I'm very excited now that I am less than two weeks away from starting a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) program at George Washington University. In reflecting on my decisoin to pursue this practice-focused degree, I thought it would be helpful to share my journey through the decision-making process with you.
It is 15 years since I completed a master's degree and became certified as adult NP. When I started, I was sure I would continue my education to the doctoral level, but I was struggling, to decide on what degree I should pursue. I really didn't think I wanted to go into the academic role, nor did I think I would fully take advantage of the years of research training, not to mention the blood sweat and tears of a dissertation. Therefore, I never applied to any PhD programs. Until the recent emergence of DNP programs, I did not find any doctoral program that were going to help me in my practice and professional development roles. "Finally..they created a doctoral degree for me!"
Boland, and others in the April 2010 issue of The Nurse Practitioner journal did an excellent job in providing the background on the history and process of developing DNP programs. In summary, the doctor of nursing practice is intended to provide advanced education to clinical leaders and advanced practice nurses. Don't worry if you are not a nurse practitioner. DNP's can be in varying roles including: nurse executive, clinical nurse specialist, or nurse informaticist. In contrast, the PhD prepares prepares nurses for a research-focused role. In addition to clincial roles, the authors expect that DNPs will also be an essential part of the nursing faculty in BSN, master's, and doctoral programs.
What some master's prepared NPs are concerned about is whether they should go back to school. With the expectation that new NP graduates have DNPs by 2015, it is a job security issue. I recall, when I was beginning my master's program, there were several NPs and nurse midwives who had certificates who were grand-fathered and allowed to practice. But they were challenged by the employment market or pressured by employers to return to school. Therefore, if you have a career of 10 years or more left, it might be the logical conclusion. Nursing may not have come to terms on entry into practice; however, it is clear that a doctoral degree is where we are going.