How a DNP Helps Professional Growth

How a DNP Helps Professional Growth

One of the many rewards of nursing is that it is a career rich in professional growth and advancement opportunities. While nurses will usually start their careers as registered nurses (RNs), after a few years of working in it, many will consider the direction they want their career to take and what steps they will need to take to achieve it. Gaining additional qualifications will allow you to make the move into advanced practice and leadership roles, and among the possible qualifications is a doctorate of nursing practice (DNP). It will help boost your professional growth in a variety of ways and take your career to the next level.

What does a DNP involve?

A DNP is a doctoral degree that can be taken by those who already hold a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) or a master of science in nursing (MSN). Unlike a Ph.D. in nursing that is oriented towards research, a DNP is a practice doctoral degree. A DNP focuses on improving the quality of nursing and evidence-based practice. It is an ideal choice for those keen to improve medical outcomes on an individual basis, a community basis, and in the population as a whole.

A DNP takes a number of years of study, with the length of the course varying depending on how much time you can devote to studying and your existing qualifications. Those holding an MSN can complete the course in less than two years, while those moving straight to a DNP from a BSN need three to four years of full-time study.

Those wanting to balance a DNP with their existing roles and responsibilities will often find that an online DNP is a very practical option. The development of online courses has made achieving qualifications such as a DNP much more accessible and a realistic prospect for many nurses. Run by top universities, they are as effective and rigorous as their in-person counterparts. A good example of effective online doctorate of nursing programs can be seen at Wilkes University. Working in a professional-friendly, accelerated format gives students the essential skills and highest level of nursing expertise to prepare them for advanced clinical and leadership roles in just six terms. Through study and clinical hours, DNP students will learn an array of skills that will enhance their professional growth, allowing them to take their careers into specialist roles such as nurse midwife, nurse anesthetist, or nurse practitioner, or to become nurse leaders.

Advanced clinical competence

Nursing is a lifelong learning journey, packed with new developments and discoveries that nurses need to keep up with. Undertaking a DNP will bring you up to date with the latest practices as well as honing your skills for the best possible evidence-based practice. You will also have the chance to specialize in an area that particularly interests you, becoming one of the experts in that field with hands-on skills of the highest standard.

Nursing roles where you will be able to work with more autonomy generally require advanced qualifications. These roles can include nurse midwife, nurse anesthetist, family nurse practitioner, and adult and gerontology nurse practitioner. Many nurses enjoy the challenge of working autonomously and taking on additional responsibilities. It can increase their level of job satisfaction, giving both themselves and others a better appreciation of their professional abilities. Although a DNP may not be necessary for all these roles, it will make your job applications more unimpressive and increase your likelihood of being offered the position. Additionally, the trend in nursing is to want nurses with DNPs to take on more autonomous roles, so by achieving this now, you will be ahead of the curve and much in demand.

Varied career opportunities

Being an RN is a variable role where no two days are the same as you encounter different patients and situations. However, remaining in the same role for a number of years, even one as variable as nursing, can lead to career stagnation. However, one of the major advantages of nursing as a career is the fact that one term covers many different roles and that there are many different career paths available to you. Becoming an RN is an excellent start to your career, and in your years working as an RN, you will develop professionally, becoming increasingly skilled and confident in the many soft and clinical skills RNs need. But there will likely come a time when you want to take on new challenges and consider the different nursing roles available to you. The DNP will open doors to many different career paths, helping to keep nursing the varied and challenging profession you have experienced so far.

Well-deserved recognition

Regardless of whether they undertake formal study, nurses need to keep up to date with the latest developments in medicine and nursing practice in order to practice at the highest standards. However, by taking on formal study and gaining a prestigious qualification such as a DNP, you will be able to demonstrate the high level of your expertise. A DNP is the highest qualification in practice-based education. It will demonstrate that you have the highest level of expertise and knowledge in nursing in clinical settings.

There is a shortage of nurses at all levels. With a DNP, you will impress prospective employers and likely find yourself much in demand. It will increase your chances of getting promotions and advancing your career to exactly where you want it to be.

Leadership roles

A DNP is a good way to enhance your professional standard with a view to entering a nurse leadership role. As a nurse leader, you will be responsible for policies and the implementation of new strategies, allowing you to expand the reach of your influence. It can allow you to implement methods that will bring better outcomes for patients and improve the working environment of nurses. Additionally, nurse leader roles come with an attractive salary package that makes acquiring a DNP a worthwhile investment. Leadership roles can mean moving into executive roles in healthcare settings, extending your influence across multiple departments and wards.

