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Article: Nurses - What is a DNP Degree?

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Nurses - What is a DNP Degree?

I’m surrounded by colleagues at the hospital who are going back to school: some are going into education, some are becoming family nurse practitioners, and others are becoming clinical specialists. What really piqued my interest, though, was the girl who told me she is going to get her doctorate. I hadn’t spoken to too many people who were studying to obtain their Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), but all of a sudden I wanted to know more. Just exactly what is a DNP? What is the education like and what kind of jobs can you get with it? I was determined to find out more, so let me share with you what some of my research has revealed to me.

Job Summary: What is a DNP degree?

As I researched, I was glad to find out that I wasn’t the only one confused about the degree. It’s a fairly new title (only established by the American Association of College of Nursing in 2004) that focuses on advanced clinical skill built on to the previous Nurse Doctorate program that focused more on the academic research. According to the Michigan Center for Nursing, the DNP is the most advanced degree that a nurse could obtain. It is one where the nurse becomes more clinically competent in his/her skills, which would then allow them to then take that evidence-based care into practice. The degree also focuses on developing high-quality leadership and advocacy skills in addition to the advanced level of clinical knowledge. The DNP was structured to meet the ongoing, complex demands of healthcare, and to subsequently train nurses to become expert practitioners in their field, while also being prepared to serve as clinical faculty.

Benefits of the DNP degree

After considering what a DNP is, there’s little wonder why so many nurses are leaving the bedside to advance their career. Many nurses I talk with lament about the same thing: long working hours, working nights/holidays/weekends, increased charting demands along with increased physical demands, and feeling like the hospitals are trying to maximize productivity at the expense of your sanity. Nursing is an exhausting profession, and there’s a reason why the burnout rate is so high. The beautiful thing about nursing is that you can constantly evolve as a nurse. And the DNP program allows you to do exactly that, as well as make you increasingly marketable in the years to come.

Where Does a DNP Work?

There is a lot of versatility in career paths when you obtain the title of Doctorate of Nursing Practice. When I first asked myself what a DNP is, I thought that would naturally lead me to a list of specific jobs that a DNP could fill. Considering how much training and expertise a DNP possess, it is no wonder at the vast array of jobs that a DNP would be fit for. You could take on the role of managing other nurses, developing new policies and procedures, education, and leadership.

A lot of DNPs find rewarding jobs in acute care hospitals, often being able to take positions that create new policies and thus effecting much needed change in healthcare. If you’re more interested in getting out of the hospital setting, a doctorate educated nurse could use their talents in a public health office, being able to influence policymakers and healthcare officials to develop intuitive solutions for common and rare health issues alike. You could also work in a primary care doctor’s office, or even open up your own independent practice. Lastly, colleges and universities would swing their doors open wide for a DNP to help educate the next generation of bachelors prepared nurses. This area is increasingly important as the nursing shortage has hit the entire world, and the baby-boomer population is getting older. If we don’t have teachers, we don’t have nurses, and every year qualified students are turned away from nursing programs because there is not enough faculty to teach them.

DNP Education

Depending on whether you go full time or part time, the curriculum to earn your DNP degree could take anywhere from three years to six years, with many programs requiring you to finish within seven years of matriculation (ie starting). There are a plethora of programs that have sprung up within the past decade, many of them offering flexible schedules for working students in addition to strict and fast-paced programs for those who wish to earn their degree quicker. You could also choose a program that has a majority of their lectures and courses online, but there are also many programs that have their syllabus taught in-person.

Only 1% of nurses old a doctorate degree, and healthcare is currently trending towards more and more nurses holding more advanced degrees, thus requiring higher education. And obviously by setting yourself apart with such a prestigious education permits you to earn a higher salary. The exact DNP curriculum will vary from school to school, but each program will typically include diagnostics, advanced practice and disease treatment, leadership training, and research based theories. The average university requires the student to complete anywhere from 69-87 credits, depending on which subspecialty you choose. Most colleges do not permit the DNP student to take more than twelve credits per semester, but there are clinicals you will have to complete, and there may even be a thesis or dissertation.


By now, I hope you have a better understanding of what a DNP is. It is a very exciting, rewarding, and diverse field to be in. Once you get your DNP, we hope that you head over to our online store to buy your DNP nursing pin or medical jewelry! The nursing pin or charm can be either 14k gold or sterling silver, and then you have a variety of gemstones to choose from, including diamonds, rubies, sapphires, etc. Graduating with this degree is a huge accomplishment, so whether you choose a nursing graduation pin or a beautiful charm for a necklace, you’re sure to stand out with our exceptional jewelry.