When researching potential career options in nursing, it is quite common to come across DNP and Ph.D. options. However, there are stark differences between the two; if you want to work practically and with patients, you should go for the DNP program, but if you prefer something more research-based, the Ph.D. option is for you. But what is a DNP, and what do they do? Below we will answer these questions and other related topics.

Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)

A Doctor of Nursing Practice is the highest echelon in the nursing career ladder. It is what you should be aiming for if you want to become the best of the best in your field. The training of a DNP focuses on:

  • Quality improvement
  • System leadership
  • Evidence-based practices, and a lot more

In the healthcare system, advanced practitioners must have doctorate-level degrees. This demonstrates that they have undergone all the training and have all the educational and professional qualifications required to work at the highest levels. A DNP can be compared to a doctor of medicine(MD) or a doctor of psychology(PsyD).

Becoming a DNP Nurse

To become a DNP nurse, you must take online DNP nurse executive programs that go above and beyond what you may have learned in the classroom. Some of the areas taught include:

  • Obtaining and allocating resources, including financial and human ones – This is a business course that teaches the skills required to keep resources working with each other, obtaining new ones when a health institution is running low
  • Fostering professional work environments – The ability to envision and design processes and structures that help improve the quality of the nursing practice is a vital one for a leader to have
  • Strategic financial thinking – DNPs must be able to analyze the economics of the practices they are responsible for and see how these economics impact the financial practices of the health institutions they are responsible for

There is so much more taught in these programs, and we will go more in-depth below.

Qualities of DNP Nurses

A DNP must have the following qualities:

  • Exceptional clinical skills
  • Leadership skills
  • Organizational skills.

All these qualities are important because DNPS are routinely required to critique and help improve the practices of the institutions they work in. They must do all this while thinking of the acceptability, economic feasibility, and impact of the patient care programs they come up with.

DNPs might have two different roles:

  • Direct patient care – This is where they practice in the roles of other nurses such as registered nurses and clinical nurse specialists. In this role, DNPs might also focus on specific patient populations such as pediatrics, women or older people
  • Administrative role – This is where their leadership and organization skills are required. Here DNPs can affect healthcare policies, educate nurses, come up with public health proposals, and so much more

In either of the roles above, DNPs can perform crucial clinical interventions which affect the healthcare outcomes of their patients and the population at large by:

  • Holding administrative and policy positions in healthcare and nursing organizations
  • Dealing directly with patient care
  • Coming up with and implementing healthcare policies
  • Taking care of the healthcare of the larger population

Doctor of Nursing Practice

The practice of a Doctor of Nursing goes above and beyond the foundation built by Bachelor’s and Master’s programs in Nursing. A DNP can also use their educational background as the base on which they build a specialized practice.

Nurses who want to become DNPs need a Bachelor of Science in Nursing or a Master’s of Science in Nursing. Most institutions will also accept any degree in nursing. Most institutions that offer online DNP nurse executive programs offer them in either of these formats:

  • Full-time
  • Part-time
  • Online options
  • Accelerated options

All of these options are usually offered in such a way as to accommodate working nurses. Remember that nurses work very demanding schedules and have other professional responsibilities. So, any programs they are interested in must take all of these things into account.

The Doctor of Nursing Curriculum

There are two main components of the DNP curriculum:

  • Foundational competencies
  • Specialty competencies

Foundational Competencies

These are essentials that every DNP must know if they would like to end up in a leadership position. They include essentials such as:

  • Analysis of evidence-based information
  • Advocacy of and for healthcare policies
  • Organizational thinking
  • Patient care technology
  • Natural and social sciences
  • Interprofessional collaboration
  • Advanced nursing practices
  • Prevention of illness and the improvement of the health of a whole population

Specialty Competencies

The DNP program calls for some specialization. Because of this, DNPs are expected to take on specific tasks and positions within their workplaces. Under special competencies, DNPs might undertake advanced nursing direct patient care, or have an organization focus if they are looking to go into organizational leadership.

  • A focus on patient care – DNPs who want to go into advanced practice roles must be prepared to sit additional exams. They might also have to take advanced specialty certification exams where they are available and required. DNPs who take on the role of advanced practice direct care must demonstrate practical competency, responsibility, accountability, and specialized knowledge. Remember that, in this role, DNPs will be dealing directly with patients and their families which means they might have to take physiology, pharmacology and physical assessment classes
  • Organizational focus – Those who take this path might work on drafting healthcare policy, have administrative roles and focus on aggregates which includesystems,organizations, national and state policies, and populations.

Why Would You Become a DNP?

From all that we have discussed above, it seems that DNPs have so many responsibilities that a lot of people cannot shoulder. In that respect, this is a very advanced role, that takes a lot of effort and time to qualify for. Even though it takes so much time and effort to become a DNP, the payoff is worth it.

Imagine having the power to influence policies that you don’t like,or even working in any role you want in a hospital? What about the ability to start your own research endeavors? There is so much more that a DNP can do, which makes it worthwhile.

Once you understand what a DNP is and what they do, you might want to consider this is a viable career path. A Doctor of Nursing Practice is the highest level a nurse can reach and is one all nurses should strive to reach.