What is a DNP in 2023

What is a DNP in 2023

Everything You Need to Know About a DNP 

Those considering a Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) might have difficulty deciding if it is the right degree for them. There have been heated debates about this degree throughout the nursing field, and while some opinions are valid, several are myths.


This article sheds more light on the DNP degree. A DNP program creates leaders in the nursing field, providing nursing students with a high level of expertise and knowledge coupled with hands-on clinical practice experience. Therefore, DNP graduates will assume leadership roles or work in a clinical setting upon completing their DNP program. 


Before pursuing a DNP degree, it is vital to note that it is not a role such as registered nurses and advanced practice registered nurses (APRN). Obtaining the DNP degree doesn’t make a DNP graduate a physician since the training is quite different. Even though most DNP degree graduates practice as APRNs, such as nurse anesthetist, nurse midwife, and nurse practitioner, it isn’t a must that you practice. You might opt to pursue a nursing career in leadership and administration, indicating that DNP-educated nurse practitioners are prepared to perform various nursing interventions, including providing direct patient care, developing health policies, and administrating healthcare organizations. 


Are you considering pursuing a DNP program but don’t know where to start? You need not freak out as this article got you covered. It explores various aspects of DNP, including: 

  1. What Doctors of Nursing Practice do 
  2. How to become a DNP 
  3. Career options for DNPs 
  4. Benefits of becoming a DNP 

What Doctors of Nursing Practice Do 

Nurses pursue DNP degrees to gain advanced practice knowledge needed to provide safe and effective health care services to patients. The degree program is considered the terminal degree for APRNs considering expanding their skills and knowledge in nursing practice. The DNP coursework primarily entails evidence-based practice, nursing informatics, systems leadership, and quality improvement, indicating that the DNP program is ultimately designed to create leaders in nursing practice. 


Obtaining a DNP degree unlocks several career opportunities in various settings, especially those previously unattainable by advanced practice nurses with master’s degrees and below. The new opportunities will enable APRNs to obtain clinical practice certifications and practice within the clinical setting. They will either provide direct care to patients or assume administrative positions during their clinical practice.

What Is a Doctor of Nursing Practice? 

The DNP degree is the most advanced degree option for nurses. It produces nursing leaders who take up various managerial and administrative positions and educate the next generation of nursing students. DNP-prepared nurses possess high levels of nursing expertise needed for nursing practice and have earned the knowledge in leadership and clinical practice required to influence health care outcomes. APRNs can achieve this through direct patient care, health policy development and implementation, and organizational leadership. 


Aspiring APRNs should note that DNP is a nursing degree and note a role. Therefore, the degree is just a fulfillment of pursuing advanced nursing practice roles such as nurse-midwife, nurse practitioner, and nurse anesthetic. The DNP degree program isn’t advanced than the Doctorate of Philosophy programs as both Ph.D. and DNP graduates are eligible to practice as nurse practitioners. The DNP degree requires extensive research and requires nursing students to complete a dissertation or DNP project. Nurses need to obtain the DNP program as the degree may soon be the minimum requirement for APRNs’ entry-level nursing practice. 

What Is the Difference Between DNP and NP? 

The terms DNP and NP can be quite confusing. Although the two are vital aspects of clinical practice, they vary in various ways. The primary difference between an NP and DNP is that an NP is a nursing career, while a DNP is a terminal degree in the nursing field. Nurse practitioners are highly specialized professionals in nursing practice who provide general and specialty healthcare to health consumers. They also perform basic nursing practices. Their roles revolved around diagnosing patients, developing treatment plans, prescribing medications, and offering medical counseling services. 


On the other hand, a DNP is a post-MSN degree that offers advanced training in specific nursing disciplines. The DNP demonstrates that an APRN has completed the highest educational training in the field of nursing. Registered nurses intending to become nurse practitioners must earn a doctor of nursing practice degree and secure the national board certification before beginning their nursing practice as NPs. 

What Roles and Responsibilities Do DNPs Usually Have? 

DNP-prepared nurses mainly work as nursing leaders or as advanced practice nurses. DNP nurses who intend to work in leadership and administration settings play critical roles in the nursing profession as they influence health outcomes. Healthcare leaders create various innovative care programs through extensive research, which help improve patient care outcomes. 


They work closely with other health care professionals to conduct community assessments to identify the community’s health needs. Also, they are directly involved in policy making and assume advocacy roles to ensure increased access to quality and affordable healthcare. DNP-prepared nurses who take roles as advanced practice nurses offer direct care to patients. The APRNs are responsible for managing, assessing, and evaluating patients to determine their health needs. They specialize in different nursing areas such as acute nursing care, anesthetics, women’s health, and family health.

