What is a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) and What Can You Do With It?

While there are a variety of personally and professionally rewarding careers that an individual could opt to pursue, choosing to work within the field of nursing can be particularly rewarding. In many cases, people who complete undergraduate work in the nursing sector find that they wish to expand their knowledge and experience by attaining graduate degrees such as the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). By learning more about this degree, you can decide whether pursuing this educational opportunity would be the best way to advance your professional career.

Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) – The Basics

Currently, students wishing to pursue an advanced nursing degree can opt for a degree on the master’s or doctoral level. However, by the year 2015, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing has endorsed that all advanced nursing practice degrees be moved from the master’s degree to the doctorate-level. The details of this endorsement are laid out in their Position Statement on the Practice Doctorate in Nursing.

Broadly defined, the DNP is an advanced nursing degree that prepares students to attain and utilize the skills necessary for translating evidence-based ideologies of care into praxis, to improve upon those systems of care, and also to measure their outcomes on patients and the broader community (see: DNP Fact Sheet). Students can typically enter a DNP program after obtaining a Master’s or Bachelor’s degree in nursing.

Although the DNP can be utilized in a plethora of ways, it is particularly helpful in preparing students to play a role in advanced practice nursing, practice inquiry, and leadership. Advanced practice nursing enables the student to apply for national certification within a specialty. Practice inquiry places primacy upon analyzing evidence and translating that evidence into practice. Operating within the leadership sector includes the use of organizations/systems, policy, and information technology while also incorporating inter-personal collaboration in contexts that pertain to social justice. DNP graduates can operate within several spheres of leadership following graduation, including but not limited to systems management and quality improvement.

DNP Degree Tracks

Individuals who opt to pursue a DNP should note that there are a variety of specializations they can obtain by completing an advanced practice nursing track. Some of them include:

Adult Clinical Nurse Specialist (ACNS)
Adult Nurse Practitioner (ANP)
Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)
Community Health Nursing (CHN)
Nurse-Midwifery (NM)
Neonatal Clinical Nurse Specialist (NCNS)
Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (NNP)
Pediatric Clinical Nurse Specialist (PCNS)
Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP)
Perinatal Nurse Specialist (PNS)
Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP)

Completing a DNP program will generally take between one to three years depending upon whether the student has obtained a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree.

DNP – Educational Requirements

Students who pursue the DNP will typically be required to complete anywhere from 73 to 94 credit hours. Some of the courses that students will generally take include:

Quantitative Methods
Evidence Based Practice
Data Driven Health Care Improvements
Clinical Data Management
Advanced Nursing Leadership
Transformation of Health Care Systems

DNP – Careers

Individuals who obtain a DNP will be prepared to work in a variety of positions and environments, such as an executive for a health care organization, manager of quality initiatives, faculty member for program delivery, or a director of clinical programs.
One career an individual with a DNP could pursue is that of a Medical and Health Services Manager. These individuals are responsible for the planning, directing, and coordination of medical services. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, individuals who hold this title can expect to earn about $88,580 annually.

If you are thinking about pursuing an advanced degree in nursing, you should know that obtaining a DNP can help make you a marketable job candidate. By reviewing the information found above, you can determine whether this would be the right educational path for you to pursue.

Additional Resource: What Are the Different Levels of Nursing Degrees?