Eight Reasons to Study for Your DNP

By  //  February 24, 2020

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A Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) is a serious commitment to your nursing profession. As a nurse, if you’ve already attained your BSN, then it’s likely that you’re casting an eye to the future.

A Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) is a serious commitment to your nursing profession. As a nurse, if you’ve already attained your BSN, then it’s likely that you’re casting an eye to the future.

A Master’s in Nursing will certainly open professional doors to managerial positions and interesting specializations within the nursing profession. However, when it comes to a DNP, many nurses are unclear about what this offers them in their careers.

It’s natural to find this is the case with nurses on the wards. While some have already attained an MSN and gone on to better things, fewer nurses are DNPs and the ones that are become extremely busy workers. As such, it’s difficult to get time with them to ask questions like whether it was worth it or what benefits it can offer.

To revolve this information gap, in this article, we discover the 8 reasons why studying for a DNP might be advisable for you. 

  • The Final Frontier of the Nursing Profession

With nursing, a doctorate or Ph.D. is the final frontier. It’s the pinnacle academically for what you can achieve. While you can achieve other impressive things during your career, many of them just won’t be possible without being accepted and taken seriously at the highest levels. And to do that, a master’s is often not enough to be all you can be. 

The good news is that with an online DNP program, studying for a high-quality DNP program is more accessible than ever; even for nurses who already have busy work schedules to maintain. This wasn’t the case a decade or more ago when taking time off was the only way to study for a Ph.D. in the Nursing field.

Thankfully, moving up from an MSN to DNP can be studied differently. Here is how:

• Study over 5 semesters to space out the study duration

• Gain the necessary 34 credits with clear goals to achieving them

• Multiple commencements start dates to avoid academic delays

• Online courses to cut out needless commuting to college to attend every lecture

• Flexible financial aid packages available

  • Family Nursing at a Level to Make an Institutional Difference

When working as a family nurse, providing critical care to patients, there’s sometimes a separation between the care you wish to provide and what’s actually possible.

Within any healthcare organization, there are often institutional issues when old, ineffective systems are still in place which restricts what healthcare professionals can provide in the level of care, how extensive it can be, or whether the latest technologies are being applied.

It can be a major frustration at the BSN and MSN levels when nurses can sometimes see the issues but don’t have the clout to make the changes necessary to implement sensible improvements. 

With a DNP, that all changes. It is the highest academic achievement for the nursing field and provides the knowledge and clarity to make a real difference at the organizational level.

As such, having achieved this rarer qualification within the nursing profession, senior staff take notice whereas previously perhaps they did not need to.

When you are armed with smart ideas for change, coupled with sophisticated, well-conceived reasoning to back them up, along with a newly minted doctorate, it makes previously reluctant upper management consider your ideas. It is a very gratifying moment for nurses who have struggled with an MSN under their arm to get this level of access. 

  • Advanced Leadership and Management Training

A DNP is broken up into courses, and most span more than one semester. One area of focus in a DNP is advanced leadership practices and the ability to manage others well. 

Consider the challenge at the most senior levels of nursing. You’ll need to be just as comfortable talking with nursing leaders across different specializations as you are discussing nursing needs with health professionals with a different (or opposing) experience set.

Leadership and management touch on a variety of key areas, and your involvement will change as your responsibilities evolve and positions change too. 

Here are a few examples:

Care Management

Establishing effective care practices to ensure the highest level of healthcare provided to each and every patient is a strong focus for many DNP graduates. While nurses with an MSN will often be in charge of their own respective areas, overseeing all the leadership nursing staff will often fall under the remit of the most senior nurse. Typically, when you have a DNP, then that person is yourself.

The buck stops with you. Any improvements in fundamental care practices on a day-to-day level squarely fall on your shoulders.

Not just to maintain the current levels of care but to review performance and existing care levels to see how they can be improved upon through new procedures, technologies, and practices. It all starts at the top. 

Working with Nursing Leadership

Working closely with the nurses who act as leaders within their own wards or areas of specialty is necessary to ensure consistent performance.

While there will certainly be new policies that must be introduced across the entire nursing staff, there will also be situations where changes or improvements are needed within a single nursing cadre.

By establishing excellent relations with your respective nursing leaders early on, it makes it much easier to stay current with performance metrics, to understand when change is needed, and to determine how best to get each leader’s “buy-in” to make it happen on the individual wards.

Liaising with Other Healthcare Professionals

As someone with a most senior position within the nursing profession, you’ll be looked to by other healthcare professionals to consult, liaise and discuss important healthcare matters.

Here, they may just be looking to get your take on how best they can proceed or consult with you to better understand how nurses will be impacted by suggestions they plan to make to senior management.

By being able to communicate well and powerfully while managing different personalities, the best outcomes can be achieved for the nurses under your purview. 

