How to Become a Doctorate of Nursing Practice From Registered Nurse
Guide to Become a Doctorate of Nursing Practitioner
Earning a Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree may be the career goal of many nurses, as the nurses with DNP receives a higher salary and have better career opportunities. However, it is a massive commitment involving a huge investment of both time and money. The registered nurses (RN) need not start from the square one in order to earn DNP. It is equally possible to pursue this degree if you are ADN, BSN, MSN or hold any other type of nursing degree. This guide may help you figure out the next step if you want to earn Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) after becoming a registered nurse (RN).

What is a Doctor of Nursing Practice Degree?

The Doctor of Nursing Practice degree is one of the two doctorate degrees in the field of nursing. It is a medical practice degree (post-BSN) and the highest degree of educational training in the nursing profession. It includes advanced training in specified disciplines as well as skills of nursing.

This degree has been designed to produce leaders in nursing, as nurses with DNP degree have the highest level of expertise. They are skilled to work in a clinical setting alongside fulfilling a leadership role after having necessary credentials. They have knowledge and skills to influence the healthcare outcomes through direct patient care, organizational leadership or health-policy implementation.

What to Consider Before Pursuing DNP?

It is prudent to remember the following points if you plan to pursue DNP (Doctorate of Nursing Practice) degree.
  1. DNP does not signify a role. It is a degree similar to other degrees in the nursing field, such as MSN (Master of Science in Nursing), PhD (Doctorate of Philosophy in Nursing) or BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing). On the other hand, RN (Registered Nurse), APRN (Advanced Practice Registered Nurses) and NP (Nurse Practitioner) are a few examples of nursing roles. It is essential to have certain degrees in order to fulfil the requirements of each of these roles.
  2. Having a DNP degree is not equal to becoming a physician, as the training that is received in order to earn a DNP degree and the training that is received in order to become a doctor are different in nature. Both of these training are essential for patient care; however, the subject and nature of training are not the same.
  3. All DNP programs have not been developed in the same manner. Therefore, you have to enquire about the features of a selected DNP program in order to ensure that it fulfils your educational requirements. For example, If you want to practice as an APRN (Advanced Practice Registered Nurse) after graduating, then you have to ensure that a DNP program meets the requirements of the APRN Consensus Model.
  4. Many nurses with DNP degree practice as APRN, as it is a practising doctoral degree. However, you may choose not to practice as an APRN after having DNP. You may work as a Nurse Midwife, Nurse Anaesthetist, Nurse Practitioner and Clinical Nurse Specialist.
  5. There are still some masters’ programs for APRN training. AACN has suggested that all master’s programs for APRN training transition to Doctorate programs. At present, Advanced Practice Registered Nurses are allowed to sit for certification examinations with a master’s degree.

Benefits of Earning DNP

  1. The Doctorate degree is likely to become the basic requirement for certification and licensure in advanced nursing practice in the near future. In 2004, members of AACN (American Association of Colleges of Nursing) voted to increase the training requirements of advanced practice nursing from a master’s degree to a doctorate level.
  2. DNP curriculum has been developed in order to produce ‘leaders’ in nursing. It includes training in systems leadership, quality improvement, informatics, and evidence-based practice.
  3. At present, nurses are supposed to have a skill set of leadership qualities, scientific knowledge and outcome measurement based upon the requirements of the healthcare environment. It ensures the best patient outcomes.
  4. Nurses with a doctorate degree increase educational expectations and national concerns regarding the quality of healthcare. They are qualified to address the shortcomings of doctorally prepared nursing faculties.
  5. After acquiring DNP, nurses have a better opportunity to work in leadership roles in different healthcare settings, such as private practice, hospitals, universities etc. These opportunities may be unavailable to those without a DNP degree.
  6. Nurses with a DNP degree will continue to receive more salary and will have better career-graph in the future. According to BLS, the average annual salary of the advanced practice nurses was $110,930 in 2017. This is supposed to increase by 22% by the year 2022.

DNP v/s Ph.D.