How to Become a DNP 

DNP programs have become common, especially among registered nurses who aspire to advance their nursing practice and become nurse practitioners. The DNP degree is the highest degree attainable by registered nurses, and it trains and prepares them for advanced practice. It also prepares them to pursue nursing practice licensure and unlocks various careers as advanced practice nurses. 


DNP-educated nurse practitioners are highly marketable and are in a prime position to assume roles in health care previously held by physicians. The DNP degree increases a nurse practitioner’s earning potential as an advanced nursing practice is usually linked to high-paying careers. Nurse practitioners who have earned DNP degrees might take up managerial and leadership positions in the health care sector and are directly involved in advocacy and policy making. 


Therefore, nurse practitioners such as nurse anesthetists who want to unlock such career opportunities should earn their DNP degrees. But how do you become a DNP? On this page, we explore the different ways through which nurse practitioners can advance their knowledge and expertise in nursing practice, including the educational requirements needed to enroll in a DNP program. 

How Do You Get A DNP Degree? 

Most nurse students are less informed on the route to earning a DNP degree, despite the availability of several DNP programs in various accredited learning institutions. The increased number of DNP programs has made it difficult for those eyeing different advanced nursing practice careers to make a solid choice on the suitable program. If you are a nursing student and lack the vital knowledge on the route to getting a DNP degree, you need now to worry. Our team of experts has come up with a clear strategy that will guide you in the process.


  • Decide on the type of DNP Program. 

DNP programs are offered in several learning institutions, both as online programs and on-campus programs. Therefore, you should conduct in-depth research on the available programs to determine the DNP program that works best for you. If you intend to enroll in part-time studies, consider online DNP programs. Those able to learn on a full-time basis might opt for traditional classroom DNP programs. Additionally, choose a DNP program that aligns with your career goals. Registered nurses seeking to become certified nurse-midwife should consider DNP programs with a specialty in women’s health. On the other hand, aspiring nurse anesthetists should consider a DNP program that aligns with their nurse practice objectives. 

  • Apply for DNP Programs 

Learning institutions usually advertise for DNP program opportunities annually. Prospective nursing students are required to apply for the DNP program based on their educational qualifications. After considering these factors and looking for a DNP program that suits you, it is vital to apply for the program early enough. Ensure you go through the application process to determine the requirements for the DNP program. Nurse practitioners must also fulfill some prerequisites, including clinical hours, test scores, resumes, GPA, registered nurse licensure, and recommendation letters. Remember, registered nurses can transfer some of the clinical hours earned in nursing bachelor’s degree to a DNP degree. 

  • Secure Funding 

DNP programs are generally costly compared to bachelor’s degree nursing programs. Prospective nurse practitioners must also have an effective financial plan to earn their DNP degree. Registered nurses who lack the financial muscle to fund their advanced nursing education should secure funding for the DNP programs. Some of the ways you might fund your education are securing financial aids, scholarships, nursing education grants, employer tuition reimbursement programs, and loans. The financial aid opportunities are offered by several organizations, including government education agencies. 

  • Complete Your DNP Coursework 

Nurses must complete a specific set of clinical hours to earn their DNP degrees. They must also complete course credits that cover various aspects of advanced nursing practice. The clinical hours are always complete within a clinical setting, preferably your current workplace as a registered nurse. Once you have earned the required credits and completed your clinical hours, nothing can stop you from graduating with a DNP degree. Earning your DNP degree signifies that you have earned the highest level of knowledge in nursing practice. You can start your career as a nurse practitioner, nurse anesthetics, and many more. 

What Are the Admission Requirements for DNP Programs? 

The admission requirements for DNP programs vary from one nursing school to the other. However, we have identified some of the admission requirements that all nursing schools typically require. They include: 

  • Prerequisite Credit: Every applicant must have a prior degree in nursing earned from an accredited college or university. In most cases, applicants must be holders of either a BSN or MSN. 
  • College Transcripts: The nurse applicants must submit their official transcripts for both their graduate and undergraduate programs. The transcripts should indicate the course and credit earned. 
  • Clinical Experience: Registered nurses must have completed a minimum of 240 clinical hours and indicated on the transcript. National certification as a nurse practitioner, certified nurse-midwife might substitute for the nursing practice hours. 
  • Test scores and GPA: Some nursing schools require GRE scores and a minimum GPA of 3.0.
  • Recommendation Letters: Most colleges require applicants to attach at least three letters of recommendation that address their work-related experience, nursing roles, and academic capabilities. 

The BSN to DNP program takes approximately three to four years, particularly those studying on a full-time basis. Part-timers might take longer, usually six or seven years. 