Research roles

Although nurses who want to move their career into research may more commonly undertake a Ph.D, holders of DNPs can also use their qualifications to open up clinical research opportunities. A clinical researcher will generate evidence to support the development of new practices or to justify the continuing development of existing practices. In doing this, you will not only make a difference to patient outcomes today but also contribute to the outcomes of patients in the future.

Nurse education

Another way holders of a DNP can contribute to the future of nursing is through nurse education. You may choose to do this formally, taking on a role in a nursing faculty where you can take on responsibility for student welfare, instruction, and support. Nursing faculties may not demand a DNP qualification for their nurse educators, but generally, academic roles do prefer them, so a DNP qualification is well worth achieving if this is a direction that interests you.

As well as taking on an educator role in a faculty, you can also do this on the ward. Highly experienced and educated nurses are needed to work with nursing students, supporting them in their clinical placements. In this role, you will need to monitor and evaluate progress, giving constructive feedback so student nurses can develop their skills. Clinical placements are often physically and mentally demanding and do not always go well. As a nurse educator supporting them, you will be in a position to help them through the trickier parts of their placement and enjoy the professional satisfaction of seeing these students grow in confidence.

Advocacy and influencing health policy

As a respected professional with a wealth of clinical experience, you can become a voice to be listened to when new policies are in development, both within your own workplace and in the local, state, and federal legislatures. Achieving a DNP will give you additional credibility, demonstrating to executives and politicians alike that your opinion is worth listening to.

Many hospital boards do not have a RN sitting on them, but gradually it is changing with the view of nurses being one that healthcare facilities recognize is well worth listening to. A DNP will increase your chances of being selected for this role and ensure that your voice at the table is one that carries considerable authority.

When politicians are creating healthcare policies, it looks good for them to take note of expert advice, and a DNP can demonstrate to them and their electors that you truly are an expert with the highest level of expertise in clinical nursing.

Prolong your nursing career

While nursing is a highly rewarding career, it is also a physically and emotionally demanding one. While the physical demands of days on your feet in busy wards are not a problem for younger nurses, it may become too much for older nurses. However, a DNP opens up more roles, including ones that are less physically demanding. A family nurse practitioner (FNP), for example, may have their own roster of patients they see in a clinic, which is less physically demanding than the fast-paced atmosphere of the emergency room. It can also open up opportunities in management, administration, or education that, while mentally stimulating, are not as demanding physically. Gaining a qualification that opens up so many different opportunities is one way of ensuring you can continue to develop professionally in the profession that you love until retirement.

Improved patient outcomes

The professional goal of all nurses is to help others. Delivering the best possible outcome for their patients and gaining a DNP will enable them to do this. From the advancement of your clinical skills that will make you a more effective nurse to the various roles open to you, such as specialization education, research, leadership, and influencing health policy, you can help change standards for the better, improving patient outcomes and making healthcare a more comfortable experience for them.

Enhance the nursing profession

The professional profile of the nurse has evolved considerably over the years. Once more likely to be someone who took care of the empathetic, caring side of medicine while the clinical aspects were left to physicians, nursing has now transformed into a skilled medical profession in its own right. However, as the shortage in nursing demonstrates, not enough people are considering nursing careers. Nurses who gain advanced qualifications and can take on high roles with competitive salaries where they work with increasing degrees of autonomy enhance the status of the profession. It will send a message to ambitious people, whether they are still at school, considering their career options, or are considering a second career after working in an unrelated field, that nursing is for them.

Getting started

If you are looking to boost your professional growth as a nurse, then a DNP could be for you, and it is well worth finding out more about the course options available to you. There is no need to give up on your dreams if there is not a course in person near you. You can opt for an accredited online course that will be just as rigorous and challenging, allowing you to complete the necessary study from the comfort of your home and fitting in with your current professional responsibilities. While the course is likely to require you to complete some clinical hours, many online courses today offer clinical placement services that will help you secure high-quality clinical placements at a convenient location for you.

A DNP is an investment of time and money, but it is one that is likely to pay off both in terms of an improved salary and in helping you achieve your dreams. Whether there is a nursing specialism you want to excel in, you want to become a nurse leader, an educator, or undertake clinical research, a DNP represents a significant step in achieving your professional goals.

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