For many people, when they think of nurses, they imagine an image of a scrubs-clad professional caring for people in a hospital setting. And while this is certainly a big part of nursing in general, there are many different roles that these professionals play in the workplace. Not all nurses spend time closely supervised under a doctor, and some nurses don’t spend time on the floor working directly with patients at all. Instead, they work behind the scenes to create a safe and effective environment that promotes patient health and recovery.
This article will explain the basics of a DNP degree as well as what aspiring nurses can do with it.
What is a DNP degree?
A DNP degree is an advanced degree – typically the highest degree that nurses can earn. Standing for the Doctor of Nursing Practice degree, a DNP is completed after undergraduate studies. Students typically start working on a DNP degree once they have completed a master’s degree in the nursing field. However, it is sometimes possible to bundle a master’s degree with the doctorate and go straight from undergraduate work into a respected doctorate program.
Furthermore, a DNP is one of two doctorates in nursing. It is a practical degree rather than a scholarly research-based degree like a PhD in nursing. This means that nurses with a DNP can hold both research and practicing jobs. They can work on the floor, interacting directly with patients and directing other nurses, for example, or they can work behind the scenes as a policy maker or a researcher. Regardless of where they wish to go in the nursing field, a DNP is likely the best degree for their careers. It offers a great mix of practical and theoretical knowledge to prepare nurses for a wide variety of roles.
Those familiar with college degrees in general probably already have a good idea about what a doctorate of any kind entails. Doctorates are usually the highest degrees available in each respective field of study, and attaining one positions graduates as experts. Many professors have doctorate degrees, making them an excellent choice for nurses wishing to teach students. A DNP degree is no different. Nurses with a DNP degree are poised to enter the nursing field at the management level. They have proven their knowledge of the field and are ready to put that information to the test. Nurses with a DNP work to better the field for patients and professionals alike.
How can students earn a DNP?
For those wondering how to earn a DNP, the good news is that the path is fairly straightforward. First, students will complete an undergraduate degree in nursing (or a closely related field). Once the undergraduate work has been completed, they will typically move on to a master’s degree program. Completing this graduate degree is often enough to earn students a nurse practitioner license, but continuing education will open the door to even more advanced roles, including policy-based roles and research-based roles.
Once a nurse has completed a master’s degree and are ready to begin their doctorate, the first step is to find the right school. They should pick an accredited university with a history of training and placing graduates in the nursing field. If the student hopes to work while studying, or simply finds that remote work is better for their specific learning style, they can also look for an online degree. The Marymount University Online DNP program, for example, is an excellent choice for students hoping to complete the entirety of their DNP degrees online.
Note that in some cases, it might be possible for students to earn a master’s degree and doctorate concurrently. This allows them to graduate from their undergraduate programs directly into a doctorate-track program. For those who are interested in this, the best course of action is to speak with an advisor. In general, programs dedicated to a doctorate instead of a hybrid degree will be more informative and better place individuals to excel in their chosen field once they have graduated.
With all of that said, why should nurses work towards a DNP degree? A doctorate in nursing holds many benefits.
What are some of the benefits of a DNP degree?
A DNP offers students several benefits in exchange for the years spent studying. From preparing students for leadership roles to offering them the ability to specialize in a field they love, a DNP can have a positive impact on a nurse’s career in many ways. Next, this article will cover three of the most important of these. Nurses are also encouraged to do some independent research to learn more about DNP degrees and how they can help them find the perfect job.
Preparation for leadership roles
The first benefit that DNPs offer is advanced preparation for leadership roles. The curriculum for this degree is highly varied and focuses on both practical nursing and research ability. Students will have to master technical skills just as much as they will the ability to locate reputable sources and analyze them independently.
Because of this diverse coursework, DNPs graduates can take varied roles. They can take on practical managerial roles such as nurse management, which involves direct interaction with nurses and often patients too. They can also work as a chief nursing officer (CNO), which typically involves overseeing nurse managers, registered nurses, nurse educators, and nurse practitioners while completing important administrative tasks.
Specialize in fields that matter
Nurses don’t always get to work in the department they love. As with other jobs, sometimes their work is needed in other areas, and they are assigned elsewhere. Even when registered nurses can work in the fields they love, they are rarely able to take that specialty further than shifts in the department in question. A DNP degree makes it possible for nurses to focus on advanced work in the areas that interest them.
