A Doctor of Nursing Practice sounds like a bit of an oxymoron. We know that nurses and doctors are different roles, yet there is a degree that seems to combine the two? If you’re confused, don’t worry. In this blog we will provide an overview of the DNP degree.
Specifically we will cover:
- What Is a DNP?
- What Roles Does a DNP Fill?
- What’s the Difference Between a DNP and Ph.D.?
- Steps to Earn a DNP
- Top DNP Programs
- Financial Aid
Let’s take a look!
What Is a DNP?
The Doctor of Nursing Practice degree is an advanced degree within the nursing field. It is one of two terminal—or highest— degrees a nurse can achieve. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the Doctor of Nursing Practice is designed for nurses seeking an alternative to research-focused doctoral programs.
In other words, the DNP is a practicing degree. A nurse with this designation has the skills and training to utilize within the field. The Doctor of Nursing Philosophy degree is more tailored for academia and research.
Though a DNP degree is technically on a doctorate level, nurse practitioners with DNPs do not have the same authority as a physician or other kinds of medical doctors. The Doctor of Nursing Practice designates that a nurse has reached the pinnacle of education.
Many nurses with DNP degrees end up in administrative or other leadership positions within health care. Yet, others try and use their degree to pursue the various nurse practitioner roles.
The Doctor of Nursing Practice offers nurses a chance to have a competitive advantage over nurses with just NPs applying for the same roles. In the future, nurse practitioners may have to receive their DNP to begin practicing.
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What Roles Do DNPs Fill?
Doctor of Nursing Practice graduates have a variety of jobs that they can pursue. The two most common settings in which they work include:
- Leadership and administration
- Advanced Practice Registered Nursing (APRN)
The question becomes whether the DNP wants to work with patients directly or not.
Leadership and Administrative Roles
The Doctor of Nursing practice provides nurses with an opportunity to use their skills to help influence care programs and create nursing initiatives. Additionally, they can help bolster the executive nursing leadership roles.
Specifically, DNPs work in:
- Organizational leadership
- Nurse management
- Health policy
- Health informatics systems
Advanced Practice Nursing
DNPs who choose to pursue advanced practice nursing (APRN) have an opportunity to work directly with patients by managing, evaluating and assessing treatment and care.
The DNPs who choose to become APRNs need to take the APRN certification exam. Additionally, they may have to receive an advanced specialty certification.
The DNP often works in the following capacities:
- Nurse Practitioner (NP) – health care professionals who work independently from a doctor’s supervision to prevent illnesses and teach wellness.
- CRNA or Nurse Anesthetist – clinicians who coordinate with the physicians and nurses to administer anesthesia to patients.
- Nurse Midwife (CNM) – health care professionals who provide reproductive care throughout all phases of the birthing process.
Top nurse leadership roles on Incredible Health
What Is the Difference Between a DNP and a Ph.D.?
The DNP and Ph.D. degrees are the highest forms of learning a practitioner can receive. Despite this, there are differences between a DNP and a Ph.D.
One of the main differences is that a DNP focuses on clinical practice. In other words, they are working with patients and overseeing nurses. The Ph.D. revolves around research. Individuals who want to pursue a career as a nurse educator or researcher may wish to follow the Ph.D. route.
Nurses who obtain a Ph.D. often use their research to improve patient care.
Nurses who feel drawn to working with patients may decide to take the DNP path. This is especially true of nurses with an MSN degree who work in an advanced role. They can expand their knowledge base and become an expert to give them a competitive edge within their field. Obtaining an advanced degree can also help their practice as well.
Additionally, the curriculum for each degree differs as well. For the DNP, their curriculum centers on practice. They learn to use the tools and knowledge they gain from research to develop into clinical practice and improve patient care.
Before graduating, DNP students have to complete a capstone project to identify a medical problem and come up with a viable solution through research. Also, they must complete clinical hours as well.
The Ph.D. curriculum doesn’t focus on the clinical component. Their curriculum explores research and at the end of the program, students have to write a dissertation. They will present the dissertation to faculty, where they defend the research that they gathered.
Here’s the good news: A DNP program typically takes between 1-3 years to complete, while a PH.D. program can take up to 4-5 years.
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Steps to Earn a DNP
You might be wondering: how do you earn a DNP? There are many ways to receive a DNP. Often, people take the graduated approach and get their BSN to MSN and then a DNP. However, there are bridge programs to help you achieve your doctorate and save time.
Below you will find the typical routes to obtain a DNP:
MSN to DNP
This is the most common method. Given that the nurse will already have an MSN, they most likely will work in an advanced position. Therefore, they may not have the capacity to go to school full-time.
- 1-2 years full time
- 3-4 years part-time
- Revolves around specialized coursework
- Clinical hours from the MSN program may apply toward the clinical hour requirements
BSN to DNP (Bridge)
This program brings together the curriculum of an MSN and DNP. A few programs allow you to leave the program once you’ve completed the MSN requirements.
- 3-4 years full time
- 4-6 years part-time
- Includes MSN and DNP curriculum to avoid repeating
- Often consists of an early exit before the DNP portion
RN to DNP (Bridge)
This degree program is less common. However, it allows someone without a bachelor’s degree to pursue a DNP.
- 4-6 years full time
- 6+ years part-time
- Some programs require prerequisites to take undergraduate coursework before taking graduate courses
- Potential to earn an MSN degree before taking DNP courses or provide the option to award an MSN and DNP after graduation
This degree program is a good option for students who have a bachelor’s degree in an area outside of nursing.
- 4-6 years full time
- Part-time generally not available
- Students have to become registered nurses before taking graduate coursework
Choosing the right program depends on your circumstances and the time you devote to a given program.
Top 5 DNP Programs
According to US News, the top five universities are:
1. Rush University – A private school in Chicago, IL that has an application deadline of Jan.2 and an application fee of $115 for US residents.
2. Johns Hopkins University – A private school in Baltimore, MD, with an application deadline of Jan. 1 and an application fee of $75 for US residents.
3. The University of Washington – A public school in Seattle, WA that has an application deadline of Jan.15 and an application fee of $85 for US residents
4. Duke University – A private school in Durham, NC, with an application deadline of Dec.1 and an application fee of $50 for US residents.
5. Columbia University – A private school in New York, NY, with an application deadline of Jan.20 and an application fee of $75 for US residents.
After determining which program you wish to attend, the next step involves paying for school. First, take an inventory of your financial situation and see if you might qualify for government funding. To know if you are eligible, you need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
Generally, schools use this tool to determine eligibility for providing need-based grants, scholarships and student loans.
If you worry about taking loans out, some programs offer student loan forgiveness following graduation.
Overall, the DNP program is an excellent opportunity for nurses to enhance their skills and move up within the nursing ranks. If you just graduated from a DNP program, you can find advanced nursing positions here on our website. Simply click here and start searching for your next job!