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Doctor of Nursing Practice

RN or diploma, BSN, sometimes MSN, and eventually Doctoral

In 2004, due to the changing landscape of the healthcare industry, the nursing shortage in the U.S., the complexity of patient care, and in an effort to better prepare nurses in advanced positions, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) decided to change the level of preparation for Advanced Practice Nurses from the master's degree (MSN) to the doctoral degree (DNP). The Doctor of Nursing practice is considered a terminal degree, meaning the highest level of education a nurse can attain, and offers an opportunity to directly affect patients in a way alternative to the PhD degree which focuses more on nursing research. It is a practice doctorate instead of a research doctorate. This is still a specialty that is developing. In fact, there is still vigorous debate as to what certification is necessary to practice with a DNP. If interested in pursuing the degree, make sure you understand all avenues and ramifications.

Things You'll Do:

  • Oversee patient safety, quality, and effectiveness of care
  • Educate future and current nurses on advances in the practice of nursing
  • Prescribe medication (in certain states)
  • Initiate and oversee treatment plans

Your job characteristics:

  • Multifaceted
  • Structured
  • Independent

How You'll Get There
  • Get Your
    Nursing Diploma, Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) or Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
  • Pass Your
    National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN)
  • You can start working as a Registered Nurse.
    More about becoming an RN ›
  • Gain valuable experience as an RN, exploring and understanding various fields and specialties.
  • Get Your
    Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP)
  • Get further clinical experience as a Nurse Practitioner (amount of experience varies by specialty).
  • Pass Your
    Board Certification in your specialty through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)
  • Pass Your
    Board Certification from the American Board of Comprehensive Care (ABCC)
  • Become a
    A Doctor of Nursing Practice

More About this Specialty
  • Where You
    Can Work

    • Hospitals
    • Clinics
    • Universities
    • Your own practice

    find jobs
  • What Else You
    Can Expect

    • This is a relatively new discipline, so there are still elements that have yet to be standardized. Several states specifically prohibit DNP's from using the title "Doctor" with their patients in a clinical setting, while other states simply require them to clarify that they are not physicians.

  • Nursing Notes Live

    Panel Discussion on Clinical Nurse Specialists and other Advanced Nurses.

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  • Meet
    Craig

    Nurse Practitioner, RN

    I already had a degree in biology, but while I was training to be an EMT I learned about nurse practitioners...

    read his story
  • Meet
    Kathy

    Clinical Nurse Specialist, RN

    I went to nursing school directly out of high school. At that time, women's career choices were limited.

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