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What is a Doctor of Nursing Practice?

As healthcare continues to evolve and become more complex, the nursing profession will be challenged to meet those ever-changing demands. Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) have unique knowledge and skills to solve many of the healthcare issues being currently faced. This will create unique job opportunities to which those highly educated will be best suited. Those with a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) will be perfectly situated for the job market of tomorrow.

The Doctor of Nursing Practice is a terminal, professional degree that focuses on integrating evidence-based research into the clinical aspects of nursing care and treatment in the hopes of improving clinical outcomes for patients. In contrast, a Doctor of Philosophy degree focuses on conducting research and requires a dissertation to document a contribution to new knowledge.

There are many benefits for nurses seeking a DNP beyond fulfilling personal goals of reaching a terminal degree. Some of these benefits include:

  • Increased knowledge to improve practice
    An APRN with a Doctor of Nursing Practice will feel secure in the fact that they are highly educated and prepared to manage the complex patients of tomorrow. They will have the skills and knowledge to improve clinical practice and continue to contribute to the advancement of healthcare.
  • Enhanced leadership skills to strengthen practice and positively influence healthcare policy
    There is no doubt that the current healthcare market is in a state of constant change with new healthcare policies being implemented faster that solutions can be developed. The APRN with a DNP is uniquely prepared to navigate the ever-changing healthcare environment and be a healthcare leader of tomorrow.
  • Potential for higher reimbursement for services
    As with most professional growth, income growth is also anticipated. A professional with a Doctor of Nursing Practice should expect to be compensated for the knowledge, training and education that they have obtained. According to a 2014 survey conducted by Advance Healthcare Network, nurse practitioners with a DNP earned an average salary of $113, 618, compared with $100, 585 for a nurse practitioner with a master’s degree.
  • Improved patient care outcomes
    In keeping with the goal of the Doctor of Nursing Practice, improved patient care outcomes will continue to be the goal and benefit of seeking a higher degree.
  • Enhanced status of the profession
    Currently, most master’s prepared APRNs are required to take far more credit hours to obtain their degree than other disciplines. Modern, professional students expect the recognition and reward for the hours and work that is dedicated in obtaining a higher degree and will seek other routes to contain costs and time. In addition, with a Doctor of Nursing Practice, the APRN is now on par with other disciplines that require the doctorate as an entry into practice, such as pharmacy and physical therapy.

Seeking a terminal, professional degree is challenging, but with technology and the advancement of education, there are more educational opportunities and routes than ever before. Currently there are more than 260 DNP programs in 48 states. Although one may not be geographically convenient, online DNP programs have become a viable and well sought after option. When enrolled in an online DNP programs, students can work at their own pace while continuing their clinical practice, yet still reap the benefits of a reputable school.


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