Earn your DNAP. Take between one and three years to finish.

Our post-master’s DNAP program is designed for the full-time working CRNA, with one- to three-year completion options. This practice-oriented doctoral program focuses specifically on issues related to nurse anesthesia practice and builds upon applicants' previous education and experiences as CRNAs.

How will a DNAP degree enhance my career?

The DNAP program prepares CRNAs to assume leadership positions in education, management, and clinical practice. Our curriculum concentrates on patient safety and human factors, quality assessment and improvement, health care systems and organizations, leadership, evidence-based practices, and adult education.


Graduates of the DNAP will be able to:

  • Apply physiological, safety, and organizational theories to promote patient safety, enhance quality care, and improve nurse anesthesia practice
  • Analyze and synthesize relevant scientific literature and apply results to improve nurse anesthesia practice and patient care outcomes in a culturally sensitive manner
  • Communicate effectively with patients, families, the public, and other health professionals
  • Demonstrate leadership skills to meet the challenges of increasingly complex health care and educational environments impacting nurse anesthetists
  • Develop effective strategies for managing ethical dilemmas inherent in anesthesia patient care and the workplace
  • Employ teaching and learning principles for the nurse anesthetist in educating and counseling individuals, families, students in training, and groups
  • Demonstrate nurse anesthesia scholarship through presentations, publications, leadership activities, and collaboration with other disciplines
  • Utilize technology and information systems to analyze, manage, and present data

Students will demonstrate achievement of these objectives through the following outcome measures:

  • Successful completion of all requisite coursework with a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or higher
  • Completion of a nurse anesthesia capstone project that can include submission of a paper for publication to a professional journal or poster for presentation at a professional conference
  • Successful completion of a clinical portfolio
  • Participation in leadership, education, and management activities in a health care system, academic institution, or professional association


The post-master's DNAP program options is 33 credits and may be taken on a full- or part-time basis. 

Please visit the VCU bulletin for the most up to date information on program specifics, the curriculum, course descriptions and admission and graduation requirements.

Clinical Practicum

DNAP 789 Nurse Anesthesia Professional Practice emphasizes learning through advanced professional experiences in nurse anesthesia practice. During the practicum, doctoral students explore concepts specific to nurse anesthesia practice, competence and expertise, critical thinking, and reflection on and analysis of practice. The clinical practicum examines methods of determining best-evidence professional practices through identification of problems, review and systematic evaluation of current research, interdisciplinary collaboration, and consideration of economic and other factors that may impact patient outcomes.  The clinical practicum is 6 credit hours; credits for this course are taken throughout the curriculum depending on full- or part-time status.

 At the completion of the practicum, doctoral students are able to:

  1. Demonstrate clinical expertise in an area of nurse anesthesia practice
  2. Reflect on events that have shaped personal professional practice competency and expertise
  3. Analyze personal clinical practice for best practices and sentinel events
  4. Identify areas where interdisciplinary collaboration is useful
  5. Prepare a case study documenting a “best evidence” approach to management of a selected patient

This individually-designed clinical experience consists of 100 hours of practice per credit hour; this requirement is usually met through the doctoral student's current employment arrangement. Students demonstrate completion of the practicum requirements through development of a professional portfolio. The portfolio includes written case studies of clinical experiences that have significance for nurse anesthesia practice and other professional development materials.


Click here to apply to the VCU Department of Nurse Anesthesia post-master's DNAP program

Please select the Nurse Anesthesia- Post Masters DNAP program under the College of Health Professions when applying to the program. 

Admission to the DNAP is competitive and based on evaluation of all portions of the application. Applicants must possess the following minimum qualifications:

    • A graduate degree from a nurse anesthesia educational program accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs
    • A cumulative graduate GPA of 3.0 or higher on a 4.0 scale
    • Official transcripts for all degrees received from an accredited college or university. Unofficial transcripts should be uploaded in the online application
    • Official NBCRNA transcript
    • Certification and recertification (if applicable) by the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists
    • Current licensure as a registered nurse and advanced practice nurse
    • Three letters of professional recommendation
    • Resume or curriculum vitae
    • A written essay (personal statement) that describes reasons for seeking the DNAP degree and how the degree will contribute to the achievement of career goals, prior life and work experience that will contribute to success in the program, and potential areas of interest for the doctoral project
    • Online application and $70 non-refundable application fee

The requirement for GRE scores as requested on the application will be waived upon application completed beginning 2021-2022 application cycle. Review of applications is on-going. However, preference is given to applications received by March 1. To be considered for a personal interview (required for admission), applicants must submit the following either online via the application or mail to: Director of Doctoral Education, Dept of Nurse Anesthesia, PO Box 980226, Richmond VA 23298:

The post-master's Doctor of Nurse Anesthesia Practice program option enrolls approximately 10-20 CRNAs annually, starting in the fall semester each year.

Reference forms are submitted online in the application.

*In lieu of GRE scores, applicants can submit, for consideration, evidence of verbal and quantitative knowledge and skills necessary for successful completion of the program.


 For the most up to date information on tuition and fees, please visit the VCU Tuition Calculator.

How does the Doctor of Nurse Anesthesia (DNAP) degree differ from a PhD?

