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The Doctor of Nursing Practice degree, or DNP, is the terminal degree for nurses, meaning it is the highest degree level a nurse can earn. The Online DNP is quickly becoming one of the top doctoral programs for universities to bring online, which makes it possible for working nurses with their BSN or MSN to take classes. There are several options at the Doctoral level for nurses, and they are different:

  • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Nursing degree
  • Online Dual Doctorate Degree programs

We have 380 DNP Programs in our database.

Who is the Online DNP/PhD Degree for?

The online DNP-PhD program is geared towards students who have earned their master's level education and want to advance to the top levels in nursing and healthcare. While some students choose one path over the other, these programs help those who want to have the option to perform clinical and research roles in specialized areas of nursing. The DNP can prepare graduates for work in healthcare administrative and clinical faculty roles. The PhD will help students perform scientific roles that focus on research. Having a dual degree can make you one of the most valuable members in your organization. Not only will you understand how research and data are formulated, you can understand how to create and apply best practices that result from evidence-based. research.

Also, the online route for this degree is suited for well-disciplined students who can manage their time and already busy schedule. You may think that you should have a solid career path mapped out before taking on this type of program.

But, looking into this degree option can be the perfect opportunity for you to start talking to counselors about the path that best suits your interests. That's another reason why it is essential to compare multiple programs before making your final decision.

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What is an Online DNP/PhD Degree?

If you want to reach the highest level in your nursing education and career, you should consider earning your Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Nursing degree through an online dual degree program. If you are unsure of the difference, or benefits of both degrees, the following information can help you decide if this is the best kind of program for you. Of course, every program has its own distinctions, depending on the school you consider. So make sure you compare multiple options to be sure you choose the right fit for your goals in nursing.

A Note About the PhD in Nursing

The PhD in Nursing is geared towards research and preparing for more scientific roles in the field. In this type of program you can learn to conduct research and work with teams performing research in a variety of areas relevant to nursing and patient care. Many research topics address problems in the areas of chronic illness and how to improve healthcare systems from an organizational perspective.

You can also develop a strong understanding of how to apply data-driven studies and technology to create evidence-based changes in healthcare systems. Leadership skills are also a focus, so you can learn to make an impact on your organization and have an effect on healthcare policy. Those who earn their PhD can go on to become leaders for social justice to bridge disparities among populations PhD programs tend to include a minimum number of hours required for mentored teaching, but most likely will not require clinical hours.

The Doctorate of Nursing

Doctor of Nursing (DNP) programs are designed to help prepare future leaders in healthcare systems to apply research into the day-to-day practices of healthcare environments to improve organizational structure, systems, and patient outcomes. Coursework can focus in improving individuals, groups and communities affected by health-related issues. In these programs, capstone projects are typically required. However, dissertations are not generally required in these programs, unlike PhD programs.

Dual Doctorate Nursing Programs

In many dual programs, students take coursework to satisfy both programs simultaneously. If you are looking for a completely online program, be sure to speak with schools about their clinical requirements. While it is more common for the PhD aspect of this degree to be completed 100% online, the DNP requirements are on the clinical side, which means you will likely have to take experiential courses that cannot be completed at home. However, most programs will let you work in healthcare environments that are convenient, even if you aren’t located near the school where you are earning your degree.

How Long Does an Online DNP/PhD Degree Take?

Depending on the program you choose, you can expect to earn your dual DNP-PhD degree in about 4 years. Many programs take around 80 hours for completion, with clinical hours required to ensure you have the experience to apply your education in real nursing environments.

Year 1

In the first year, you may take several high-level core courses to prepare you for your dissertation and clinical requirements, which usually occur in the third and fourth year. Such classes may include qualitative research methods, leadership and health policy, nursing science, and construction and analysis.

Year 2

The second year of study may focus on such topics as advanced statistics, healthcare economics, scientific dissemination, epidemiology, and other theoretical topics.

Year 3+

In your third year of study, you will begin to steer into your dissertation and practicum courses. Your professors will most likely begin helping you determine the focus of your final research and clinical experiences so you can successfully bridge your education into the next level of your career after your fourth year. In some programs, your DNP is awarded at the end of your third year, while your fourth year is dedicated to completing your dissertation.

