Neonatal Clinical Nurse Specialist (DNP) Program Details

The Neonatal Clinical Nurse Specialist (NCNS) program is available for both local and distance students either as bachelor’s and master’s-prepared nurses wishing to attain a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree. You can choose between part-time and full-time study. The part-time option allows you to work while pursuing your degree.

Study Format

Most classes are offered online. Some classes are offered both online and on campus. A few core courses are only offered online.

Typically programs may be completed as follows:

  • The BSN to DNP option can be completed in three and a half years for part-time students, and two and a half years for full-time students.
  • The MSN to DNP option can be completed in three and a half years for part-time students, and two and a half years for full-time students.

A gap analysis will be performed and an individualized program of study will be developed based on previous graduate education.

Sample Plan of Study 

Campus Visits

All students are required to be on campus for the following activities:

  • Program Orientation: one day on-campus orientation (usually September).
  • Physical Diagnosis: 2-3 days on-campus lab.
  • CNS Management Clinical: typically 4-6 days per year for the purpose of clinical validation and simulation.
  • DNP Project problem statement presentation: done mid-program and usually lasting a day.
  • DNP Project proposal: done just before beginning DNP project implementation and usually one day.
  • DNP Project final presentation: done in the last term before graduation and usually one day.

Clinical Experiences

The clinical experience for the CNS program consists of rotations through a variety of sites with exposure to neonates experiencing different levels of acuity. Clinical sites may include public health clinics serving neonates and their families, inpatient neonatal intensive care, neonatal organizations, and neonatal clinics.

Clinical practica hours are a total of 684 clock hours. These hours will be divided over three terms, with the third term consisting of a residency. Some of these hours will be spent in simulation to add to the learning experience. There are also DNP practica project hours for a total of 324 clock hours. As a result, your total clinical hours in the program will be 1008 clock hours.

We work directly with students to provide a variety of experiences tailored to student interest and experience need.  For local students, clinical sites are available at Rush University Medical Center and throughout the Chicago metropolitan area. Students and faculty work collaboratively to coordinate clinical practicum placements and appropriate clinical preceptors.

For distance students, collaborate with the faculty to find clinical practicum sites and preceptors that meet program requirements. We recommend that you begin planning your clinical practicum experiences early. While Rush has been successful in negotiating distance clinical practicum contracts, success is not guaranteed. Rush may need to be a recognized provider by the board of nursing in your state. Due to the variety of different state regulations and limitations, we cannot guarantee clinical practica placement if you move to another state after matriculating.


Our curriculum has been approved by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses; (CCNS-N). The approval process requires that programs meet educational eligibility compliance with the consensus model for advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) practice and the National Council of State Boards of Nursing’s criteria for APRN programs (2012).

Common Applicant Questions for all Nursing Programs
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  • Apply Now
  • Upcoming Application Deadlines
    Spring 2024
    Application: Open
    Deadline: November 1, 2023
    Term Starts: January 2, 2024

    Fall 2024
    Application: Open
    Deadline: October 2, 2023
    Terms Starts: September 3, 2024
Admissions Contact
Elizabeth Miranda
Admissions Specialist


Attend an information session

Learn more about the Neonatal Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) program at an online information session.