The DNP Degree

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The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree is similar to the PhD in that it is the highest level of education available for nurses. The DNP places an emphasis on clinical practice and leadership training while the PhD focuses on scholarly research and inquiry (All Nursing Schools). In other words, the DNP nurse implements evidence-based, best practices that is generated from the PhD nurse.

Many issues have driven this change in nursing education at the graduate level including increased complexity of patient care, nursing personnel shortages, lack of doctorally-prepared nursing faculty, and increasing educational expectations from other members of the healthcare team (American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), 2016). Nursing is following the course of these health professions in transitioning to a doctoral degree for entry-level practice. Examples from our interprofessional team members include Audiology (AudD), Dentistry (DDS), Medicine (MD), Pharmacy (PharmD), Physical Therapy (DPT), and Psycology (PsyD).

The DNP is a degree (not a role). Nurse Practitioners, Clinical Nurse Specialists, Certified Nurse-Midwives, and Certified Nurse Anesthetists are all eligible to pursue a DNP. There are currently 289 DNP programs in existence and are located in 48 states plus the District of Columbia (AACN, 2016). Nurses who currently hold an MSN are grandfathered into practice and are not expected to return to school to obtain a DNP.

There are many reasons nurses opt to earn a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree: a desire to learn more, career advancement, job requirement, entry-level into practice, or bucket list item. A practice doctorate ensures nursing is on par with other members of the healthcare team (Michigan Center for Nursing, 2016). Although my current role did not require me to pursue my DNP, my choice was motivated by several factors. I wanted to show my kids that learning should never end, have the preparation to lead teams effectively in my facility, and check this off my bucket list :-).

Here is an additional resource for those considering advancing their knowledge. It is a post containing additional information about why another NP chose to pursue her DNP degree:

Susan Thrasher, DNPc, FNP-BC


All Nursing Schools. (ND). Reach the top with a DNP. Retrieved from

American Association of Colleges of Nursing. (2016). DNP fact sheet. Retrieved from

Michigan Center for Nursing. (2016). What does a “Doctor of Nursing Practice” mean to you? Retrieved from


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