Of course, every program is different, and offers online students a varying degree of distance learning. However, these types of programs are typically geared towards working professionals who have already experienced success in the field of nursing. This is where it can be to your advantage to seek programs that offer significant online coursework. Not only do schools understand your professional situation, they will often tailor your educational experience to sync with your current role and anticipated trajectory.

Sample Top 5 DNP Classes

  • Biostatistics: This course can help you understand how scientific data is interpreted in the areas of biology, healthcare and other relevant areas. You will most likely learn how to disseminate between correlation and causation in experiments that can improve the health of individuals, groups, and whole populations. This course should help you understand the link between these topics and health policy, economics, and other areas that are interrelated in healthcare organizations.
  • Research integrity: This course will focus on how students can conduct research in ways that correspond with ethical standards and regulations that are essential in healthcare. If you don’t understand how to conduct research with integrity, your work will be in vain. This course will also help you understand how to conduct peer reviews, and give humane care to animals when conducting research.
  • Quantitative Research Methods: To be effective at the highest levels of healthcare, you will need to understand the quantitative methods related to statistics, mathematics, and analysis of data that you receive during your research. This objective approach with essential to understanding the relations between the subjects of your research.
  • Management and budget planning: Whether your role in nursing is to oversee the planning of funds or not, you should have a solid understanding of how budgets are allocated for healthcare organizations to run smoothly. This course can help you understand how to be part of the conversations that impact where money is spent on day-to-day operations, research, and other areas that are critical to quality patient care.
  • Advanced health assessment: This type of course can cover several types of populations or focus on particular ones, such as pediatrics. In this class you will likely learn how to assess populations with significant health challenges by using advanced techniques. Topics should address the health history of the individual or group, as well as the unique aspects that affect appropriate diagnosis and care.

5 Organizations You Should Know

While earning your graduate level education you should strongly consider joining national organizations that focus on helping nursing executives reach the next level, stay informed, and connected to peers and mentors who can help ensure continued success in the field. These associations are just a handful of credible groups that offer benefits for nurses, especially at the top levels.

American Nurses Association (ANA)

This is perhaps the first organization any nursing student should turn to for resources throughout their career. Not only is this an all-encompassing organization for all types of nurses, but they have a wide variety of resources for nurses at the leadership level. While there are more specialized organizations you can join – and should – the ANA can help you stay educated and current, and connect with every type of nursing professional across the nation. If you didn’t join this group at the undergraduate level, learn more about it today.

American Organization of Nurse Executives

This association has been around since 1967, with the mission of helping nurses in leadership roles through programs and their annual meeting where many of the nationally known specialists participate and share knowledge. The organization also helps shape public policy and facilitates research to advance the practice of nursing and help improve quality of care nationwide.

American Association of Colleges of Nursing AACN

The AACN was formed to help facilitate innovation in the academic world of nursing. This organization forms a collective voice and mission that unifies the academic programs, both public and private, nationwide, to ensure curriculum is helping nurses in all regions learn to be the most effective care providers in the field of healthcare. They help ensure that students who are new to nursing learn from a strong foundational curriculum, and those who are seeking leadership roles through graduate level degrees have the resources they need to advance in their role. They have a wealth of resources for members, and should be an organization for all nursing students to consider, especially at the graduate level.

National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties (NONPF)

This organization works at the national and international level to help nurse practitioners by ensuring they have the resources they need by working with faculty on curriculum development. They also have a career center on their website that can help you find open positions. There are events that bring together nurses and educators that offer networking and education opportunities on an annual basis.

The Council for the Advancement of Nursing Science (CANS)

If you are earning your dual DNP/PhD degree, you will want to look into the mission of the CANS. This organization was formed to be a voice for helping further the mission of scientists and groups performing research in the field of nursing and science. This organization helps connect and facilitate innovative research and has an impact on public policy all the way to the halls of Congress. They have information and resources for graduate students, and a job board that can help those who want to become nurse scientists and researchers further their career.

If you are considering earning your dual DNP/PhD degree in Nursing, be sure to compare online programs and connect with organizations that can help you make the best decisions to accomplish your aspirations in the field of nursing.

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Still Looking for a Nursing Program?

Here are some of the most popular nursing programs. On each page you will find a detailed writeup of the program, specific courses, and even schools that offer that program that are currently accepting applicants.