If individuals want to focus entirely on mental health nursing, for example, a DNP puts them in a great position to learn the ins and outs of the field. Some nurses with a DNP can acquire licenses like a nurse practitioner’s license and, by extension, see patients directly and even prescribe certain medications in some states.
Improve job security
While the field of nursing is in high demand right now, a DNP adds even more job security. An individual with advanced knowledge and demonstrated ability can become even more valuable than other registered nurses. Some states and areas of practice even make it possible for doctorate-level nurses to bridge the gap between physicians and nursing staff in the face of an increasing shortage in the industry.
What jobs are available for nurses with a DNP?
After covering what a DNP degree is and why it is highly desirable, this article will take a closer look at some of the leadership job options it brings to students. From working as a high-level executive to shaping healthcare policy and conducting research, here are some of the most popular jobs available to graduates with DNP degrees.
Program directors are responsible for overseeing specific operations or initiatives within their organization. The programs in question can vary from location to location and sometimes include initiatives such as preventative care, improving mental healthcare, and improving patient surveys and experiences. Sometimes program directors are responsible for research-based initiatives too. Their responsibilities include managing budgets, setting goals, training and hiring staff, monitoring activities to ensure compliance, and developing project timelines, among others.
Nurse managers work directly with nursing staff and often serve as intermediaries between executive management and nursing teams. They are responsible for supervising nursing staff, hiring and training nursing staff, ensuring compliance with healthcare policies and regulations, completing incident reports and operations paperwork, and monitoring budgets and staffing gaps, among many others. Nurse managers must master both in-person treatment and business communication abilities, including implementing treatment plans, working closely with nursing staff, and hosting meetings with high-level executives in the facility to discuss pressing issues affecting the workforce.
Chief nursing officer
The CNO role is the most senior of nursing staff positions at most healthcare facilities. These professionals are responsible for overseeing the entirety of the nursing operations in their organizations. This includes hiring, training, and overseeing nurse management as well as developing training and retention programs, creating an environment conducive to excellent nursing, monitoring budgets, and developing policies that improve patient safety and experience. CNOs also develop compensation packages for nurses, broaden the scope of care services provided, and conduct wide-scale performance evaluations.
Nurses with a DNP often choose to enter the field as nurse practitioners. Nurse practitioners are advanced nurses with the ability to diagnose patient conditions and prescribe medication, at least in certain states. The extent of these roles and responsibilities varies in different areas of the US but generally holds true in the majority of the country.
Nurse practitioners have the freedom to explore the fields that interest them and are typically able to progress quite far in their fields of choice. If a nurse’s goal is to work directly with patients, pursuing a nurse practitioner’s license along with a DNP degree is a great way to hit the ground running and begin a long and fruitful career in the industry.
Health policy analyst
Health policy analysts review both potential and current healthcare and community health policies to explore the way policies impact citizens. This includes the way certain policies impact certain demographics and facilities. Sometimes, policies inadvertently make it more difficult for people to seek help. Health policy analysts are responsible for identifying these issues and revising policy initiatives to achieve the goals in question without negatively impacting patients and faculty in the process. They use a variety of tools to do this, including interviewing community members, interviewing healthcare providers, conducting surveys, analyzing data, using statistical models to both identify trends and present findings, and direct interaction with policymakers, be it on a national or organizational level.
In the same vein as a health policy analyst, graduates with a DNP can also work as healthcare lobbyists. These individuals tend to work for professional nursing organizations, government agencies, or insurance companies to lobby on behalf of their interests and change the face of the industry. Lobbyists interact directly with government officials from local to federal levels to build rapport and demonstrate the impact bills and laws have on specific sectors of the healthcare field. They must remain updated about the latest industry trends and conduct their own research into how current events can potentially impact the agenda or message they support.
If a nurse has an interest in politics and law as well as nursing, a healthcare lobbyist position might be the perfect job for them.
DNPs can use their expertise in nursing to build evidence either supporting or changing current practices to improve patient outcomes. From leading research teams in appraising existing evidence to conducting unique and independent research, these professionals work to develop practice guidelines, implement revised guidelines, and evaluate how ‘quality improvement’ methodologies impact staff, patients, and the overall healthcare industry.
DNPs open up leadership opportunities
Working towards an advanced degree positions nurses to make a greater difference in the lives of patients and healthcare professionals alike. A DNP can open up possibilities for nurses to enter into healthcare leadership roles to improve quality of care, staff morale, and the world of healthcare as a whole.