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 in 2016, we have a whopping 380 programs in our database. There are also many DNP programs that are currently in development.
Why Get Your Doctorate of Nursing Practice Degree?
Nurses have always been the comforting faces that great ailing patients coming into a hospital or private office. They are the helping hand that is there to provide relief to those needing help.
Since this field is so important to the patients and doctors alike, it continues to draw in more interested professionals each year. Nursing as a degree program continues to grow in popularity each year. The versatility and job promise with a degree in nursing draws individuals in from all corners of the country. Nurses are needed in medical facilities, schools, private practices, and even specialized fields.
With the growth promoting the popularity of the degree program, more people – especially those currently in the field – are seeking something to help them stand out among all of the new graduates. Most find that the most effective way to become a priceless nursing professional is to get a higher degree. There are many options from master’s degree levels and up, but one of the most preferred is a Doctorate of Nursing Practice degree. This degree gives professionals their own ability to practice freely while not having to compete with new and existing nurses for positions in the medical field.
Online DNP Degree Programs
The curriculum within each path encompasses the different aspects of the nursing profession that doctoral level students should be conscious of. Doctoral level graduates should have the competency to handle complex nursing situations, extensive patient care, and a strong healthcare practice and delivery. Higher level degree programs provide excellent nursing professionals with the ability to work independently from other nurses in unsupervised positions.
Depending on the university, the admission requirements may differ from one to another. Typically, students with either a BSN or MSN can be accepted under certain restraints. Bachelor’s level graduates must have earned their degrees from an accredited university, have a GPA of 3.0 or above, and be currently licensed as a registered nurse in their state. GPA requirements vary slightly depending on the schools, with ranges from 2.4 to 3.0 being the most common.
Graduates at a master’s level must have also graduated from an accredited university, have at least a 3.0 GPA, and be registered as a nurse within their state. Secondary requirements for most schools include a resume, specific course requirements, and letters of recommendation. Although some universities may have different requirements, these seem to be the trend for applicants at both degree levels. Applicants at the bachelor’s level can integrate both the master’s degree and doctoral degree through these doctoral programs, allowing students to smoothly transfer from bachelor’s to doctoral level.
Typical DNP Degree Admissions Requirements
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.
Typical DNP Program Curriculum
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.
DNP Tracks: Advanced Practice / Leadership
While in the doctoral programs, students will take courses that promote success within their careers. Since nursing is such a changing field, nursing sciences are a major source of information during higher education. Nurses should be prepared to engage in continual learning throughout their careers.
There are two main concentrations for the DNP degree: The Advanced Practice Leadership track and the Healthcare Systems Leadership track.
The Advanced Practice track is mostly for those already certified as Advanced Practice Registered Nurses, even at a lower degree level.
Healthcare Systems Leadership is designed for those without the APRN, but with a master’s degree in nursing. These programs train nurses to become effective leaders within their respective field.
Overseeing a staff of nurses or handling delicate patient-related problems is a huge responsibility at this level, making training and education and must-have for all interested. Courses within this degree program include application of analytic methods, organizational and leadership concepts, and health policies. These courses take into consideration both individual and public health as well as the business leadership that is expected of doctoral level learners.
What Can You Do with a DNP?
Choosing to get a Doctorate of Nursing Practice is a decision that will change the lives of nursing professionals. Having a higher degree not only earns more for the professional, but it also opens the door to new opportunities in a variety of different specialties.
At this level, professionals can truly grasp the professionalism of direct care providers and even possibly act as a consultant for different organizations. The nursing research field provides a great deal of the technologies and practices that nurses use today.
At this degree level, professionals can be an important part of this field, conducting research and providing results that could change the way that nurses handle their daily responsibilities.
Doctoral level nurses can also work as nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, nursing anesthesiologists, and even clinical nursing specialists. It is recommended that nurses choose a path prior to enrolling in these programs so that the curriculum is accurately focused on the relevant subject.
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Career Paths for Doctorate Degree of Nursing Holders
According to the BLS, doctoral level nurses can earn $102,670 per year on average. Depending on the field and area, this figure is even more. Nurses at this level are highly regarded in the medical field as knowledgeable and experienced.
There is a greater respect for those at the doctoral level. The experience and education required to get to this level are extreme. It takes an extremely hard worker to get to this level, especially in the nursing field. Employers know that nurses that hold this degree have extensive experience in the nursing field. They know that someone at this level has what it takes to be a dedicated professional throughout his or her career.
Having to conform to strenuous training requirements while engaging in a rigorous curriculum projects professionalism and expertise, making it easy for nurses at this level to find stable, providing jobs. BLS also reports the projected growth to be at least 31% in the next decade, which is higher than most all other occupations. There are plenty of opportunities available for those interested in this path.
It is well-providing and is guaranteed to have job availability for years to come. This path is a wise choice for nurses seeking the very best in the nursing industry. The first step to having a career to be proud of is deciding which path to take and which university is the best fit to getting there.