For nurses who want to take their career to the next level, a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) may be the perfect solution. If you are considering entering such a program, here is what you need to know about this degree and the doors it can open for your career.
What is a Doctor of Nursing Practice?
A Doctor of Nursing Practice is the highest level of education a nurse can obtain. All nurses admitted to these programs have already earned master’s degrees. A DNP program helps nurses obtain leadership positions within the field and use the science of nursing to improve care for patients.
Various Doctor of Nursing Practice programs may have slightly different areas of emphasis. Depending upon what a nurse wants to do with their degree, they may select a program that has an emphasis on clinical practice, executive leadership, or research. These tracks will help the nurse train and receive the education needed for the position they would like to obtain.
Programs offering a Doctor of Nursing Practice offer courses that incorporate informatics, analytics and research. Classes in physiology and pharmacology are also required. Each course takes the nurse a step further in their understanding of patient treatment. Since the field of medicine consistently sees breakthroughs and advancements, studying for this degree will also help nurses familiarize themselves with the latest research. This allows them to provide optimal care for their patients.
What makes a degree in Doctor of Nursing Practice different from other nursing degrees?
A Doctor of Nursing Practice remains set apart from other higher learning opportunities in nursing in a few ways. DNP programs place a greater emphasis on research and theory. Graduate students learn more about analysis and leadership within a clinical setting. They study ethical decision making and how to run clinical environments. Through practice-based training opportunities, they learn how to take the skills they learn and use them to excel when working. And they gain a better understanding of how to make data-supported decisions.
To complete the program, nurses also need to complete a thesis. This thesis offers opportunities to gain even greater depths of understanding in the nursing areas that interest them most.
What types of jobs can I get with a Doctor of Nursing Practice?
Once you graduate with a Doctor of Nursing Practice, you will have the credentials to pursue a number of different positions. Positions that may include:
- Academic Nurse Leader
- Director of Nursing
- Director of Clinical Services
- Director of Advanced Practice Nurses
- Lead Clinician
- Public Health Coordinator
Some DNP graduates enjoy teaching and want to devote their careers to educating future nurses. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the nursing field will see an expected growth of about 203,200 job openings each year for the next decade—as our population ages and more medical professionals are needed. The nurses who decide to pursue an educational track will find themselves in high demand, ensuring that the nurses of tomorrow are prepared for their careers.
Other nurses with their DNP will elect to enter professions that will allow them to advance or enter leadership positions within a particular nursing specialty. During their clinical training, they have the opportunity to gain the experience and education necessary to take on these greater responsibilities and lead other nurses within the profession.
A nurse practitioner, because of the higher level of education, has more responsibilities compared to other nurses. They have the ability to prescribe medication and diagnosis illnesses, similar to that of a medical doctor.
Depending upon the state where they practice, nurse practitioners may or may not need the supervision of a doctor. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, nurse practitioners can provide between 80 and 90 percent of the care that a primary care physician can offer. This makes them a valuable component of modern healthcare.
Nurse practitioners help to ensure that everyone has access to quality healthcare. The aging population will continue to need more people in medicine to help them. Similarly, people in rural areas might not have access to family medicine doctors. Nurse practitioners can help reach these populations.
Nurses with a Doctor of Nursing Practice may also decide to advocate for healthcare outside of the clinical setting. This might include positions working for public health policy where nurses help educate populations, design health campaigns, and work to keep entire communities.
Would I be a good fit for a Doctor of Nursing Practice program?
Earning a Doctor of Nursing Practice can open many exciting doors for people who want to pursue career paths to the highest levels of nursing. Those interested in the degree should know they will need to dedicate a considerable amount of time and energy to pursuing the degree. Although online programs may make it easier for nurses to continue to work while they earn their degree, it still requires a high amount of dedication to balance work and school obligations.
For nurses who feel dedicated to their program and ready to make the commitment, you also need to examine the prerequisites for your chosen program. Programs will require students to enter with at least a Master of Science in Nursing degree. Having a few years of experience in the field also helps bolster your application and prepares you for what the degree will require.
Determining if entering a Doctor of Nursing Practice program is the best next step for your career requires careful consideration of what you want to accomplish as a nurse and the direction you would like to take your career. If you would love the opportunity to work in leadership positions in a clinical setting, school or within the public health sector, then this degree may be the perfect fit.
If you decide to pursue your Doctor of Nursing Practice, you will need to carefully consider your program options. .. Finding one that offers flexibility and the ability to study online can be an excellent choice. An online program will make it easier to work around your job and family and will offer greater flexibility to study when it is most convenient for you.
At Abilene Christian University, our online Doctor of Nursing Practice program is designed for working nurses like you. It offers the education and experience you need to achieve your dreams within the field of nursing.
If you’re ready to join ACU Online’s vibrant, virtual, Christ-centered community and advance your career with an online DNP, we’d love to hear from you.