Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)

A Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) is designed to produce leaders in the field of nursing through advanced coursework and practice. These nurses are known to possess the highest level of nursing expertise and can find employment in advanced roles in different kinds of medical facilities. DNP nurses have sufficient knowledge to influence changes in the healthcare industry through health policy creation and implementation, leadership skills and patient care.The following guide provides detailed information on a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), the opportunities it creates along with the coursework and admission requirements.

Career Opportunities with a DNP

Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) graduates can work in two main areas – leadership & administration and direct patient care.
Nurses who opt for careers in leadership and administration play a vital role in improving healthcare systems and also have a direct impact on healthcare outcomes through scientific research and findings.

Typical job roles for DNPs could be

  • Nurse Management
  • Organizational Leadership
  • State Health Policy
  • National Health Policy
  • Health Informatics Systems

Nurses who opt for roles in the Advanced Practice Registered Nursing (APRN) field are responsible for providing direct healthcare facilities to patients, including the management, assessment and evaluation of medical processes.

Typical job roles for DNPs in direct patient care can include

  • Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM)
  • Nurse Anesthetist (NA)
  • Nurse Practitioner (NP)

DNP Concentrations

Aspiring nurses who enroll in a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree can choose from a wide range of potential concentrations. These include the likes of

  • Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Nurse Anesthetist
  • Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Nurse Midwifery
  • Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

Students are advised to analyze the concentration they intend to select in detail. It is important to choose a subject area that interests you in the longer run. In addition to that, students must keep in mind the credit hour requirements and timeline of the concentration they choose.

How Much Can I Earn With a DNP?

The amount of money you earn after completing your Doctor of Nursing Practice degree depends on the concentration and the career path you choose.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nurse Anesthetists made an annual median income of $183,580 in May 2020. The top paying industry for Nurse Anesthetists is Outpatient Care Centers, paying an annual mean wage of $224,810.

Another career option for DNP graduates is becoming Nurse Midwives, who earned an annual median wage of $111,130 in May 2020.

The top paying industry for Nurse Midwives was the local government, paying an annual mean wage of $158,210.

DNP graduates can also opt for a career as a Nurse Practitioner. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nurse Practitioners made an annual median income of $111,680 in May 2020. The top paying industry for this occupation was Community Food and Housing and Emergency and Other Relief Services, paying an annual mean wage of $143,480.

How to Get a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)?

In order to get a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree, aspiring nurses will have to follow a series of steps.

Step 1: Become a Registered Nurse

You can complete an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing (BSN) in order to become Registered Nurse (RN). Please note that you will have to clear the NCLEX-RN exam before any kind of employment in nursing.

Step 2: Complete a Bachelor’s Degree

If you don’t already have a BSN, it is advisable that you enroll in this 4-year long bachelor’s level degree.

Step 3: Get Some Nursing Experience

Even though this is not a mandatory step, it is recommended that you get some hands-on practice in the field of nursing before pursuing further studies.

Step 4: Enroll in a Graduate Degree (MSN or DNP)

Depending on your career aims and interests, you can choose to go for an MSN degree or a DNP degree. Both these degrees are graduate programs that offer advanced level study options. A DNP is the highest level of nursing education available, with possibly the biggest salary potential.

Step 5: Get Your Advanced Practice Nursing Licensure in Practical Nursing

The specific requirements for licensure would depend on your chosen concentration and the location of your job, among other factors.

Types of DNP Programs

There are different types of DNP programs available for aspiring nurses, based on their specific needs such as educational experience and flexibility requirements. The following is a list of the various types of DNP programs:

  • MSN to DNP
  • BSN to DNP
  • RN to DNP
  • Direct Entry DNP Programs

Before opting for a DNP program, students are advised to check program details with the university they are applying to.

Admission Requirements for a DNP Program

Admission requirements for a DNP program will vary according to the institute and specialization selected. However, general admission requirements would involve official transcripts, registered nurse licensure, advance practice certification, letters of recommendation, updated CV, statement of purpose and an in-person interview. Some students might also have to complete specific prerequisite courses, along with clinical placements.