The DNP (Doctorate of Nursing Practice) and PhD (Doctorate of Philosophy) are two doctoral-level degrees in nursing and both signify the highest level of education in this field of profession. Hence, neither of these degrees is considered to be more advance. However, DNP is a practising degree and PhD is more focused on the research of subjects related to healthcare.

There is an opportunity for both DNP and PhD holders to work as nurse practitioners. However, you may need a post-graduate certificate in nursing if you want to work as a nurse practitioner after having a PhD degree. A PhD is best suited for those who want to pursue scholarly roles.

In DNP, the primary focus is on translating as well as implementing the evidence into practice. Extensive research is the pivotal point of both projects, as it is essential for the dissertation in PhD and final DNP Project. However, integrative practice experiences are required in DNP.
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Where Do DNPs Work?

Nurses with a DNP degree usually work in two types of healthcare settings.
  1. Leadership and Administration: DNP degree prepares the nurses who want to work in administration or in a leadership role at a healthcare facility. They can determine the healthcare outcomes through scientific findings whilst fortifying the executive nurse leadership roles. They are skilled to create innovative, economic, and substantial care programs. A nurse with a DNP degree may work in –
    • Organizational leadership
    • Nurse Management
    • Health informatics systems
    • State and National Health policy
  2. Advanced Practice Registered Nursing (APRN) – Direct Patient Care: A nurse with a DNP degree may even work as APRN. These professionals will provide care to the patients, such as assessing, managing and evaluating their physical condition and providing adequate care. However, you need to qualify at APRN (Advanced Practice Registered Nurse) certification examination alongside having Advanced Specialty certification if you want to provide care to the patients after having a DNP degree. A DNP certified nurse may work in the following roles,
    • Nurse Midwife (CNM): They provide reproductive health services before, during or after the childbirth alongside counselling the parents and providing primary care to the mother and child throughout the infancy.
    • Nurse Anaesthetist (CRNA): They collaborate with the healthcare team to administer anaesthesia.
    • Nurse Practitioner (NP): They work independently to manage illnesses and to provide patient care. An NP may work as –
      • Family Nurse Practitioner (FRNP)
      • Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner
      • Paediatric Nurse Practitioner
      • Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
      • Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
      • Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

How to Get DNP?

There are multiple specialities to choose from in a DNP program, such as
  • Paediatric acute/primary care
  • Adult acute/primary care
  • Neonatal care
  • Women’s health
  • Emergency medicine
  • Family medicine
  • Psych
  • Nurse anaesthesia
The duration of the course varies depending upon the features of various DNP programs and a course can be completed in 3/4/5 years. There are different ways to earn a DNP degree.
  • BSN-DNP Program: It has been designed for nurses who want to start their career as an APRN (advanced practise registered nurse). These programs build a foundation of nursing theory and nursing practise alongside teaching the research methods. Many schools have integrated the MSN and DNP programs enabling the nursing graduates to earn both degrees at once.
  • MSN-DNP Program: It is possible to have a master’s degree in nursing and work as an APRN whilst earning a DNP degree after completing the coursework.
  • Post-Master’s DNP: This option is suitable for administrators or educators who work in a healthcare setting and have an MBA/MPH/MPA degree. These professionals can receive a DNP degree without having to repeat the coursework.

Is a DNP Degree Right for You?

You have to determine whether or not a DNP degree is the right nursing degree for you. This is the right doctoral degree if you
  • Want to learn additional skills and have more knowledge in a particular field of nursing
  • Interested in a practice-based advanced degree in nursing
  • Want to work in a leadership role
  • Interested in influencing organization practices, reform or healthcare policy
  • Interested in pursuing a higher academic degree
  • Want to advance to a higher level of nursing instead of being limited to providing bedside care
  • Want to have the opportunity to serve in various nursing positions
AACN (American Association of Colleges of Nursing) is thinking about transitioning all advanced practice nursing degrees to DNP. Therefore, the demand for this degree will continue to grow.

You can quickly advance in your career after earning a DNP degree alongside practising organizational skills and leadership roles. You can improve the healthcare industry and may work in clinical nursing or in administration depending upon your preference.