What is a Doctor of Nursing Practice?

Doctor of Nursing PracticeEarning a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) is becoming a more popular route for registered nurses seeking to propel their careers into advanced practice nursing positions. As the field’s highest terminal degree, the DNP is offered at many graduate schools to prepare nurses with clinical practice-oriented leadership training. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, there are currently 264 DNP programs in the United States, which is a big leap from 20 in 2006. Nurses pursue the Doctor of Nursing Practice to further cement their clinical skills in meeting the needs of our nation’s rapidly changing healthcare environment. DNP degrees make nurses more marketable while leading to higher responsibility, more independence, and better salary potential. Let’s take a closer look at the Doctor of Nursing Practice to determine if it’s the right degree for you.

Typical Doctor of Nursing Practice Curriculum

On average, Doctor of Nursing Practice programs are comprised of two to four years of advanced nursing studies on the pathway towards this practice doctorate. Unlike a Ph.D that focuses heavily on research methodology and scientific content, the DNP prepares expert nurses for specialized evidence-based clinical practice. DNP nurses are trained to apply research to giving competent care, maintaining leadership, managing healthcare delivery systems, and influencing health policy. On top of their classroom learning, DNP students will spend a significant amount of time completing clinical practicum, internships, and perhaps a residency. Courses are traditionally offered on-campus, but busy working nurses can find accredited online DNP programs too.

Career Options with a Doctor of Nursing Practice

Once you’ve earned a DNP, there’s no limit to where your career can soar in nursing. Most graduates use their Doctor of Nursing Practice to work in advanced practice nursing positions, even though a master’s program is currently sufficient. DNPs can work as nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, nurse anesthetists, and clinical nurse specialties in a broad array of nursing specialties, according to Discover Nursing. The DNP degree is also the perfect way to become a nurse administrator or executive to manage the daily operations of a nursing staff. Since there’s a shortage of nurse educators, earning a Doctor of Nursing Practice to teach aspiring nurses and research in your chosen niche is another in-demand option.

Choosing a Doctor of Nursing Practice Program

Doctor of Nursing Practice programs are now available in 48 states except Alaska and Vermont, so there’s plenty of universities to choose from. Firstly, you should make certain that your prospective DNP programs have been fully accredited by the CCNE or ACEN. Accreditation will make certain your degree is readily recognized by employers and certifying boards. Take a look at published rankings by the U.S. News and World Report to see which graduate nursing schools are best. Choosing a DNP from a university with a prestigious reputation in nursing will make your degree even more marketable. Other key factors to consider include flexibility, curriculum, specializations, financial aid, faculty credentials, location, clinical experiences, student support, and career placement rates.

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Overall, nurses who achieve a Doctor of Nursing Practice have reached the top in regards to their education and can compete for upper-level nursing leadership jobs. DNP programs equip nurses with the latest medical trends to deliver safe nursing practice in our increasingly complex health delivery systems. Although a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree is a huge commitment of time, energy, and money, it will likely pay off greatly by unlocking the highest paid nursing jobs.