What are DNP Programs Like?
If you want to be at the highest level of your clinical nursing practice specialty but don’t want to focus on teaching or research, consider getting your doctor of nursing practice (DNP).
The DNP is a fairly new degree for nurses who want to practice nursing rather than conduct research, which is the focus of Ph.D. programs. The DNP is popular for advanced practice nurses such as nurse practitioners and nurse anesthetists. Other nurses with DNPs have careers in developing policies and protocols that help improve patient care.
According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), DNP programs are becoming increasingly popular. In 2006, there were only 20 programs nationwide. As of 2010, there were 153, and over 100 are currently in development.
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Getting Your Degree
You should have a good GPA, nursing experience, and an active nursing license.
Some programs require only a bachelor’s degree—these are typically for nurses who want to go directly into advanced practice. Other programs require a master’s degree—preferably in a nursing discipline.
A typical minimum credit load for DNP students who already hold a master’s degree is 35 to 40 credits. In these cases a DNP can be completed in approximately two years. For nurses who start with a bachelor’s degree, the credit load may be double that amount and take up to four years to complete.
Aside from courses directly related to your specialty, most DNP programs offer classes in subjects such as ethics, nursing policies, information technology, and leadership. Some classes have an online or hybrid component. This degree doesn’t typically require a dissertation, but may require completion of a complex project, thesis, or residency.