Managing Relationships Between Training Physicians and the Nursing Staff

Managing relationships between physicians who are treating patients and sometimes operating on them, and the nursing staff that support them in this role, is a delicate one.

Certainly, as a leader in the nursing profession with the credentials to back that up, it will be your responsibility to represent the best in what nurses have to offer the healthcare organization as a whole. Doing so ensures that physicians see nurses as partners towards achieving the best care for each and every patient. 

Handling Staffing Appropriately

Providing guidelines and ensuring that human resource policies are adhered to satisfactorily ensures that the entire team can provide the expected level of care to patients. When something happens that indicates a problem with staff behavior, training or other issues, nursing staff may often require guidance from the most senior nurse for clarification or the final say on the issue. 

  • Next Logical Step in Career Development

It is certainly true that developing your career is possible through growth and additional on-the-job training. As an MSN graduate, there will be opportunities to do more and develop that an RN without a master’s simply wouldn’t have been provided access to. With that said, there are limitations to career progression when staying at an MSN level. 

For the most senior nurses at the executive level within the organization, they will often mention the possibility of studying for a DNP. This may come up in general discussions or in a meeting about work performance and talk of what comes next.

It’s very possible that hints will be made that, to reach the next level, a further educational commitment is required, and it’s up to you to receive those types of hints gracefully should they occur. 

Ultimately, the most senior staff may see a greater role for you and believe in your potential but have their hands tied. They may not be seen favorably if they were to offer a more senior position to a nurse only with an MSN. That may rule you out of the running for such a position.

Therefore, giving you hints about an extra step you could take to advance your career further may have this type of issue underpinning it. Smarter nurses read between the lines better than others. 

  • Returning to Evidence-based Practice

For some nurses, they haven’t been a student in the nursing profession for many years. Also, if they’ve been working in a management position, how nursing affects care at the bedside is something they may have gotten away from over the years. This can lead to a disconnect which is important to break. 

If this sounds a little like yourself and your recent career experience, then studying for a DNP is an opportunity to reconnect with evidence-based approaches updated for the latest technologies and developments. A lot may have changed!

By getting back to evidence-based thinking and processes, and then relearning how to effectively communicate this to others, it helps to tie everything together.

Disparate concepts like community health, how informational technology is changing the nursing profession, and how to help nurses collaborate better, all become clearer when refreshed and brought into the here and now. 

  • Exploring Passion Topics

Rather than being esoteric or tedious to study nursing at the Ph.D. level, it’s different than most students believe. You’ll most likely find that there’s the opportunity to dig deep into passion topics or issues that concern you within the healthcare profession.

A dissertation is most often designed around something that highlights factors relevant to your employer and not something abstract without context or consequence. 

Studying for a doctorate, you level up your skillset to bring to bear a new toolkit to tackle larger problems. Areas of focus that were once something you weren’t at a level within the organization to address, following the Ph.D., you have the tools and the clout to do so. This makes all the difference in the world and keeps the job challenging for you. 

  • Not Getting Left Behind

It’s a fact that there are more DNP graduates now than ever before. Indeed, there are over 14,000 DNP graduates (based on 2015 numbers), and this continues to grow. 

While this is excellent news for the nursing profession as a whole that’s crying out for talented, qualified people to work at the upper levels, this also presents a dilemma for nurses with an MSN.

You see, if you stay where you are, you will get left behind. Nurses that you previously worked alongside will graduate, apply for and move into new senior positions. And they may end up being your boss.

  • Senior Nurses Are Badly Needed in the Profession

Senior nurses wish to see more nurses with PhDs. They see the need within the profession as healthcare organizations grow by necessity to cope with the influx of Boomer patients in need of critical and geriatric care. Along with the increasing requirement for RN nurses and ones in middle management, there’s also a need for top-level nurses to administer and manage the requirements for the profession, the organization and the patients they ultimately serve. 

Without impressive leadership within the nursing profession, there’s no one qualified to represent the nurses at the lower levels – no one leading the way, improving processes, and ensuring that their interests are properly represented within the healthcare profession.

Nurses require a strong, commanding voice of leadership which someone with a Nursing doctorate is perfectly positioned to provide for the benefit of the nursing team. 

When you’re at that point where you’re wondering what comes next for you, look up and not sideways. The nurses that you respect and doing many of the things that you’d like to be doing are leading the way. They may even already be encouraging you to pursue greater advancement and not rest on your laurels. 

Even if you’ve previously thought that you’d achieve an MSN and then end your academic dream there, it may be necessary to reassess that decision. Not everyone is fortunate enough to have people encouraging them to move up and grow out of their current role.

If that’s your situation, then just know that it’s possible if you want it badly enough. Look to your own career, what you want for your future, and decide based on that.