Doctorate in Nursing (DNP)

Earning a Doctorate Degree in nursing may sound odd since once you graduate with this degree you will be a doctor of nursing. However, this degree, like other doctorate degrees is simply the pinnacle of the profession. The option of obtaining a PhD in nursing has been available for many years; however, the DNP or Doctor of Nursing Practice is a relatively new degree, having been established in 2004. The degree will better prepare nurses for more complicated healthcare issues and also give them more authority to intervene in healthcare.

PhD or DNP

Nurses who want to advance their career through continuing education now have two different ultimate goals they can strive to attain. The PhD is a doctoral degree in nurse research while the DNP is a doctoral degree for the practicing nurse. Nurses who want to stay in the healthcare field working with patients should focus on the DNP. This degree prepares them to become leaders in the clinical teaching field, clinical practice and other clinical areas with direct patient care.

The DNP is not a doctoral degree that is less than a PhD only different. The nurse with a PhD is more inclined to work in a research field than with patients. Even when these nurses teach, they are often no longer experts in their field of teaching simply due to not being hands on with patients any longer, as PhD holding nurses they have shifted their focus to research and away from the day-to-day dealings with patients.

Need for DNP

While there are many people who argue that nurses should not have a doctoral degree, they are no different than any other profession in that the doctoral degree is simply the pinnacle of their education, just like other professions are awarded doctoral degrees for attaining the highest level of practice now nurses are as well.

In addition to this, there is currently a shortage of professionals in the medical field who fill the role of primary caregiver. A doctor nurse (nurse with a DNP) can step in and fill that role to a certain degree. In fact, the examination given to nurses graduating the DNP program is a modified version of the physician’s exam. Some physicians say they feel threatened by this new role of nurses; however they should be glad that there are others in the medical field willing to fill roles that are otherwise vacant.

Professional Roles

The original intention of the doctorate degree in nursing is to give top qualifications and preparation to advanced practice registered nurses (APNs). Before the advent of the DNP, APNs did not have as much authority to intervene on behalf of their patients and were not as equipped to handle the complex health care system that has emerged.
The DPN will be the required degree for these fields:

  • Certified Nurse Midwife
  • Certified Nurse Anesthetist
  • Nurse Practitioner
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist

Those who are currently practicing in these fields will not be required to go back to school to continue practicing, they will be ‘grandfathered’ in.

Benefits of the DNP

There are many identifiable benefits to this new doctoral degree in addition to keeping pace with the ever-changing and complex world of medicine, some of which include:

  • Enhancement of leadership skills
  • Creation of more advanced skills that correspond to today’s advanced complex medical roles in the clinic and in leadership
  • Improvement in patient outcome through enhanced knowledge and an improvement in the skills
  • The program is better matched to what it offers in terms of requirements and credits given and the degree earned
  • Enhancement of the image of nurses that showcases the time and energy put into obtaining an advanced degree.

The DNP will provide many more benefits to the nursing field and to patients than what is listed here. As more nurses seek out and obtain a doctor of nursing degree, they will find more work as the primary care giver in many situations, such as after-hour health care centers and urgent care facilities.

Many nurses have spent untold number of years working and gaining knowledge that they at one time could only take to a certain level. Now, with the DNP or doctorate degree in nursing, nurses can show that they have reached the highest level in their practice.