What Is a Doctor of Nursing Practice

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Doctor of Nursing Practice Degree: Definition

The Doctor of Nursing Practice degree (DNP) is one of two available doctorate degrees in the nursing field. It is a terminal degree, which means that it is the highest level of education for nurses.

This degree option is new in comparison to the PhD, as it was introduced only in 2004. Since then, this doctoral degree has been seen as an opportunity for nurses to gain knowledge in evidence-based practice and thus improve the quality of patient care.

It is considered that nurses with a DNP degree can influence the outcomes of nurse care and thus influence the future of healthcare. That’s why nowadays, a DNP degree is frequently required for becoming an advanced practiсing registered nurse or taking nurse leadership positions.

DNP vs PhD: Key Differences

As we mentioned earlier, there are two main doctoral degrees that are terminal for nurses — the DNP and the PhD. What is the difference between these two degrees? Here is a short explanation.

The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree is more research-based. Although it is eligible for nurses with a PhD degree to work as nurse practitioners, this degree is more suitable for those who are interested in working in research or academic settings.

Meanwhile, the Doctor of Nursing Practice is designed for nurses who are more interested in moving to nurse leadership roles or becoming nursing practitioners rather than focusing on scientific work. Thus, earning a DNP degree is more relevant for nurses who are.

Job Opportunities for DNP Graduates

It is important to understand that DNP is not a role itself. It is just a degree that allows nurses to enhance their capabilities in a certain specialization. So, what are the possible career paths for nurses who are pursuing a DNP degree? Basically, there are two main options:

  • Advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs)
  • Nurses in leadership positions

The first career path for DNP graduates is to work as advanced practice nurses. It means to be directly involved in providing nursing care to patients. There are different roles for DNP graduates in advanced practice nursing:

  • Nurse practitioner
  • Nurse anesthetist
  • Clinical nurse specialist
  • Nurse midwife

The second career opportunity is to work in positions of nursing leadership and administration. Examples of such roles are clinical nurse manager, healthcare administrator, and patient care director.

Why Should You Choose to Earn a DNP Degree?

What benefits does DPN have for nurses? Here are the reasons for pursuing a DNP degree:

  • The modern healthcare system demands more capable leaders to improve the quality of care. And pursuing a DNP degree allows nurses to gain comprehensive knowledge to keep up with changes and improve better patient care.
  • With a DNP degree, there are better job opportunities available. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary is projected to increase through 2030.
  • A DPN degree is more and more frequently required for nursing leadership positions. This doctorate degree is likely to become a standard requirement for getting a license for advanced practice nursing.

Hence, there are plenty of benefits from earning a DNP degree for nurses who are planning to become nurse practitioners.