Doctorate of Nursing Programs: DNP vs. PhD in Massachusetts
Doctorates in Nursing Programs award top tier terminal degrees for nurses, namely the
Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Nursing. Nurses who enroll in doctorate nursing programs often choose an area of emphasis such as nursing education, nurse leadership or family nurse practitioner. In these programs, students could advance their education, indicate expertise in a clinical practice area and learn to use nursing science and current research to best improve care for patients.
Doctorate Degree in Nursing Programs: DNP vs. PhD
While both the DNP and PhD are academically equal to Doctorate in Nursing Programs, they are not the same degree. In general terms, the DNP is a practice-based doctorate, while the PhD in Nursing is a research-focused degree. Consequently, the scope of coursework and requirements to earn either doctorate degree could vary greatly.
Why should I earn a DNP in Massachusetts?
A Doctor of Nursing Practice (shortened, DNP) degree is a practice focused doctorate degree designed to prepare experts in specialized advanced nursing practice. The content of DNP programs is often include innovative and evidence-based practice, which means that nurses could study concepts and then, might learn to apply them into practitioner nursing roles. In fact, the 2004 DNP position statement by the AACN recommends the DNP replace the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) as the entry level education for the nursing profession.
DNP programs typically comprise the DNP Essential competencies and “specialty competencies” that are core to all advanced practice nursing roles. DNP essentials are defined by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) as the eight areas that could prepare all nurses regardless of their chosen area of emphasis or functional focus. The names and course titles could vary some between schools.
- Scientific Underpinnings of Practice
- Organizational and Systems Leadership
- Clinical Scholarship and Analytical Methods
- Information Systems and Technology
- Health Care Policy and Advocacy
- Inter-professional Collaboration
- Clinical Prevention and Population Health
- Advanced Nursing Practice
The other significant part to a DNP program is the focused knowledge for an advanced practice nurse function. It is important since these roles often require specific licensure, credentialing, liability and reimbursement issues.
Coursework is typically geared to include the four nationally-recognized Advanced Practice Registered Nursing (APRN) roles: (1) nurse practitioners, (2) clinical nurse specialists, (3) nurse anesthetists, and (4) nurse midwives.
All DNP graduates who are prepared academically and clinically for these roles must then be prepared to take national exams related to their field of practice.
Aside from coursework, and to earn their DNP degree, students must complete a clinical project that demonstrates intimate knowledge of evidenced-based practices. The DNP project might consist of a clinical paper, presentation or other practice-based work, as per one’s nursing school requirements.
While it could vary, DNP students who enter their program with a BSN degree might need to complete between 70 and 95 credits and complete up to 1,000 hours of clinical work. Fewer credits are typically required for students who pursue a Doctor of Nursing Practice after their MSN degree.
Admission criteria for DNP programs varies. In some schools, students need a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing or an entry-level nursing masters degree (from an accredited college or university). Aside from transcripts, some of the additional application material that students might need to furnish could include the items below.
- Current RN license
- One year RN experience
- Current resume or CV
- Goal statement
- GRE scores
- Faculty interview
- Undergraduate statistics
How Long Does it Take to Earn a DNP degree? The time it takes to complete a DNP degree could vary. Some DNP programs might take between 3 to 5 years, but this is often affected by one’s level of education when they initiate their studies.
What Is a PhD in Nursing?
A Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Nursing is designed to prepare nurse scientists and scholars. As such, they are weighted more heavily with scientific content, meta theory and research methodology. Through their studies, PhD nursing students could gain the ability to combine logical critical and scientific thinking with ethical research design. While a variable, some PhD nursing programs might entail about 45 to 60 credit hours for students who enter their program with a master's degree.
Apart from coursework, and a written exam, PhD nursing students are required to present an original research project and must complete and defend a dissertation or linked research papers. I Often, this in-depth research is faculty guided or supervised.
Curriculums for PhD Nursing programs in some schools are devoted to nursing core courses, public health statistics, electives and dissertation courses. Nursing core courses might emphasize theory and science, and while course names could differ in each school, below are some sample topics.
- Philosophical Perspectives in Health
- Scientific Perspectives in Nursing
- Quantitative and Qualitative Research Methods
- Research Design
- Grant Writing
- Measurement in Health Care Research
- Role of Nurse Scientist
Admission criteria for PhD in Nursing in Massachusetts is likely to vary. Some schools require applicants to have graduated from an accredited Bachelors and Masters in Nursing program. Other material that may need to be furnished with an application (aside from transcripts), could include the following.
- Copy of RN license if applicable
- GRE scores
- Written statement about research goals
- Research interests that match faculty experience and school resources
- Minimum GPA
- Sample of writing
- Resume or CV
- Letters of reference
How Long Does it Take to Complete a PhD in Nursing?
The time needed to complete a PhD in Nursing could vary. Some students might earn their PhD in about 3 to 4 years or longer.
Accelerated DNP programs may take two years or less to earn, and they often take place online. Learn more about 5 online DNP programs that may be completed in 24 months or less.
Types of Doctorate in Nursing Programs and What you Could Learn
Doctorate in Nursing programs could be available in different formats and with distinct areas of emphasis (concentrations). Admissions advisors could be a great resource to help you pair your goals and level of education with a program that may suit you.
Doctorate Nursing Programs: Formats
How do you learn most optimally? Do you prefer to interact with others? Are you an at-work nurse who needs some flexibility in their schedule? How much travel time do you have? How much time could you devote to your studies – full-time or part-time?
