With so many options for nursing education, one of the highest degrees a nurse can pursue is a Doctor of Nursing Practice. The demand for DNP-prepared nurses has increased exponentially in the past decade. But what are the next steps after you’ve obtained the terminal degree? What can you do with a DNP degree? What jobs can you get with a DNP degree?
Whether you want to create policies, be hands-on clinically, or coach other nurses on their doctorate journey, there are many career paths for registered nurses with a DNP. Read on to learn what professional opportunities and nursing jobs you can achieve with the degree.
What is a DNP degree?
First, let’s review what a DNP degree is:
- A terminal degree for registered nurses.
- DNP program includes a project and practicum as part of the graduation requirements.
- It involves implementing an evidence-based practice change in the student’s organization.
- It’s different from a Ph.D. degree that focuses on research, whereas the DNP degree focuses on implementing innovative, evidence-based practice.
- The program can be completed in 2-3 years, depending on if you are a part- or full-time student. (Aspen University’s online DNP program can be completed in as little as 24 months.)
What can you do with a DNP degree?
There are various nursing career paths and leadership roles for those who possess a DNP, ranging from administration to beyond the bedside. Here are a few nursing jobs and professional pursuits to consider.
Have you always aspired to be part of the academic environment? Having a DNP can make your job hunt a lot easier. Many nursing instructors and faculty maintain an active clinical role, which allows them to promote clinical practice advancements and advanced practice roles. However, the demand for nursing educators with DNPs is high.
Aspen University graduate Dr. Pamela Manning credits her doctorate title for helping her land a new opportunity as the Director of Nursing at a private school, where she’s developing their nursing program and curriculum.
As a DNP-prepared faculty member, you can:
- Participate in educational research regarding evidence-based practice.
- Serve as a primary investigator or writer, publishing articles in nursing and science journals.
- Serve as a preceptor for students enrolled in DNP programs. Only those with doctorates can serve as a preceptor.
- Create and conduct clinical and hospital staff continuing education opportunities.
- Develop policies and curriculums for nursing programs.
Nurses who hold a doctorate are healthcare leaders and can take an active role in research, innovation, and evidence-based practice. Many healthcare innovators, such as Dr. Patricia Benner, began their research and innovation journey after obtaining a DNP degree and have greatly impacted evidence-based practice, clinical skills, and patient outcomes.
For example, Dr. Benner has become a highly cited author who has published many articles and nine books on various crucial topics, ranging from patient safety to coping in health and illness. Muriel Moyo, Aspen University DNP candidate, has already tapped into nursing innovation with her research and published works, including her American Journal of Nursing (AJN) article Adapting the Nurse Manager Role to Attract Generation X and Millennial Nurses.
The DNP degree also opens up opportunities for many registered nurses to participate in executive roles, using their leadership skills to improve healthcare systems. A nurse executive can work in many settings such as hospitals, private businesses, and even in government positions.
DNP-prepared nurse executives can:
- Create health policies for organizational change.
- Evaluate how outcomes impact patient populations and, through interprofessional collaborations, find evidence-based solutions.
- Lead Magnet designation initiatives.
- Be an active participant in the financial status of healthcare delivery systems.
- Implement practice changes in the organization.
As a doctorally-prepared registered nurse, you learn to use your experience and extensive education to lead collaborative teams, engage in quality initiatives, build multi-disciplinary teams, and be part of system changes. These skills are what many organizations look for to redesign systems, change policies, and find new ways that ultimately result in positive patient outcomes.
A DNP degree demonstrates the highest level of education for practice-based registered nurses and is designed to create leaders in the nursing field. As a result, achieving this level of education makes you an expert in the field and the perfect person to guide others on their DNP journey. Doctorate nurses can become entrepreneurs and open their own DNP coaching businesses.
The doctoral journey can be highly stressful and demanding for students, so as a DNP coach, you would help students navigate the entire program by:
- Helping students understand the DNP process.
- Guiding them through topic selection, PICOT formation, Independent Review Board (IRB) approval, and project completion.
- Providing continuous feedback on their progress.
Many schools provide a mentor, but they tend to be minimally involved in aspects outside of the required DNP project. However, as a DNP coach, you can give candidates the extra boost they need by:
- Ensuring the DNP student is doing everything as per the school’s curriculum
- Providing the student with peace of mind
- Acting as a paid consultant
Unlock your nursing career
Obtaining a DNP degree is an outstanding achievement, and it’s always good to know what options you have after obtaining it. As a DNP nurse myself, I always compare this achievement in the following way:
- A bachelor’s degree opens the door a quarter of the way to your professional career.
- A master’s degree opens the door to the halfway point, where you can advance your career choices and use your voice for change.
- A doctorate degree fully opens the door because your opportunities are endless.
If you want to obtain your DNP, rest assured that opportunities are overflowing. And if you don’t see a job you like, you can create it—because that is how much educational power you have!
Want to earn your DNP? Aspen’s affordable and online DNP program may be the right fit for you.
Dr. Margarita David is a doctorally-prepared Registered Nurse, #1 Bestselling Author, and founder of the Dr. Registered Nurse Success Academy, LLC. that provides tutoring, mentoring and consulting to prospective nurses, nurses, and students in graduate and doctoral studies. Dr. David also has a YouTube channel called Dr. Registered Nurse, where she makes videos on hard-to-understand nursing school concepts easy to comprehend. She also holds a Bachelor in Business Management & Administration and a Masters in Nursing Education and Leadership. She has been married for over 20 years and is a mother of three! Follow her on Instagram and YouTube!