Doctor of Nursing Practice: Education and Career Information
One degree that has become more important in the past few years is the doctorate in nursing practice, usually called a DNP. Today, most nurse practitioners have earned a master’s level degree. Healthcare has experienced an increased demand for medical knowledge, practice expertise, and even technical proficiency. These have contributed to a preference for requiring a doctorate.
The American Associate of Nursing Colleges recently voted to begin shifting the requirements for many advanced nursing practices towards the doctoral level. According to this organization, this advanced degree focuses on improving healthcare quality, promoting systems-based leadership, and creating an evidence-based practice. The doctor in nursing practice degree differs from a Ph.D in nursing or a doctorate in nursing science because it is usually more clinical and less research oriented. At the same time, some graduates with doctorates in nursing practice do participate in or even lead research projects.
What Does a Doctor of Nursing Practice Do?
In practice, an individual with a doctorate in nursing practice is entitled to call themselves a doctor. They are still not an M.D. or D.O. The authority that these healthcare professionals have varies by state. However, they can perform many of the clinical duties and diagnosis that were formerly restricted to medical doctors.
Besides working in healthcare settings, many doctorate-level nurse practitioners may teach student nurses at both the undergraduate and graduate level. Others may conduct their own independent research or participate in teams of researchers. Some of these doctorate-level nurses also work as managers or administrators. They might also work for organizations that help develop healthcare policies.
Very often, nurses with different specific occupations are referred to as advanced practice nurse practitioners, or more simply, nurse practitioners. The nurse practitioner specialty is actually only one focus of these doctoral programs.
These professionals may have different specialties, such as:
•Clinical nurse specialists
•Certified registered nurse anesthetist
How Much Can Doctors of Nursing Practice Earn?
Since this profession is still transitioning from a master’s degree to a doctoral degree requirement, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) still states that the minimum degree required to practice is a master’s degree. Thus, national figures may be somewhat skewed towards nurse practitioners who only have a master’s degree.
In the future, any professionals who are already working probably won’t have to complete a doctorate; but at some point, new people who want to enter these professions may need to obtain one.
These are some national averages for U.S. salaries for advanced care nurse practitioners from the BLS:
•Average annual salary: $107,460
•Average for nurse anesthetists: $160,270
•Average for nurse practitioners: $100,910
•Average for nurse midwives: $99,770
The BLS also mentions that healthcare settings tend to offer the highest salaries. These include hospitals, outpatient care centers, and doctor’s offices. These professions are expected to increase in demand by over 30 percent of the next decade. Though the demand for more advance practice nurse practitioners has also generated a high demand for teachers with a doctorate, educational salaries are somewhat lower. Still, this doctorate should give graduates the chance to qualify for many satisfying and well-paying career opportunities.
What Qualities Will a Successful Advanced Practice Nurse Practitioner Have?
Again, nurse practitioners may assume a variety of different roles in private health, public health, or teaching. Beyond that, they may choose from a variety of specialties. These are general qualities that people who work in the field think are important:
•Like most nurses, nurse practitioners should possess compassion and display good interpersonal skills.
•These advanced practice nurses need to be able to communicate well. They may interact daily with medical doctors, other nurses, administrative staff, and of course, patients.
•Since these professionals often assume teaching, administrative, or senior nursing positions, they need to develop leadership skills and to be resourceful individuals who can think critically.
•Most universities that offer a doctor of nursing practice say that they have very selective admissions policies. Candidates for these programs need to demonstrate good scholarship.
Does a DNP Need to Complete an Internship?
States may vary somewhat for licensing requirements. Typically, these follow the recommendations provided by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. This requirement includes 1,000 clinical internship hours that have all been completed after the undergraduate level. Many students complete a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) before they transition to a doctorate. Internship hours completed at the master’s or doctor’s level can count towards the 1,000 hours.
Typically, students can begin logging internship hours during their second semester in the doctorate program. The requirement for internship hours each semester may vary depending upon previous hours that the student might have already completed in a master’s program.
Educational Requirements for a Doctor of Nursing Practice
Acceptance into DNP programs is generally very competitive. Many programs require students to have already completed a master of science in nursing. Other schools will accept graduates with only a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN), but they warn that acceptance is even more competitive without an advanced degree.
Credit hours varies somewhat by specialty, previous education, and school. For example, the Duke University program requires between 73 and 94 hours for students who enter the program with a BSN. The Nurse Anesthetist program is the most rigorous. Students who already have a master’s degree have to take an average of 35 credit hours, and it takes an average of five or six semesters to complete these hours.
According to Duke University, most students work while they study for their doctorate. At the same time, the school states that the nurse anesthetist program may require full-time study. This particular university has designed programs for working nurses; however, this flexibility may depend upon the school.
The Outlook for Doctor of Nursing Practice Graduates
At all levels, nurses provide vital healthcare services. Numerous studies have demonstrated that patients are actually more satisfied in healthcare settings where nurse practitioners work with doctors. Ambitious nurses who want to enjoy an in-demand career while improving healthcare might consider this degree.