Doctoral programs fall into two categories: practice-focused / professional degrees and research-focused degrees. The two types of doctoral degrees are alternative approaches to the terminal level of educational preparation in a given field.

The DNAP is a practice-focused doctoral degree. Practice-focused degrees prepare experts for specialized roles within a discipline. DNAP coursework focuses on the CRNA as a clinical expert, leader, and educator who can identify issues, apply scientific findings, and develop practices that are supported by the best available evidence. The practice doctorate culminates in a capstone project that pertains to the individual's area of interest. Graduates are prepared to accept positions as expert clinicians, instructors in academic and clinical settings, and positions emphasizing leadership.

Research-focused degrees prepare scientists and scholars who can develop programs of research that lead to advancing the knowledge and science of a discipline. PhD programs require extensive coursework in theory, research methodology, and statistics. The PhD culminates in an original research project with completion and defense of a dissertation. Graduates are prepared to develop programs of research, serve as primary investigators on research projects, and teach in academic programs emphasizing research and teaching.

Do I need to move to Richmond to complete the post-master's DNAP program?

No. The Department of Nurse Anesthesia uses distance technology to offer its programs in three locations during each on-site session. Students may participate in on-site DNAP sessions on the MCV site of VCU in Richmond, at the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center in Abingdon, Virginia, or at the Roanoke, Virginia site, currently located in the Riverside Center. The post-master's DNAP is structured as a hybrid program where, between on-campus sessions, doctoral students complete course requirements from any location.

How much time will I need to spend on site?

The post-master's DNAP is designed for working CRNAs. The curriculum is offered through a combination of on- and off-site sessions. Off-site work is completed through a combination of assignments (clinical practice, readings, written work) and web-based activities using the Blackboard™ learning platform. On-campus sessions are held three times per year: early January, mid-May, and mid-August. The on-site sessions generally include the wrap-up coursework from one semester as well as the beginning coursework from the next semester. On-campus schedules are made available to students nearly one year in advance to help with planning. The length of each on-campus session is determined by full- vs. part-time status and usually lasts approximately 3 - 4 days.

Is the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA) transcript the same as my university transcript?

No. The NBCRNA transcript is the transcript sent by the nurse anesthesia program to the NBCRNA upon graduation from the nurse anesthesia program and details the requirements for initial certification as a nurse anesthetist. The NBCRNA transcript is part of the application process for the National Certification Examination. Prospective post-master's DNAP students can request a copy of the original transcript from the NBCRNA. Information on requesting the transcript is available on the NBCRNA website.

Doctoral project

The post-master's DNAP program culminates in the successful completion of the doctoral project, which is intended to demonstrate integration and synthesis of concepts learned throughout the program and practice experience. With the guidance of a two-person faculty advisory committee, doctoral students develop a project on a topic of interest relevant to nurse anesthesia practice, education, or leadership. The focus of the doctoral project is the use of best evidence to improve practice and patient outcomes. The doctoral project process is directed toward the acquisition of skills related to scholarship and includes articulation of a practice issue, a well-focused and comprehensive literature review, a description of the methodology designed to address the practice issue, and a discussion that synthesizes the outcomes of the project activities and the practice problem. Students disseminate their work and develop evaluation strategies to gather feedback on the project.

Doctoral project case study: Drug screening anesthesia patients

With nearly eight years’ experience as a practicing CRNA, post-master's candidate Gabriel Restrepo noticed a cohort of his patient population coming in for elective surgical procedures had illicit substances in their system — everything from marijuana and cocaine to heroin and other opioids.

“During my practice, I've been involved in two situations where patients who were using illicit substances almost died,” he says.

Every hospital has varying standards of care, policies, and procedures about testing patients for illicit-drug use prior to surgery, he explains. This issue gets intensified as there is also great unevenness among anesthesia team providers around testing for illegal substances — some do, some do not. “This creates conflict with other surgical specialties and confusion in general,” he says.  

Gabriel notes the main bodies representing the field, such as the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists, the Anesthesia Patient Safety Foundation and the American Society of Anesthesiologists, do not have standards of care or formal policies-procedures for drug testing prior to surgery. The groups provide only practice recommendations that can be open for interpretation by clinicians in numerous ways based on diverse clinical situations. “My doctoral project is based on this problem,” he says. “The lack of a consistent standard of care is very troubling to me.”

He hopes to outline policies to identify and treat patients who are abusing substances, which of course interact with anesthesia medications and impact critical organs like the heart and lungs. His goal is to create a new standard of care.

“Everything in anesthesia is mathematic. We have algorithms to identify, treat, and implement for every possible clinical situation. But when it comes to drug testing, we have created an inconsistent clinical model which diverts from the rigorous algorithms commonly used in practice,” he says. “The lack of knowledge of illicit-drug use creates an environment in which the anesthetist can’t properly balance the anesthesia technique due to the unknown effects of illicit-drug metabolites in the patient’s body, creating an unsafe clinical situation were moderate to critical intraoperative-postoperative complications can occur.”

Gabriel’s doctoral project, The Utility of the Urine Drug Screen in the Prevention of Intra-Operative and Post-Operative Anesthetic Complications, will address the issue by validating the usefulness of a $25 test versus the potential for damages that could run into the thousands of dollars more in claims. “These are all cases that can be prevented,” he says.