Career Options for DNPs 

DNP graduates explore some of the best nursing careers in the healthcare field. The nursing profession is increasingly growing and becoming more complex. Therefore, nurses need to advance their education levels to cope with the healthcare sector trends. DNP graduates work in various settings, including clinical and leadership settings, to ensure improved health outcomes. The career paths for DNP nurses primarily depend on their expertise and interests. For instance, an APRN might opt to pursue a career in various specialties including nurse education and clinical practice. This allows them to become nurse educators or nurse practitioners, respectively. 

What Types of Patients Can You Work with as DNP? 

NDP nurses work in a variety of healthcare settings. Some might pursue careers in public health, assume leadership positions in health departments, or provide primary and acute care services. This allows them to handle different types of patients depending on their DNP specialty. We analyze the different types of patients you are likely to work with as a DNP on this page. They include: 

  • Families: As a DNP-prepared nurse practitioner, you will most likely work with individuals of all ages providing general patient care services. This is the most common patient that a DNP is likely to handle. The nurse practitioner diagnoses and assesses the patients for health issues and develops treatment plans based on the assessment findings. 
  • Pediatrics: DNPs might also work with pediatrics, mainly providing primary care to children and infants. They evaluate the children for various ailments and prescribe appropriate medications to help treat the medical conditions. 
  • Women: Nurse practitioners with advanced practice knowledge in women’s health might pursue a nurse-midwife career. The nurse-midwives provide care to women through pregnancy, labor, and delivery. They might also collaborate with physicians to conduct cesarean births. 
  • Psychiatric Patients: DNPs specialized in mental health care for psychiatric patients in mental health facilities, hospitals, and private practice settings. They diagnose and treat patients several from various mental conditions. They also provide counseling services to the patients. 

What Is the Average Salary for DNPs? 

DNP programs unlock several career options with high-paying potential. Nurses considering growing their salaries and earnings should pursue a DNP degree since it leads to advanced practice and leadership roles. The wages of DNPs vary depending on various factors, including specialization, job location, and level of clinical experience. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), DNP-educated nurse practitioners earn an average annual salary of $125,440.


 The salary and earnings of DNP degree graduates will likely grow to the increased demand for nurse practitioners’ services. BSL projects a 19% growth for nurses next, leading to a 22% increase in nurse practitioners’ salaries. The factors leading to the change in the nursing profession include increased demand for primary care, nursing shortages, and an outgrowing number of aging populations. The increased shortage of nurses is attributable to the retiring workforce. 

Where Can You Work as A DNP? 

If you are considering earning a DNP degree, you must understand some of the likely places you might work as a nurse practitioner. DNPs mainly work in clinical settings and administration settings. Some of the possible places include: 


  • Hospitals: DNP-prepared nurses mainly work in hospitals to provide primary care services to patients. They diagnose patients for various ailments and prescribe medications needed to manage or fully cure the condition. 
  • Universities and Colleges: After spending a substantial number of years in classroom and clinical settings, the NPS gain high-level knowledge and skills. DNPs can dispense the knowledge to help prepare aspiring nurses for nursing practice. This enables the DNPs to teach in top-notch nursing schools. 
  • Health Care Administration Setting: Nurse takes up leadership and managerial roles in various health departments. They are directly involved in policy making which shapes the health care sector leading to improved health outcomes. 

Benefits of Becoming A DNP 

In the past decade, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) established a nursing education framework that would provide prospective nurse practitioners with clinical preparedness at the doctorate level. Since the DNP degree establishment, the doctoral degree has produced highly skilled nurse leaders capable of translating research findings to nursing practice. This has led to increased access to high-quality health care services, ultimately improving patient outcomes. Nursing education focuses more on safe, effective, and patient-centered care. 


The question that consistently lingers on nurse practitioner’s minds is whether the DNP program is worth their time and resources. Today, the master in science nursing degree remains the minimum educational qualification for advanced nursing practice. Despite this, most registered nurses look beyond the master’s degree program to improve the quality and outcomes of patient care, meet the rising demands of patients, and achieve leadership and administrative positions in nursing systems. Nurses with doctoral degrees enjoy advancement opportunities and earn higher salaries compared to MSN-trained nurses. 

Who Would Benefit from Becoming a DNP? 

