DNP Doctor of Nursing Practice Programs

DNP stands for Doctor of Nursing Practice. Whereas the Doctor of Nursing Philosophy (PhD) is research-oriented, the DNP is a practice doctorate degree where graduates use research to influence their practice. Doctor of Nursing Practice programs address the critical analytic skills needed to translate evidence-based care into practice, in order to improve systems of care, and to measure outcomes of groups of patients, populations, and communities.

Nurse Practitioner Doctorate Program Information

What is a DNP Doctor of Nursing Practice Program?

The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) is an advanced degree that focuses on the clinical aspects of nursing to help prepare students to pursue careers as an advanced nurse provider—such as a nurse practitioner. As such, coursework may focus on areas such as leadership, systems management, quality improvement and advanced practice, diagnoses and treatment.

In order to earn your DNP, you must have already earned your MSN—or alternatively you may be able to enroll in an RN to MSN to DNP bridge program to condense your studies[i]. Often, nursing students search for BSN to DNP Programs as well, so finding a doctorate in nursing program should be based, in large part, on what your present education level is.

In general, Doctor of Nursing Practice programs take nursing theory and science to the next level. This may involve things like examining current theoretical foundations of healthcare practice; designing and evaluating clinical solutions; organizational leadership; and implementing strategies for improved patient outcomes. There is typically a capstone requirement for completion of the degree.

Why earn a Doctorate of Nursing Practice DNP Degree?

So what are the potential benefits of earning your Doctorate of Nursing Practice? In 2004, American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) officially called to make the doctor of nursing practice the new standard for practice—replacing the MSN—by 2015. The AACN made this endorsement after performing close to three years of research through a task force with the goal of examining the need for an evidence-based practice doctorate[ii].

Some of the reasons that the AACN cites to support why advanced nurse practitioners should move toward the DNP include:

  • Changing demands of the healthcare environment that require the highest level of scientific knowledge and practice expertise[ii]
  • Increased complexity of patient care[ii]
  • National concerns about patient safety and quality of care[ii]
  • Shortages of doctorate in nursing -prepared nursing faculty[ii]
  • Increasing education expectations for preparation of other members of the healthcare team[ii]

And it’s not only the AACN that’s weighing in on the value of a Doctorate of Nursing Practice. According to the National Association of Neonatal Nurses (NANN), the perceived benefits of making the DNP the standard include:

  • Enhanced leadership skills to strengthen practice[iii]
  • Enhanced knowledge to improve healthcare delivery[ii]
  • Greater status for the advanced nursing profession[iii]
  • Potentially higher reimbursement for services[iii]
  • Improved patient care outcomes[iii]

Campus or Online DNP Programs?

Prospective candidates can choose between traditional campus or online DNP programs. If you prefer attending a graduate nursing school in person, use the location settings on GradSchools.com to find programs in your city, another state or even a foreign country. If distance-learning appeals to your schedule, review the options for online doctor of nursing practice programs such as Online Doctor of Nursing Practice –Family Nurse Practitioner Track (BSN-DNP)

What Can I Do With a Doctor of Nursing Practice Degree?

DNP Graduates may find potential careers opportunities that won’t necessarily have to do with hands-on nursing. For instance, a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) graduate might work as a nurse executive in a hospital or clinic, while a doctor of nursing philosophy (PhD) graduate may focus on scholarly research.

If you have chosen a Doctor of Nursing Practice Specialty, such as midwifery, Nurse Anesthesiology, Nurse Practitioner, Clinical Nurse Specialist, or other niche area, you'll need to keep your certification up to date with the appropriate certifying body. That being said, the job outlook is extremely positive for Advanced Practice Registered Nurses, with a projected employment growth average of 31% between 2014 and 2024 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics[iv].

Ready to Search For a Doctor of Nursing Practice Program?

If you’re interested in pursuing a career as a nurse practitioner, pursuing a Doctor of Nursing Practice may be a good way for you to help ensure that your advanced nursing skills and theoretical knowledge have been taken to the highest level. In the fast-paced and ever-changing field of nursing, it’s always beneficial to stay at the top of your game when it comes to science, technology and practice.


Sources: [i] bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nurse-anesthetists-nurse-midwives-and-nurse-practitioners.htm | [ii] aacn.nche.edu/media-relations/fact-sheets/dnp | [iii] nann.org/pdf/DNPEntry.pdf | [iv] bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nurse-anesthetists-nurse-midwives-and-nurse-practitioners.htm

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