Coursework in a DNP Program

Even though a DNP is a highly specialized degree, the core curriculum for all programs includes the following eight essential areas set by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN):

  • Scientific underpinnings for practice
  • Organizational and systems leadership for quality improvement and systems thinking
  • Clinical scholarship and analytical methods for evidence-based practice
  • Information systems/technology and patient care technology for the improvement and transformation of healthcare
  • Healthcare policy for advocacy in healthcare
  • Interprofessional collaboration for improving patient and population health outcomes
  • Clinical prevention and population health for improving the nation’s health
  • Advanced nursing practice

The AACN also recommends that DNP graduates complete at least 1,000 post-baccalaureate hours of practice. Most programs would also require the completion of a capstone project to meet degree requirements.

Clinical and Lab Components in a DNP Program

DNP programs require the completion of a certain number of hours of clinical practice, depending on the specialization, institute and state licensing laws. In most cases, students will have to complete somewhere between 500 and 1000 hours. There are several types of clinical experiences that can be gained to fulfill this requirement, such as campus immersions, clinical rations, practicums, seminars, residencies, projects and presentations, lab simulations, clinical internships etc.

What to Expect From an Online DNP Program?

An online DNP program can take around two to three years to complete in a full-time study format, or three to four years on a part-time basis. After completing an online DNP program, students can expect to have grown their knowledge and understanding of the field of nursing theories and research practice. In addition to that, they should be able to evaluate, develop and improve nursing practices to deliver enhanced healthcare. Furthermore, online DNP program students would complete their clinical requirements in a healthcare facility defined by their institute, usually in an area close to them.

Should I Get a DNP?

The Doctor of Nursing Practice degree is an advanced program that requires the completion of several years of study. Aspiring nurses who are still unsure about whether they should get a DNP or not, should consider the following factors.

A DNP would allow you to take on leadership roles in healthcare, enabling you to make difficult decisions under stressful conditions. In addition to that, students can specialize in an area of nursing that they are passionate about, such as pediatric primary care, psychiatric mental health and family care etc.

Getting a Doctor of Nursing (DNP) degree would allow nursing professionals to achieve increased job security and enjoy better compensation and benefits. Furthermore, this advanced degree would allow nurses to stay updated in a rapidly evolving field.

Advantages of a DNP

Getting a DNP degree can increase the marketability of nurses and can open up a variety of high-paying positions in the healthcare system. In addition to that, it must be noted that CNMs, CRNAs and NPs will eventually require a DNP, instead of an MSN, which is the current requirement for credentialing.

Disadvantages of a DNP

While there are numerous benefits of getting a DNP, there are several noteworthy disadvantages as well, such as the long time required for completion, especially if the student is working full-time. Furthermore, the degree can lead to positions in academics, though most tenure track positions in this sector are reserved for Ph.D. holders.

What’s the Difference Between a DNP and a Nursing Ph.D.?

The following comparative analysis identifies the main differences between a DNP and a Nursing Ph.D.

DNP vs. Nursing Ph.D.

  • A DNP enables students to develop advanced skills in the practice of nursing, while a Ph.D. would be more focused on research and scholarly components.
  • The coursework of a DNP is more focused on leadership in healthcare and advanced specialty practice while in a Nursing Ph.D. degree, students typically study illness projections and care systems used to treat them.
  • Teaching is an optional element in a DNP degree, while for Nursing Ph.D. students, it is a mandatory requirement.
  • DNP students are required to complete capstone projects, while Nursing Ph.D. students are expected to complete advanced thesis projects.
  • DNP graduates typically find work in leadership roles in large healthcare organizations, while Nursing Ph.D. degree holders commonly go for roles in academic positions.

What Does it Cost to Earn a DNP?

The cost of a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree would vary according to a number of factors, such as the institute’s requirements, format of the program, length of the degree and any additional facilities such as on-campus residence. In addition to that, public schools are relatively less expensive than private nursing schools. It must be noted that DNP programs are significantly more expensive than other advanced nursing degrees. However, there are numerous organizations and resources to assist students with financial aid and grants. Students will also find that after graduation, they can quickly earn back the difference in tuition, thanks to the better job opportunities they will get as a result of the advance degree.