The answers are personal, but could indicate a preference for one of three formats: (1) online, (2) on-campus, (3) hybrid. Here are some potential features of each to help familiarize you. When you find a style that interests you, use it to filter the kinds of nursing graduate schools and Doctorate Nursing Programs that you prefer.
Online Doctorate in Nursing Programs could feature web-based academic courses that students either log into when they are able, and/or take part in through live video conferences. Practical skills might be gained through on-campus sessions, and practicums may be competed in person at an approved site that could be local.
Hybrid Doctorate in Nursing Programs typically meld online coursework with residencies where students meet on campus for different intervals or courses.
Campus Doctorate in Nursing Programs are hands-on and face-to-face. Courses are sometimes given at accessible times for at-work nurses (evenings, weekends), so it isn’t necessarily an inconvenient format. For some, the ritual of a schedule is a great motivator.
BSN to DNP Programs in Massachusetts
BSN to DNP programs are built to take students from their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) to a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). Typically, curriculums are planned-out to include core nursing courses and clinical practice hours. Additionally, students often select an area of emphasis such as nurse executive, nursing informatics or nurse practitioner. Then, take specific courses appropriate to their choice.
MSN to DNP Programs
MSN to DNP programs are built to take students from their Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) to a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). Curriculums often include required MSN courses such as advanced health assessment, advanced pharmacology, advanced pathophysiology, and primary care. Students then may need to pass an advanced practice exam before they move onto DNP core and emphasis courses.
Post-Masters DNP Programs
Post-Masters DNP programs (also called APRN to DNP) are often intended for nurse practitioners, clinical nurse leaders, midwives, nurse anesthetists, nurse executives and nurse educators as well as other master's-prepared nurses. In some schools, students may need to complete about 39 credits of courses, some clinical hours, and a final DNP project.
ADN to DNP programs
ADN to DNP programs might help pre-baccalaureate students who have an Associates degree in Nursing (ADN) pursue a DNP. In some schools, students might need to complete about 109 credits and 1,565 clinical hours. The first part of the program is usually designed to help students learn key nursing courses and skills to prepare them to take their RN licensure exam. Successful students then could take MSN courses to prepare for their APN exam. Once passed, the DNP courses begin.
Doctor of Education (EdD) in Nursing Education
A Doctor of Education (EdD) in Nursing Education is a terminal degree in education that some nurses might pursue to develop scholarship, conduct research and enhance leadership skills.
Applicants may need a masters degree in nursing, or a masters degree in a closely related field with a current RN license for entrance into some EdD programs. Coursework could cover topics such as how to teach with technology, plan lessons and evaluate student outcomes.
DID YOU KNOW? Doctoral programs in nursing fall into two principal types: research-focused and practice-focused.
Doctorate in Nursing Programs: Concentrations
Whether you want to research into a specific area or refine your skill sets, Doctorate in Nursing Programs tend to offer (a) concentration area(s). If you know what type of focus you want to anchor your doctorate degree in, use it to help narrow choices for schools. Below is a brief synopsis of some of these areas of study. Discover more possible choices as you read about individual programs.
DNP - Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS): A CNS is a clinical expert in the diagnosis and treatment of illness, and the delivery of evidence-based nursing interventions. Clinical nurse specialists might receive advanced instruction in medical regimens associated with the diagnosis and treatment of disease for a designated population. Adult gerontology health, adult gerontology critical care, and pediatric critical care are some examples.
DNP - Nursing Administration: A focus in Nursing administration could prepare nurses to lead. Coursework could cover nursing information systems, marketing, and management topics. An administrative practicum and courses in organizational behavior, health policy and innovation could round out a course of study.
DNP - Nurse Practitioner (NP): Nurse Practitioners (NPs) blend clinical expertise with disease prevention and health management, and may use their public health skills to guide patients to make smarter lifestyle choices. State laws dictate the scope of their practice however, NPs might receive instruction to diagnose and treat conditions, prescribe medications and conduct diagnostic tests, design treatment plans with patients, and teach patients how to manage illnesses and medications. Many choose to pursue education to meet the health care needs of specific populations such as family, pediatric, women’s health or psychiatric care.
DNP - Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP): Family nurse practitioners provide primary and specialty care to patients and their families through their lifespan. The scope of their duties could vary by state, but coursework could include diagnosis and treatment of illness, health assessment and family systems.
DNP - Nurse Midwifery: Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) coursework could prepare students to provide primary health care to women through their lifespan. CNMs also deliver babies and provide gynecological and family planning services. Therefore students could take courses about women’s reproductive health, pregnancy, postpartum and newborn care.
Accreditation for Doctorate Nursing Programs in Massachusetts
Universities that offer DNP and PhD in Nursing programs may be regionally accredited. Typically, it is suggested that nurses seek accredited programs since state licensure boards may want to see that a student graduated from a legitimate program. According to the BLS, the two agencies that might accredit Doctorate in Nursing programs are the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) and by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).
Why study to earn a DNP or PhD in Nursing? Per the BLS, employment of APRN nurses is projected to grow at a rate of 45% from 2020 to 2030 (Source: BLS.gov). Also, the average annual salary for nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners in Massachusetts was $117,670 in May 2020 per BLS. (Source: BLS.gov)
written by Rana Waxman
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Schools with Doctor of Nursing in Massachusetts
GradSchools.com offers 3 Doctorate of Nursing Programs in Massachusetts
Grand Canyon University
Purdue University Global
MGH Institute Of Health Professions