Pursuing a DNP program is a sound decision that all nurses should take. The DNP program is quite beneficial as it unlocks a new world of career opportunities, including high earning potential and career advancement. These opportunities are quite difficult to enjoy with only an undergraduate degree. However, it is essential to note that the DNP degree isn’t as advanced as the common PhD in nursing programs as they are the only terminal degrees in nursing education. Here are some of the individuals who will benefit from earning a DNP degree: 

  • Aspiring Nurse Practitioners: Registered nurses intending to become nurse practitioners should consider pursuing a DNP program. Nurse practitioners are highly skilled and have higher career potential than registered nurses. The RNs can specialize in various DNP specialties leading to careers as family nurse practitioners, pediatric nurse practitioners, and more. 
  • Those Intending to Expand their Knowledge: AACN has designed a DNP program to ensure DNP nurses earn exceptional knowledge and skills. The doctoral-level degree program trains and prepares healthcare nurses to provide advanced nursing care, unachievable with undergraduate degree programs. DNP-prepared students get to learn the vital aspect of nursing practice, nursing leadership, and research. 
  • Nurses Who Want to Remain Competitive in The Job Market: With the increased demand for nursing services, high school graduates are increasingly enrolling for ADN and BSN programs, with a motive of beginning nursing practice. This has led to an increased number of nursing graduates being released into the job market, leading to a high competition level. To remain competitive, RNs should pursue DNP degrees to attain the highest level of nursing education. 
  • Nurses Considering Grow the Salaries and Benefits: DNP nurses are the country’s highest-paid nurses since they possess a high nursing practice level. One way of growing your salary as a nurse practitioner is by earning a DNP degree which opens up several high-paying careers. The nursing programs enable nurses to quickly advance their careers, ultimately leading to higher nursing positions with bigger salary perks. 

What Leadership Roles Can DNP Graduates Hold? 

DNP graduates are essential professionals to health care organizations since they possess solid clinical knowledge which they can apply to improve health care outcomes. The DNP nurses coordinate teams of nurses who take up various clinical responsibilities, including diagnosis illnesses, handling patient admission and discharges, prescribing and administering treatments, and providing health education to patients and their families. Leading an interdisciplinary team of nurses requires advanced skills and practical knowledge, making it a suitable APRN option. The graduates ensure resource utilization and must be accountable for all health care activities. 


As nursing leaders, nurse practitioners can evaluate the current state of a health care policy, program or system, to determine its effectiveness in inpatient care. In case of ineffectiveness, the DNP graduates develop and implement policies to affect the desired change. The graduates assume leadership roles as educators, administrators, and advanced clinicians. They translate various research findings into practice, both at the health system and individual levels. Leadership also involves empowering and motivating staff. DNP graduates ensure that their nursing staff is highly motivated and empowered, eventually improving health care outcomes. 

What Are Considerations You Should Have for Completing Your DNP? 

The DNP essentials define the coursework elements that the DNP program must entail. AACN put in place the DNP essentials to help address the dynamic needs of the modern healthcare system. They outline the competencies core to advanced practice registered nurses’ roles, including nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and clinical nurse specialists. Therefore, before completing your DNP, a nursing student must ensure that the DNP program meets the essentials, including: 


  • Organizational and systems leadership for quality improvement 
  • Health care policy for advocacy in health care 
  • Clinical scholarship and analytical methods for evidence-based practice 
  • Information systems/technology and patient care technology for improvement and transformation of health care
  • Scientific underpinnings for practice
  • Clinical prevention and population health for improving the nation’s health 
  • Advanced nursing practice 

Final Thoughts 

AACN designs doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) to produce leaders in nursing. DNP-educated nurses possess the highest nursing knowledge and skills to work in a healthcare setting or assume various leadership positions. They are in a prime position to influence health care outcomes as they play advocacy roles and policymaking. The DNP-prepared nurses might also provide direct patient care in hospitals, nursing care homes, outpatient centers, and community health facilities. 


Notably, DNP is a degree and not a nursing role, like advanced practice registered nurses and registered nurses. Obtaining the DNP program doesn’t make a graduate a physician. The DNP program prepares nursing students to work in various settings, including leadership and administration, and clinical settings. As nursing leaders, DNP nurses take up different leadership roles, including nurse management, health informatics systems, organizational leadership, and health policymaking. 


In clinical practice, DNPs provide primary care to patients, including diagnosing patients, assessing patient’s health conditions, developing treatment plans, and prescribing medication. You are likely to find DNPs in several roles, including nurse midwife, nurse practitioner, nurse anesthetists, among others. The DNP program is usually confused with the Doctorate of Philosophy. However, they are two different doctoral-level programs, with the graduates being eligible to work as advanced nurse practitioners. 


But is the degree worth it? The DNP curriculum covers several areas, including systems leadership, informatics, quality improvement, and evidence-based practice. With this, DNP-educated nurses possess exceptional scientific knowledge and outcome measurement skills. This unlocks a wide range of career opportunities with increased earnings. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, DNP-prepared nurses earn an average of $125,440 with a growth rate of 22%.

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