Why pursue a doctorate of nursing practice?

Advantages and challenges in pursuing a DNP
Advantages and challenges in pursuing a DNP

NEW ORLEANS — As nurse practitioners progress in their career, they may find themselves asking what's next? Many may consider pursuing advanced degrees, but find themselves turned off by the heavy research load. 

If this sounds familiar, there is a unique degree available for those who are seeking to affect greater change for both patients and the health care system in actual clinical settings — the doctor of nursing practice or DNP. 

“I chose a DNP program because I knew I wanted a clinical doctorate and not a research doctorate,” said Leslie Hopkins, DNP, APRN, BC, FNP-BC, ANP-C. “I knew that I needed this terminal degree to continue along the career trajectory I had set for myself and to continue to have relevance in nursing academia.”

Those who choose to purse their doctor of nursing practice are uniquely positioned to affect significant practical changes in the way health care is delivered, as well as for personal advancement in the workforce, Hopkins, who is the director of the Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner program at Vanderbilt University School of Nursing in Nashville, Tennessee, told The Clinical Advisor.

The DNP program is built for nurses seeking the highest academic degree in nursing practice, offering an alternative to research-focused doctoral programs. Nurses with a DNP are specially trained to put into practice the science developed by nurse researchers who pursue PhD, DNSC, and other research-focused nursing doctorates. 

It can take up to 17 years for research to be developed and put into routine practice. A doctoral-prepared NP shortens that waiting period by bringing these new evidence-based practices to the patients much sooner, Hopkins said.

Change was a core motivator among many DNPs who's responses to a survey about the degree were presented at a poster session during the American Association of Nurse Practitioners 2015 meeting.

One respondent, Valerie Danette Sanford, DNP, APRN, BC, ANP-BC, explained:  “A DNP would allow me to mentor other NPs in assuming greater practice and leadership roles in health care organizations, evaluate and apply research that contributes to better outcomes, and promote a more effective and efficient health care system."

“I want to establish that NPs can deliver equal and effective care as that of a physician,” Sanford added.

“The DNP program has helped me to think more critically about problems I encounter in the clinical setting as well as the educational environment,” said another survey respondent, Kathryn E. Kreider, DNP, APRN, FNP-BC, of Duke University's Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism and Nutrition in Durham, North Carolina.

In 2014, more than 3,000 students graduated with a DNP degree, an increase from previous years, indicating that the field is growing, and with it a need for more nurse practitioners in various settings. 

There are currently 264 DNP programs enrolling students in 48 states and the District of Columbia. From 2013 to 2014, the number of students enrolled in DNP program increased from 14,688 to 18,352, according to the American Association of College of Nursing.

References

  1. Hopkins L et al. “Transition to DNP Practice: Wisdom for the Road Ahead.” Presented at: AANP 2015. June 10-15; New Orleans.
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