Being a nurse is a fantastic job to have. You get to help people every single day, providing not only medical care but also emotional support to people during potentially difficult times in their lives. In addition, it’s also a career that can offer good levels of employability and job security, plus the chance to specialize in an area of healthcare that particularly interests you.
So if you’ve been working as a nurse for a while now and feel like it’s time to take your vocation to the next level, you have plenty of choices. For those who are truly dedicated, a DNP could be the perfect career boost.
What is a DNP?
DNP stands for Doctor of Nursing Practice, and it’s one of the highest levels of postgraduate degree available to nurses. Designed for those who want to progress to the top job roles in the field of nursing, it’s a great choice for those looking to hone their clinical skills and knowledge in order to improve patient outcomes, shape policy, and play a key role in the future of nursing.
Normally, you’re required to have a Master’s degree in nursing in order to be eligible for a DNP, however, there are also online BSN to DNP programs that combine Master’s and doctoral level study into one course. That means you can enroll with just a Bachelor’s degree in nursing. Whichever path you take, you will also need to have a current and unencumbered Registered Nurse (RN) license.
In addition to the choice between studying online and on-campus, there are also both full-time and part-time programs on offer. If you choose to study full time you can complete the course in as little as three years, whereas on a part-time basis it could be up to seven years. This means you have the option to study alongside your current day job if you wish, or while balancing existing family commitments.
What do you study on a DNP?
A DNP program is divided into three main styles of learning: academic modules, clinical placements, and an independent research project. Some modules will be compulsory, while for others you will have a choice from a list of relevant electives. The exact titles available to you will depend on the college that you study with, and also the specialist track that you choose to follow. However, the list below will give you a good idea of what sort of topics to expect:
- Family Healthcare Management;
- Transforming Healthcare Organizations;
- Advanced Neonatal Nursing Management;
- Advanced Pediatric Healthcare Management;
- Finance and Economics in Healthcare;
- Evidence Based Practice;
- Advanced Pathophysiology;
- Leading Organizations;
- Advanced Pharmacology;
- Psychopathology and Diagnostic Reasoning;
- Epidemiology and Population Health.
When it comes to the clinical component of the course, this is your chance to put what you have been learning into practice in a real-world environment. You’ll be under the guidance and supervision of an experienced professional, who can offer you valuable feedback and advice. Your college will assist you in finding these placements – generally, you will need to complete 1,000 hours – and you will be able to choose somewhere that aligns with your personal interests and career goals.
Finally, the independent research project is where you get to conduct an in-depth investigation of an existing clinical or administrative problem. Again this is an opportunity to focus on an area of nursing that holds the most interest for you, and potentially also make a genuine contribution to the field of healthcare, both of which mean that this can be one of the most satisfying components of the program.
What kind of careers can you have after doing a DNP?
The purpose of doing a DNP is to prepare you for higher-level job roles within the field of nursing. These can be broadly divided into two main categories: direct patient care and indirect patient care. Direct patient care roles are those such as an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse, where you have greater autonomy and responsibility for your patients and can undertake a wider range of duties.
Within this sphere, you can choose to specialize in caring for a particular patient group, such as pediatrics or geriatrics, or focus on a specific health condition, such as cardiology or oncology.
When it comes to indirect patient care, again you have numerous paths to choose from. For example, you could move into an executive leadership position, focusing on issues surrounding topics such as management, human resources and finance, or work in policy and lobby for change in the industry.
Alternatively, you could think about a career in nursing informatics if you like working with data, becoming a nurse researcher if you’re interested in science, or being a nurse educator and training up the next generation of nurses.
All of the higher-level roles come with higher salaries to match, and offer better job security and financial stability. Nurses of all kinds also continue to be in great demand, so your employability will enjoy a boost too.
What other benefits does the career boost give you?
In addition to the career boost, you will vastly increase both your specialist nursing knowledge and your clinical skills. Moreover, it’ll give you a chance to develop a number of transferable skills that are useful in almost every industry and job role. These include communication, problem-solving, teamwork, leadership, critical thinking, empathy, organization, and time management.
Returning to education can also be a fantastic opportunity to network, both in class and on your placements. You’ll meet a number of dedicated students and experienced experts in your field, enabling you to widen both your social and professional networks.
Thus you can see that even though completing a doctoral-level degree requires a lot of time and effort from you, the advantages that you gain from doing so are well worth it. Plus, if you’re lucky you might even be able to find a sponsor or scholarship to help cover the financial costs, so be sure to check every opportunity!
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