Doctor of Nursing Practice
A Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) is a slightly different degree plan compared to a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) program. The differences include education, skills, and the level of experience a person has. A DNP uses tech, business skills, and healthcare resources to provide best practices. It is the highest level of degree. FNP graduates may provide leadership and management skills to provide hands-on care.
To earn either degree, a student typically must complete a bachelor’s degree to get their RN license. Some may then work to earn a master’s degree. Some may eventually, a post-master program for the DNP program. Both courses usually need licensure. That is, students often must get an education through a school with an accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education or CCNE. They then may have to sit for the national certification. It is only then that they may apply for a license to provide these skills as nursing professionals.
Primary Differences Between FNP and DNP
An FNP usually prepares students to work in management roles in healthcare practices and clinical settings. They tend to work on their own. Some may work in collaboration with other professionals to provide comprehensive care. FNPs generally diagnose and treat patients. They may also manage acute and chronic health needs. This is a master’s level program.
A DNP aims to focus on the management component of nursing. They may use evidence-based skills and best practices on a broader scale. They may oversee changes in healthcare trends. And, they may implement new policies and changes in clinical operations. Many still work with patients, but they may also oversee other providers. Some may also work in private practice. A DNP is a doctoral level program. These individuals are often a registered nurse with both a master’s degree and doctoral degree.
The Role of a Family Nurse Practitioner
The job of a FNP generally is on providing services to patients. Many work with people of all ages. They may handle preventative care, screen for diseases, diagnosis conditions, and treat medical needs. They may order tests like blood work or EKGs. Their goal is typically to enhance the wellbeing of their patients. FNPs often work with healthy and injured people. They may also work with those who have chronic health conditions. Many FNPs do not work in a critical care setting, though.
FNPs typically follow a patient through their lifetime. They may work with infants and children. Many also work with teen through senior patients. They often manage medical needs through that time. That includes pregnancy. A lifespan-approach is typical.
Many times, an FNP works hands-on with patients. They aim to manage health needs of the patient with ongoing treatment and appointments. Many may also work to establish office procedures. They develop patient care plans.
An FNP often pursues a master’s degree after completing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). The master’s program aims to prepare the student to take a certification exam. This may be the American Association of Nurse Practitioners Certification Program (AANPCP) exam. Some students may take the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) Family Nurse Practitioner Exam.
Once the student completes this education and testing, they may meet the eligibility requirements for obtaining their FNP license. This may be in one of the FNP programs they choose to pursue. At that time, registering with the state’s board of nursing may be necessary.
Students may work in a range of locations with this degree. That includes:
- Private practice
- Healthcare clinics
- Medical offices
- Hospitals providing outpatient care
- Family practices
- Urgent care facilities
- Clinical practice
State laws vary somewhat in terms of what those with this degree may do. In some areas, FNPS could work with a licensed physician. Other times, they may be able to open a private practice to provide care on their own. Some may be able to prescribe medications, though not all have this ability due to state laws. Laws could also impact whether an FNP may order diagnostic testing.
Some may have some concentrations in what they do and the care they provide. Those with a Master of Science in Nursing may elect to focus on gerontology or pediatrics. However, many provide care to patients over their lifespan. They are health care providers that aim to educate and support healthy decisions by patients.
The Role of a Doctor of Nursing Practice
Some institutions may carry the same requirements for DNPs as they do for advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). This may include specific areas of nursing such as Nurse Practitioners, Certified Nurse Midwives, Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist, and Clinical Nurse Specialists. Students completing those programs as a master’s degree in science may move forward with their education into a doctoral program.
Those who have worked or studied in these fields may wish to pursue more management or leadership roles. To do that, they often need more skills in those areas. A curricula for DNP often builds on the student’s existing master’s degree programs. They may learn things like systems leadership, evidence-based practice, and quality improvement. Many other areas of focus and concentration may be provided as well.
The DNP degree is considered a terminal degree. It is the last degree a nursing student may earn in most cases. It is a often significantly different program from a research-focused doctoral program. When a student completes this type of program, they may be able to fully implement leadership into the practices they work in already or may take on new positions.
The role of a person completing a DNP program are often significantly different from those of an RNP program. As a practice focused degree, students may gain skills to help them manage and lead practices.
The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) provides some requirements for the education that a student must have in this field obtain a degree. The coursework may include a strong background in nursing therapies and concepts.
Students may also see a significant amount of education in areas of leadership and organizational skills. Teaching leadership tends to be an important part of the process. This is done with a focus on both healthcare systems and business practices, most often.
