Become A Nurse

Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Programs

Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Programs

Our current healthcare system leaves a lot to be desired. If you want to improve it with meaningful suggestions that have a long-lasting impact, if you genuinely care about maximizing the quality of clinical and patient care, if you’re passionate about this profession and its future, then you can help move it forward and completely transform it by earning a doctoral degree in nursing. Albeit a seemingly daunting task, it is a necessary and urgent step for the healthcare industry as a whole for more and more nurses to join higher levels of education and move into leadership roles. If you plan on being one of them, here is everything you need to know about obtaining and successfully using your DNP.

Who is this program for?

DNPs are a somewhat new phenomenon in nursing education. They are designed for nurses who want to be game-changers in the industry. Whether it’s discovering new, life-changing research, taking up management positions and excelling at them or entirely redefining nursing practice, a doctoral degree is both revolutionary and highly requested in healthcare today. Currently, only 1% of the country’s nurses have this type of certification. And the results are unsettling. Serious reform and engagement are necessary to prevent the present system from collapsing.

Although working with a BSN or an MSN is a more comfortable position, it is also one that jeopardizes the future of nursing if you can advance towards a Ph.D. or DNP but choose not to. This is not to say that you must climb further up the academic ladder, but rather that you have the option to help save the system with your valuable input and dedication. Although it is a very time-consuming and draining task, earning your doctoral degree allows you to make real changes and drastically improve the shortcomings or even harmful aspects of healthcare. If you are passionate about this profession, this is the right next step for you.

Maybe your interest does not necessarily lie with the industry as a whole, but rather with advancing in your career or landing a high-paying, executive or management job. In this case, a DNP is the most valuable decision you can take. It will open up fresh and forefront professional opportunities for you, as well as grant you access to the most sought-after leadership positions. If your focus is on clinical practice, a DNP will consolidate and amplify all of your previous experience, while at the same time addressing the nursing shortage. You will also have the possibility to become an exceptional teacher and to pass on what you have learned to the following generation of healthcare workers. Your income will also increase immensely or even double, depending on your current specialization.

What can a Doctoral Degree in Nursing do for you?

Put simply, a DNP will help you become a key player in today’s nursing environment. You will master complex care delivery, management, and education, impact health outcomes, as well as translate the latest, most innovating research into practice. You will be able to become a mentor, a coordinator, a teacher or a decision-maker. You will have the ability to implement powerful, long-lasting policies and procedures that are backed up by raw data. And you will always be at the top of all of the exciting future changes to healthcare.

Probably one of the most convincing benefits of investing more resources, energy and time into the highest levels of education is the extremely rewarding financial component of working as a DNP holder. You’re easily looking at an annual salary of $100,000 with a doctoral degree and a generous chance of improving that figure, depending on what type of role you want to pursue in the future.

A major benefit of earning a DNP (as opposed to a Ph.D.) is also that you are not required to step away from the bedside unless you want to. You don’t need to abandon the nitty-gritty, lively part of nursing for academic and managerial tasks behind an office. On the contrary, this certification will immerse you more fully into clinical care and ensure that you can put into practice some of the most recent science in the medical field. Of course, if you are more inclined towards executive roles, you can also apply for those or make the switch in your later years.

What are the requirements for the program?

The ideal candidate for a DNP program has a GPA of 3.0 or higher on a 4.0 scale, practices as a Registered Nurse and has licensure in the state in which the future studies or work will occur. The admission criteria vary according to whether or not you have an MSN and if you are entering the program solely with a BSN. But a minimal requirement is that you are a graduate of either a Master’s in Nursing or a Bachelor’s in Nursing program. Also, your RN licensure has to be unrestricted, active and accompanied by a goal statement which successfully articulates the direction, ramifications and motivation behind your academic and career path, as well as how pursuing a DNP will relate to or enhance your area of specialization.

Aside from a personal statement, you will also need to submit transcripts from all of the post-secondary institutions you have attended, certification as an advanced practice nurse (where needed) and a curriculum vitae (CV) which details your expertise, your previous roles and any resourceful qualifications or traits that you have acquired from them, as well as your academic and work history and any relevant volunteer activities you have engaged in. You will also need an undergraduate statistics course and knowledge of graduate research methods (if you studied at a Master’s level). Lastly, you have to bring three letters of reference from mentors, teachers or colleagues that attest to your work experience and personal character, but also assess your academic skills and leadership potential. Once the admission process has begun, you might be asked to attend an interview, either in-person or via telephone.

