Nursing remains one of the most important, in demand jobs on the planet. But when we say nurse, we are referring to a wide variety of occupations under the umbrella of a wider discipline. Most of us are familiar with an RN or an LPN, but if I were to say DNP, there is a strong chance you’d raise an eyebrow at the acronym.
A DNP, or Doctorate of Nursing Practice, is one of two doctoral degrees nurses can seek. While RN and LPN are positions, the DNP is a degree. There are often two paths that people take when they obtain a DNP: a leadership/ administrative position or direct patient care as an Advanced Practice Nurse (APRN). A DNP is a terminal degree — the highest degree a nurse can obtain. There are a number of reasons that make a DNP a worthwhile pursuit for nurses. Below are a few key reasons to consider pursuing a Doctorate of Nursing Practice.
DNP and Administration
If you hold a DNP and want to enter into a leadership role, you’ll want to have an extra edge and deeper knowledge of the executive needs that come with a advanced position requires. As a DNP, you'll be more likely to obtain a leadership role, where your creativity can flourish through care programs. You’ll be asked to innovate procedures and practices that are fiscally responsible, but also helpful to the facility community. A DNP degree makes you more desirable for leadership roles because it shows that you're knowledgeable when it comes to advanced nursing practice. There are several positions/titles you might hold with your DNP, but most often your role will include nurse management, health policy, organizational leadership, or health information systems.
DNP and APRN
If you want to continue to work with patients after earning your degree, it's common to become an APRN. This role focuses on direct patient care revolving around managing, assessing, and evaluating health. It is important to note that if you want to become an APRN, you will be required to attain your certification by taking the APRN exam — even if you hold your DNP. If you are looking for a specialty certification, the DNP will not replace these certifications either.
DNP vs. PhD
Currently, there are two doctoral degrees in nursing. The Doctorate of Nursing Practice and the Doctorate of Philosophy.
Since these are both terminal degrees, they hold the same academic standing. The biggest difference between the two programs is how research focused you’d like your doctoral program to be. If you are leaning more into the research and theory, then a PhD program might be better suited for you. If you are thinking of more studies that are more focused on practical applications, you would be better matched to explore DNP programs. If you're considering getting a DNP degree and concerned about costs, you should know that you can become a DNP graduate by attending an online program. Many online programs are more affordable than in-person programs, and have the same academic outcome. With an online program, you can also decide whether you want to be a DNP student in a full-time program or, if a full-time program is too hectic, you can opt for a part-time program from the comfort of your home.
Pursuing a DNP Degree
There are several major reasons why you would want to pursue a DNP. Some of the major reasons would be to increase professional opportunities, increase your salary, further your skillset, increase your chances of acquiring a job, and become a leader. With the knowledge that you can gain from a DNP, your skillset in the nursing field will be that much stronger and nearly every position will pay you more money simply because you have an advanced degree. The DNP is an extension of the master’s degree is so far as you are continuing your education. As more people join the workforce with master’s degrees, the demand for doctoral degrees will increase. It could become the new standard to obtain a DNP.
Ultimately, when you are considering any education, you’ll want to consider your career aspirations. If you are looking to be the best nurse you can, then a DNP might be the path you should take.