate must be able to provide general care and emergency treatment required of a family nurse practitioner. Candidates must meet applicable safety standards for the environment and follow standard precaution procedures.

Intellectual-Conceptual, Integrative, and Cognitive Skills
Candidates must be able to learn through a variety of modalities, including but not limited to, classroom instruction; laboratory, including small group, team and collaborative activities; individual study; preparation and presentation of reports; and use of computer technology. A candidate must effectively interpret, assimilate and understand the complex information required to function within the FNP Program curriculum including, but not limited to, the ability to comprehend and effectively participate in individual, small group, and lecture learning modalities in the classroom, clinical and community settings; learn, participate, collaborate and contribute as a part of a team; synthesize information both in person and via remote technology; interpret causal connections and make accurate, fact-based conclusions based on available data and information; formulate a hypothesis, investigate the potential answers and outcomes; and reach appropriate and accurate conclusions. A candidate must be able to find sources of knowledge and acquire the knowledge through various modalities, and possess the ability to be a life-long learner.

Behavioral Attributes, Social Skills and Professional Expectations
A candidate must be able to exercise good judgment, promptly complete all responsibilities attendant to the care of patients, and develop mature, sensitive, and effective relationships with patients. The skills required to do so include the ability to effectively handle and manage heavy workloads, function effectively under stress, adapt to changing environments, to display flexibility, and to learn to function in the face of uncertainties inherent in the clinical problems of patients. Candidates are expected to exhibit professionalism, personal accountability, compassion, integrity, concern for others, and interpersonal skills including the ability to accept and apply feedback and to respect boundaries and care for all individuals in a respectful and effective manner regardless of gender identity, age, race, sexual orientation, religion, disability, or any other protected status. Candidates should understand, and function within, the legal and ethical aspects of FNP practice, including patient advocacy, and maintain and display ethical and moral behaviors commensurate with the role of a family nurse practitioner in all interactions with patients, faculty, staff, students and the public. Interest and motivation throughout the educational processes are expected of all candidates.

The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program prepares nurses to impact healthcare transformation through scholarship, leadership and teamwork skills to advance healthcare practice. 


Throughout the program the DNP scholar aims to improve clinical practice with the collaboration of practice partners to maximize the impact of the DNP project.   


The key elements of the scholarly work include problem identification; a search, analysis, and synthesis of the literature and evidence; translating evidence to construct a strategy or method to address a problem; designing a plan for implementation and actual implementation, and an evaluation of the outcomes, process, and/or experience.  


These scholarly projects exemplify the implementation of practice completed by the graduates of the DNP program. 



Project Description 

Watch Here

Erica Guo, BSN, RN, DNP 

Increasing Provider Knowledge on Performance Enhancing Drugs & Changing Screening Practice through the Implementation of Dopinglinkki e-module

Ewan Ho, MBA, BSN, RN, DNP

 Testing the Reliability and Validity of Patient Classification Systems: Epic Acuity

Vanessa Curiel, BSN, RN, DNP 

Will the S-weight and P-weight Questionnaires help improve patient referral rates to weight loss resources?

Natasha Sablok, MSN, RN, DNP 

Implementation of a Virtual Behavioral Health Training Program to Improve Sleep in Children with ADHD

Melissa Wong, BSN, RN, DNP

IBT Weight Loss in the Obese Older Adult

Paridhi Badjatiya, BSN, RN, DNP 

Reduction Of Medication Errors In An Inpatient Setting

Farnaz Chaudhary, BSN, RN, DNP 

Standardized Total Knee Orthopedic Workflow

Iva Patel, BSN, RN, DNP

Increasing Pneumococcal Vaccination Rates in Urgent Care

Yongli Qiu, MSN, RN, PHN, OCN, DNP 

Implementing Milestones Communication Approach to Reduce Emergency Department Visits

Kristen Lee, BSN, RN, DNP  

Cultural competence re-training education to enhance a nurse’s self-efficacy and confidence to initiate end of life care conversations involving cultural practices.

Christina Bomar, BSN, RN, DNP

Reduction of ED Visits & IP Stays by Connecting Participants to PCP & Case Managers

Sabreena Gadiok, BSN, RN, DNP

Preceptorship Program to Increase Job Satisfaction & Nurse Retention at St. Joseph’s Medical Center



Empowering Future DNP FNPs

Explore the journey of transformation and excellence in healthcare through the Samuel Merritt University Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) program. Witness the remarkable individuals who are shaping the future of healthcare as they embark on their DNP FNP adventure at Samuel Merritt University.

Latest News