What will you learn?

A DNP program will teach you how to administer various organizational systems, how to use management theory in your nursing practice, how to evaluate and implement change in the healthcare industry, how to create and materialize business plans, and much more. You will learn about philosophical, theoretical and historical perspectives in ethics, crucial legal issues of advanced practice, hypothesis testing, statistical analysis, consumer health informatics, quality improvement and assessment of health policies. Additionally, you will study and attempt to solve the current health care crisis by focusing your attention on topics like globalization, cost, public access and equity.

You will consistently find and examine improved methods of providing safe, timely and high-quality patient care in an efficient and holistic manner. After completing your studies, you will have the credentials and power to implement these changes and make a real difference to the current healthcare system. The program will also teach you everything you need to know about business risk management and malpractice, leadership, federal practice regulations, organizational behavior, clinical application of theoretical models, data collection and analysis, advanced research techniques, population health and observational science. Your teachers will explain how to interpret epidemiological literature, how to handle regulatory initiatives, how to critically read published research, as well as how to tackle economical and legislative challenges to the healthcare system.

Without further ado, here are the main course outlines you will be concerned with during your studies:

  • Biostatistics
  • Epidemiology
  • Introduction to Clinical Ethics
  • Fundamentals of Comprehensive Care
  • Psychopharmacology for the Advanced Practice Nurse
  • Incorporating Genetics and Genomics in Advanced Nursing Practice
  • Advanced Research Methods
  • Health Policy
  • Quality Improvement in Health Care
  • Professional Leadership and Practice Change
  • Ethical and Legal Issues in Advanced Practice
  • Principles of Environmental Health
  • Translation and Synthesis of Evidence for Optimal Outcomes
  • Field Experience
  • Informatics for Practice

How long does the program take?

A DNP program takes anywhere between 3 to 5 years to complete. The number of hours required to earn your certification will vary according to the specialization you apply for and your level of healthcare education before admission. Another decisive factor is whether or not you want to dedicate your time entirely to your doctoral program. You can enroll in these studies full-time or part-time if you have a job you want to keep working at while you improve your qualifications or other responsibilities that prevent you from attending the university classes for several hours every day. Remember that a part-time program will require four years to up to seven years to carry out.

How many clinical hours does the program entail?

A DNP program undoubtedly includes an extensive amount of clinical hours. However, the exact number required depends on your specialization, chosen school and previous academic education and certifications acquired. For instance, if you are enrolling in the program as a BSN holder, you will have to complete up to 100 credit hours and a minimum of 1,000 clinical hours for most universities. If on the other hand, you are joining an MSN to DNP track, then half of that amount will suffice – 50 credit hours and at least 500 clinical hours. Unlike a Ph.D., which emphasizes research and management innovations, a DNP has a pervasive clinical focus that allows you to implement that research, theory and leadership plans directly into the system, as well as to be intimately involved with when, where and how these changes are enforced.

Can you study for a DNP online?

Absolutely. A DNP may seem like an overbearing, burdensome and intimidating feat to achieve, but it is not an impossible task and certainly not one you have to sacrifice your career or family life for. You can earn your doctoral degree from the comfort of your home – employers and superiors are remarkably open-minded and understanding towards online alternatives when it comes to DNP certifications. If you’re highly passionate about leadership or executive role or about a particular specialization that requires further education to practice, do not fret! You don’t have to lose everything you’ve worked so hard for until now or give up life for the next four to five years or even take time off from work. You can manage a program like this while also performing excellently at your job and honoring all of your other life commitments at the same time.

An online option will not force you into your worst nightmare, i.e., leaving the front lines of nursing to sit behind an academic desk. You will still be fully involved and engaged with the nuts and bolts of healthcare, but also have the possibility to learn all about translating advanced, groundbreaking research into patient care plans, actions and policies to improve quality and health outcomes. Pursuing the online route ensures that you do not have to make any compromises that you don’t want to make, while at the same time allowing you to pursue leading positions, high-level education goals, and career paths or your dream job.

