What is a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)?
A Doctor of Nursing Practice, or a DNP, is a degree designed to produce highly educated leaders in the nursing profession. Indeed, nurses who possess a DNP degree are in a unique position to positively affect healthcare reform. Many hospital administrators see nurses with a DNP as experts in healthcare policy, and turn to them for help in making important decisions that affect the well-being of hospital staff and patients.
Completing a DNP typically takes between three and five years, and can be done while continuing to work in direct patient care. Not all advanced nursing jobs require a DNP, but many do. Most DNP programs require students to already have earned their masters degree, but there are some programs that allow nurses to earn their masters degree and DNP at the same time.
Within the DNP program, nurses choose a specialty area on which to focus, which they then carry into their careers. After graduating with a DNP degree, some nurses continue to practice direct patient care while also moving into higher level roles where they oversee the work of other nurses. Other DNPs leave direct patient care and begin to work in hospital administration and management. Some DNPs leave the hospital setting altogether and work to create change in national healthcare policies. Still other DNPs work for health insurance and information companies, or go on to do nonprofit work.
Doctorate of Nursing Practice vs. Nursing Ph.D.
There are many misconceptions in the medical field about the difference between a DNP and a nursing Ph.D. While a nursing Ph.D. is necessary in order to teach and do research, a DNP helps a nurse to advance his or her career in the healthcare arena or in direct patient care. Nurses who work towards earning a DNP are not usually looking to leave the healthcare field, while nurses who earn their Ph.D. often have aspirations of leaving the hospital to teach aspiring nurses their craft.
Career Opportunities and Median Salaries
There are many different career paths for DNPs. Let’s talk about some of the most common paths, as well as the median salaries for each career. Remember, years of experience, cost of living, and previous education can all influence salary.
Certified Nurse Midwife- $102,000
Certified nurse midwives are trained to assist and care for pregnant mothers from their first prenatal appointment all the way until they deliver their baby. They provide reproductive care to women before, during, and after their pregnancy. They also provide recent mothers with care while their babies are still in the infant stage. Certified nurse midwives may work in a hospital setting, a birthing center, or they may run their own business and see patients at a place of their choosing. Some certified nurse midwives specialize in attending home births. This speciality requires a nurse with patience, understanding, and strong people skills. It’s important for certified nurse midwives to be able to talk to expectant mothers and their partners in a way that fully explains medical situations, but isn’t filled with confusing jargon.
Nurse Anesthetist- Median Salary $105,000
Nurse anesthetists work with surgical teams to provide patients with anesthesia for operative procedures. This position is a great fit for nurses who love math, chemistry, and data. Patients must be constantly monitored as they are given anesthesia, and the dosage may need to be increased or lowered depending on the signals given by the patient’s body.
Strong communication skills are also key for nurse anesthetists. They often meet with patients before their procedures, and reassure them about how their anesthesia will work during their surgery. During the surgery itself, nurse anesthetists work closely with doctors, surgical assistants, and anesthesiologists. It’s important that nurse anesthetists are clearheaded, confident, and attentive to details at all times.
Nurse Practitioner- Median Salary $105,000
Nurse practitioners provide patient care and treat illnesses. In some hospitals, nurse practitioners work with doctors as part of a patient care team. In other settings, nurse practitioners work on their own. Nurse practitioners usually have a caseload of patients they see regularly, just like a doctor. They may see patients for chronic conditions, for acute conditions, and for routine checkups. Some nurse practitioners work in a hospital setting, while others work in emergency medicine or urgent care clinics. Nurse practitioners typically have a specialty, such as general medicine, pediatrics, geriatrics, neonatal health, women’s health, psychiatric health, or family medicine.
One of the main tenants of DNP programs is an emphasis on leadership. Most nurses who enter a DNP program are interested in taking on more responsibility at work, and this usually includes managing others. This is why it is critically important that DNPs are able to keep their cool in emotionally charged situations. They also need to be able to notice strengths and weaknesses in the people on their team, and assign tasks that make sense for each person. Leadership training teaches DNP students how to manage a team to complete tasks and administer patient care effectively.
Data-driven decision making is another key element of DNP programs. Nurses need to make decisions fast when they’re administering patient care, and it’s important that they’re knowledgeable in the latest in healthcare research. DNPs are looked to as research experts in their departments at the hospital. Having this knowledge allows their team to generate better patient outcomes.
Statistics and data analysis are also important parts of any DNP program. In order to make data-driven decisions, DNPs need to be able to properly read, understand, and explain data to others. This means understanding statistics and research in the nursing field, as well as being able to competently communicate salient information to both medical personnel and patients and their families.
DNP programs also emphasize the history and philosophy of nursing practice. Understanding where the nursing profession began, the problems and victories it’s faced along the way, and the work that still needs to be done are key parts of advocating for other nurses. Since DNPs are seen as leaders in their field, they are often able to negotiate and discuss issues with upper level hospital management in a way that other nurses do not.