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How to Know if a DNP is Right for You

by South University
March 5, 2015 Find out if a Doctor of Nursing Practice program is right for you!
DNP blog

If you're interested in advancing to the top of the clinical nursing career ladder, a Doctor of Nursing Practice, or DNP, may be right for you. DNP programs are designed to give students the advanced knowledge and skills that they need to take on nursing management positions in clinics, hospitals and other healthcare organizations.

Unlike a PhD in nursing, which is typically meant for students who want to go into medical research, DNPs offer extra clinical training and allow students to gain new skills to help them advance in clinical practice leadership.

What is a DNP?

A DNP is one of three common doctoral degrees nursing students may consider.

  • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP): This program is for those who want to be head nurses, managers or otherwise exhibit leadership in the field of clinical practice.
  • Doctor of Nursing Science (DNS): Nurses who are most interested in the science and statistics aspect of nursing may prefer this program. For example, nurses who want to help find out what went wrong when a patient dies may choose to earn a DNS, as this degree can qualify them to assist in forensic investigations. Other DNS programs focus on information technology or health outcomes measurement.
  • Doctor of Nursing Philosophy (PhD): Nurses who want to get more involved in the research side of the industry may want to pursue a PhD rather than a DNP. This type of program may also attract nurses who are interested in pursuing a college-level educator position.

Benefits of Getting a DNP

There are several benefits to earning a DNP. As a general rule, people with advanced degrees qualify for higher paying jobs in healthcare than those who don't. Many clinical leadership positions in nursing also require a DNP, so nurses who hope to get on a leadership track will want to consider getting this degree.

In addition to the career and monetary benefits, nurses may want to consider all the ways that they can help patients once in a leadership position. Good management of nursing staff is vital for providing high quality care, and in some cases can even affect a patient's prognosis. After all, patients who feel well cared for and get along well with their nurses are less stressed, which can help them heal faster. When nurse researchers propose new ideas, nurses with a DNP are often the ones to determining how to introduce and implement these innovations in clinical practice.

Typical Course of Study

A DNP typically takes three to five years to complete. During that time, students can learn about evidence-based practices, research methods and best clinical practices. They can also study leadership skills and see how leadership can be applied directly to the field of nursing. Students may be able to attend part-time or make the commitment to a full-time course of study. Online DNP programs are also available.

A DNP takes time and effort to earn, but if the program’s intended outcomes match your career goals, it's well worth it. If you’re interested in rising to leadership positions in hospitals and other healthcare settings and helping both patients and your colleagues, consider getting a DNP as part of your continuing education in nursing!

Sound like a DNP degree program is right for you? In addition to a fully online program, South University offers DNP programs at its Savannah and Tampa locations!

Additional Sources

See for program duration, tuition, fees, and other costs, median debt, alumni success, and other important info.

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