Combining interactive coursework, writing tests, advanced practice leadership and discussion groups, online programs offer outstanding DNP programs (whether you are interested in executive positions, family, geriatric and pediatric care or clinical work). Here is a list of the primary universities with the best and most resourceful online DNP programs available:

  • University of Arkansas
  • University of Central Florida
  • University of South Alabama
  • University of Colorado Denver
  • University of Iowa
  • Medical University of South Carolina
  • University of Massachusetts
  • University of Utah
  • Saint Louis University
  • Western University of Health Sciences
  • University of Nevada
  • Idaho State University
  • Augusta University
  • University of Oklahoma
  • Frontier Nursing University
  • University of Missouri
  • Purdue University
  • East Carolina University
  • Indiana State University
  • New Mexico State University
  • Delta State University
  • Texas Tech University
  • Gardner-Webb University
  • Saint Francis Medical Center College of Nursing

How much does the program cost?

Doctoral programs generally cost up to $2,000 per credit. The price for a standard DNP track is estimated to be between $70,000 and $75,000 per three semesters for full-time students. If you are interested in part-time, the costs will be somewhere along the $55,000 figure. Online programs are no different. There are also several additional fees that you need to be aware of. These include the matriculation fee (around $300), the non-refundable acceptance fee (varies according to school, but typically $600), the technology fee (another $600) and the lab fee (up to $400). To all of this, you should add the health insurance, book and supplies cost, health fee, travel expenses and loan fees. You can also receive financial aid by checking with the school’s policies and see if you are eligible for student loans, grants, scholarships or private loans.

Is the DNP program accredited?

Yes, it is. But be very careful – The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) does not authorize research or certain doctoral programs (like a PhD or a DNS). They do, however, accredit clinical doctorates like a DNP program with organizational focus or one with an advanced practice nursing direct care focus. The same is true of The Accreditation Commission For Education in Nursing (ACEN).

You should also check if your desired university or school is regionally accredited. Additionally, make sure that the program you have chosen has State Board of Nursing Approval (which accepts programs that prepare students for NCLEX and also ensures that you can receive your APRN licensure). For a particular specialization, look to see if your program has received official authorization from either The Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs (COA) or The American College of Nurse-Midwives Division of Accreditation (ACME).

Where can I work with a DNP?

As a DNP holder, you will be able to conduct research, manage staff and educate patients, as well as create and improve procedures and policies. You will do these tasks in research facilities, surgical hospitals, physicians’ offices or other general medical settings. You can also start your independent practice if you want. How close or far away from the kernel of nursing you will also depend on you: you can assist surgical procedures or administer business plans, work side-by-side with psychiatrists to diagnose and treat patients or accumulate data for research, provide care for future mothers or implement direct changes to the healthcare system. It is all up to you. Here are some of the most lucrative and exciting job positions you can apply for with a DNP:

  • Nurse Practitioner (NP)
  • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)
  • Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM)
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)
  • Chief Nursing Officer
  • Advanced Practice Nurse (APN)
  • Nurse Researcher
  • Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Healthcare Manager
  • Director of Nursing Program
  • Director of Advanced Practice Providers
  • Chief executive/operating/clinical/information officer
  • Chief patient experience executive
  • Nurse Educator
  • Health Policy Specialist
  • Health Policy Advocate
  • Oncology APRN
  • Orthopedics APRN
  • Cardiology APRN
  • Radiology APRN
  • Endocrinology APRN
  • Hospice and Palliative Care APRN
  • Pediatric NP
  • Adult-Gerontology NP
  • Neonatal NP
  • Psychiatric/Mental Health NP
  • Family/Across the Lifespan NP
  • Pain Management APRN
  • Nephrology APRN
  • Emergency Care APRN
  • Forensics APRN
  • Community Health APRN

How much will I earn with a DNP?

With a doctoral program, you are easily looking at an average salary of $100,000. Of course, this depends on what specialization or leadership role you decide to pursue. For example, nurse anesthetists are widely-known to be the most financially rewarded, while a nurse educator has the most modest salary out of all the other job positions. The average salary for the latter is $174,876, whereas a Clinical Nurse Specialist typically makes around $97,000. Similarly, a Chief Nursing Officer is paid over $115,000 annually, and an APN earns an average salary of $133,341. Either way, job prospects for DNP holders are incredibly profitable and rewarding in the long run.