The DNP program also may put more focus on implementing improvements in healthcare systems. A student may learn how to improve the quality of care provided. They may also learn how to implement new tech to make significant improvements in practices or offices. Many also may learn how to critically analyze the current healthcare policies present. They may then be able to collaborate with other teams to make policy improvements.
The job of a person with this degree tends to overreach other nursing degrees. That is, they may provide patient care. They may also provide oversight of other nurses providing that care as well. They may also focus on building the practice and providing improvements in care to patients.
Some of the programs in this field could also focus on improving communication. A leader may need to interpret facts and gather data, so better decisions are possible. They may need to have the ability to bring people together to collaborate. They may also need to apply data to make changes in the way things are done within the practice. To do that, they may need to have an analytical skillset to weigh all deciding factors.
Those who graduate from a DNP program may work in a range of fields. They may work in a clinical setting. In that position, they may handle more administrative work. However, many could also work in public health, public policy making, and in education.
The doctoral program aims to build healthcare leaders of the future. Some organizations have found that this degree program is critical in transforming healthcare in the country. That includes organizations such as the Institute of Medicine, National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties (NONPF), and the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists (NACNS).
The duties of those completing this program and working as Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS) typically range widely. Yet, they tend to focus on building leadership and healthcare systems using best practices. Many times, these degrees may provide access to the latest insights and innovative approaches to a changing healthcare system as well.
That all indicates that those working in this field may be highly desired to help an organization grow and change to meet the needs of the community. That may include providing support for health promotion and preventative care measures as they become available. The practicum often prepares a student for embracing an evolving nursing system.
What classes may I take with an Online DNP Program?
There may be specific classes you may need to take when completing an online doctor of nursing practice program. These classes vary from school to school, but the basic concepts and materials covered remain the same. Some students may wish to specialize their education. That may impact some of the courses selected. The goal of any course is to help a student gain helpful information. That could enable them to complete their national certification as well.
The following are some courses you may find in an online DNP program and may include the need for clinical experience. Be sure to look at your course offerings carefully. A significant amount of variance applies to each school. The school of nursing program may offer a range of flexibility.
Advanced Health Care Policy
The purpose of this course is to teach students about the American healthcare system. The class may look at the making of policies and their effectiveness. This class may also look at how the healthcare system is affected both politically and economically.
Foundations of Clinical Scholarship
This is the base course of these programs and is often used to enhance and improve the writing skills of the student. This course may use sources not only related to nursing but other scholarly works as well. This course may rely on concept analysis with the use of different strategies.
Ethics for Advanced Nursing Practice
This course typically presents ethical principles as they apply to nursing practice. It may also focus on decision making models throughout the course. Different sources may be used in the analysis of ethical dilemmas faced in a professional setting and in a practice.
Quality and Patient Safety in Advanced Nursing Practice
The goal of this course is to provide students with the foundations of process improvement and quality improvement. The classes aims to focus on theory for patient safety as well as quality. There is an emphasis on systems thinking.
Areas in a DNP Program
Students may have numerous options when it comes to the specialty areas of a doctor of nursing practice program. A DNP degree could be flexible like this for many reasons. Concentration may be in the type of patients or their age range. Other times, concentration may be in the care or long-term goals of the patient. DNP students may focus in many healthcare areas impacting infants to seniors. They may also focus on educational tracks.
Some examples follow. This is not an exhaustive list of concentrations.
A pediatrics DNP program often focuses primarily on the treatment and diagnosis of infants through young adults. This is a usually primary care position. Students typically study issues related to children. This may include areas of development of physical and mental health. It may also include injury and disease treatment typical for those in this age range. Some people may work in clinics, doctor’s offices, hospitals, or private practices after obtaining this degree.
The family DNP works typically as a primary care provider. They may treat and diagnose chronic conditions. They may work to provide preventative care to patients through well visits and screenings. Many may work to provide care for injuries or disease as concerns arise while working to minimize these risks as well. Family DNP clinicians often work with other doctors and specialists when that is necessary for the patient’s best care.
Psychiatric Mental Health
A mental health nurse practitioner specialty often focuses on the mental health of patients many of whom are already under primary care. This concentration may include assessment of mental health of patients of all ages. It may also include diagnosing and treating those who have a recognized mental health disorder. In some states, a person with this license may prescribe medications for treatment to patients. Those with this degree may work in private practices, hospitals, and specialized offices.
