What exactly is a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree?

Exciting news! Penny was accepted into the tenth Doctor of Nursing Practice program at the Frontier Nursing University. So you ask, “What exactly is a Doctor of Nursing degree?”

The DNP degree is the highest level of preparation for nursing practice. It was determined in 2002 by the Institute of Medicine and the Joint Commission that to improve the way care is delivered in this country, the education of all health professionals should be overhauled. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing determined that all advance nursing practice educational programs should transition from the master’s degree level to the doctorate level, with the year 2015 set as the target date.

The Institute of Medicine further reported that nurses should practice to the full extent of their education and training (which does not currently occur in most states); nurses should achieve higher levels of education and training through an improved educational system that promotes seamless academic profession; nurses should be full partners, with physicians and other health professionals, in redesigning health care in the United States; and effective workforce planning and policy making require better data collection and an improved information infrastructure (IOM, 2010, p4).

Now you ask, “What is the difference between a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) and a DNP degree?” Well, this point I tossed back and forth myself. I knew I wanted to advance my degree but wasn’t sure which route would be more appropriate for me. You see, nurses now have a choice between a practice-focused doctorate and a research-focused doctorate.

The practice- and research-focused doctorates in nursing are similar in that they both seek to advance the profession through a scholarly approach, but they differ in preparation and expertise. The practice doctorate, of which Penny will be striving towards, places more emphasis on practice and less on theory and research methodology. The final scholarly project differs as well in that a dissertation required of a PhD is documented development of new knowledge, while the final project of a DNP degree is grounded in clinical practice and demonstrates how research has impacted such practice (Chism, 2013, p5).

The focus of the DNP degree is expertise in clinical practice. ~Chism

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