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Why nurses with doctorates are more important than ever

The roles that nurses can fill are highly diverse.

Nurses engage in everything from basic care to advanced specialties, and everywhere from hospitals to intensive care units to outpatient clinics to telehealth settings.

Nurses can take a variety of educational pathways into the field, and those varying levels and degrees affect how nursing professionals can practice.

Advancing one’s nursing education increases autonomy and decision-making power. Higher-level certifications for nurses include a Master of Nursing Practice (MNP), earning an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) license in a specialty area, and more.

However, the most prestigious degree nurses can earn is the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). This degree allows its earners unprecedented impact and autonomy in their nursing careers.

Obtaining a DNP can change the game for nurses who want to scale their capacity and level of care in their nursing roles.

How a Doctorate Equips Nurses for More

A DNP degree is the highest level of nursing certification available in the United States.

It allows advanced practice areas and the ability to facilitate more parts of the care process. In many states, having a DNP degree removes the requirement that nurses are supervised by a Medical Doctor (MD) for some practices and care provision types.

Nurses without a DNP are usually required to operate under the purview of another more senior member of staff.

This limits work opportunities and changes the dynamic and experience of the nursing role. While regulations differ slightly across states, nurses with DNPs can legally perform many actions that a nurse without one could not.

These responsibilities can include things like being able to prescribe medication, design and deliver care or treatment plans, refer patients to specialists, and more.

DNPs are also equipped to perform two other functions NPs aren’t often trained or qualified to do.

First, they can teach college-level nursing courses. DNPs can contribute to the education process for nurses following in their footsteps. Second, DNPs can fill the role of primary health care provider in the United States.

DNPs often work as general practice health care providers and can act as a one-stop-shop for many Americans and their health needs.

Having more health care professionals qualified and equipped to perform these functions will be vital to making sure the American healthcare system is able to maintain quality of care for the American population over the coming years.

It benefits the entire system to have more individuals who are capable of disseminating healthcare provision autonomously.

This relieves the burden of care on healthcare personnel and benefits individuals who receive that care.

Obtaining a Doctorate in Nursing

If you are a nurse interested in pursuing a DNP, there are a few details you should know about the process that will help you navigate that decision process and choose the degree program that is right for your situation and goals.

Prerequisite requirements for entering a DNP program can vary by state and program.

In general, however, to pursue a DNP degree you will need to have already obtained your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and be a currently licensed Registered Nurse (RN). There may be GPA stipulations on your BSN performance.

Some programs will also require you to already have a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)-level degree or have completed a specified amount of work experience as a nurse before enrolling.

As you explore program options, it will be important to determine what admission requirements you’ll be able to meet as well as which ones you may not (or not yet) have achieved.

Gathering your documents and transcripts, updating your resume, and more will be helpful as you explore and apply to programs of interest.

Keep in mind as well that programs are designed to qualify you to practice nursing only in certain states. Make sure you check that any DNP programs you’re interested in can certify you for the state in which you’d like to practice.

An important consideration as you decide on the best DNP program for your needs is whether to attend an in-person program or enroll in a virtual one. 

DNP nurse practitioner online programs can be strategic for nurses who are already working, who want to obtain a degree from an institution that is not in their geographical area, or who need the flexibility that an online program offers.

The process of completing a DNP degree can be intensive.

It’s important to know what you’re getting yourself into before you start. Speak with admissions professionals or current or former students to get an accurate idea of the time requirements and structure of the program before beginning.

The financial cost of a DNP program can be a significant outlay and should be given serious thought and consideration as well.

The nature of earning a DNP can be intense and should be explored and considered thoroughly to make sure it will fit your current lifestyle, needs, and career goals.

Pursuing a DNP degree can significantly enhance your nursing career.

It is a strategic option for nurses who want to advance into roles of more autonomy and authority.

The entire healthcare system can benefit from having more nurses who are equipped with the advanced knowledge and capabilities provided by doctorate nursing degrees.

Photo by Ekrulila from Pexels


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