In the women’s health concentration, a DNP usually focuses on women’s health issues primarily. Their patient base is typically teen through adult women. They often work to teach and educate women on health needs, provide preventative care, and offer screening services. They may also provide pre-natal and postpartum care. Most often, women’s health DNP providers may work with women through menopause and for mental health needs as well. They may work in practices, hospitals, and clinics.
Students may wish to focus on adult gerontology while in pursuit of a DNP. This particular educational track typically focuses on providing acute care to people as they age. This may include providing primary care services and screenings. It may also include disease treatment and management. Gerontology may also includes some focus on mental health of those who are older. These providers typically focus on preventing, diagnosing, and treating injuries and disease in seniors. Many may work in clinics or private practices.
In the nursing education specialty, the student often prepares to teach future nursing students. This is one course of action where the student often has the plan to continue to stay in the classroom as an educator upon completion of the program. Many of these positions are available at colleges and universities as well as in hospitals, technical and trade schools. Those who want to teach, rather than practice nursing, may find this role a good fit.
How long does it take to complete an DNP Program online?
The amount of time it takes to complete a DNP online program varies based on many factors. The primary goal is to earn the proper number of credits required by the university or college to obtain the degree. Course availability and requirements for admissions play some role in that process. DNP programs typically take from 12 to 36 months to complete after all prerequisites are met.
There may be some ways you could speed up this process. For example, some students may wish to take additional courses in the summer. Some may take extra courses during the typical school year, but complete them online for more flexibility. Also, some schools offer advanced tracks. This may help a student complete the course in a shorter amount of time. Students still often must meet eligibility requirements to sit for their national certification.
Other programs may slow down the process. A student who wishes to take part time classes may need more time to complete all requirements. Yet, this may enable them to work and meet other goals while getting their education. Full time education is not always a requirement.
Scholarships for DNP Programs
Scholarships could be a great way to help offset the cost of education. Typically, scholarships are funds students may not need to pay back in most cases. Students may need to meet specific requirements to earn the scholarship. They may also need to continue to meet goals to maintain it through their educational path.
There are many options available to students based on what they are studying. Students may wish to compare numerous scholarship offers to determine which are available. Sometimes a student may qualify for more than one. This may defray the costs of education significantly. Financial aid may be available to those who qualify.
Below are some examples of available scholarships for those pursuing a nursing degree or DNP degree.
Value: This is a $500 one time non renewable scholarship.
Deadline: December 31
- Application form completion
- Official transcript
- Personal statement
Description: This scholarship is for current or prospective nursing students. This is open to all levels of secondary students. The purpose of this scholarship is to help offset loans and tuition.
Value: There are typically four scholarships awarded per your in increments of $2,500 per semester. This scholarship is non renewable.
Deadline: December 30
- Application form
- Letter of recommendation
Description: This scholarship is for students in a graduate nursing program that is an AACN member institution. In order to be eligible, the student must have at least a 3.5 GPA. If not a member already, winners must join the AACN Graduate Student Nursing Academy (GNSA) and make a post summarizing their essay.
Deadline: April 28
- Acceptance letter
- Statement of goals
- Copy of nursing license
- Official transcript
- Verification of tuition costs
- Application form
- Two letters of recommendation
Description: This award is for students who are in good standing as a member of the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA). Students must be pursuing an MSN and have a minimum of a 3.0 GPA as well.
Value: There are typically a total of 40 scholarships that are awarded. There are ten for $10,000 and 30 for $5,000. These scholarships are for one year and they are non renewable.
Deadline: June 27
- Two essays
- Application form
Description: This scholarship program is designed to help those students who have already completed at least one of ear of school in a healthcare program. The primary basis for this award is demonstration of leadership as well as academic performance.
Value: This is a $2,000 non renewable scholarship. There may be up to seven recipients for this award.
Deadline: March 31
- Application form
Description: This award is for any student who is in nursing school anywhere in the US. The applicant for the award needs to watch the “A Nurse I Am” documentary in either the 32 or 62 minute version. It is recommended that the applicant watch both videos.
Nursing or General Healthcare (that includes Nursing): This is an offer for educational opportunities that may lead to employment and not an offer or guarantee of employment and that may help prepare students to meet the licensing or certification requirements of the field they choose to study. Students should check with the appropriate licensing or certifying body to make sure the program they apply to will help meet any licensing or certification requirements. Students should also consult with a representative from the school they select to learn more about career opportunities in that field. Program outcomes vary according to each institution's specific program curriculum.
Purdue University Global
Binghamton University (S.U.N.Y.)
Sacred Heart University