A DNP or Doctorate in Nursing Practice certification is a terminal degree that is attained in any specific field of nursing, denoting that it is the highest possible educational qualification that a nurse can have in that field. A very small percentage of nurses have a DNP,
which is understandable because it does require a significant amount of experience and prior qualifications for a nurse to be even eligible for a DNP degree course. This brings us to the titular question, who should consider completing their nursing education in its truest sense and why?
Eligibility is the First Criterion
Eligibility is the first criterion because nurses without the necessary qualifications should first consider completing their next step in nursing education, instead of a program that they are not yet eligible to even apply for.
Being a terminal degree of the highest nature, any nurse looking to join a doctorate program must have the necessary qualifications. Now, it would be difficult to state the exact qualifications for a post master’s degree without knowing the specifics,
but the following are usually the most common eligibility criteria required to join all accredited DNP programs in the United States:
- A verified Registered Nurse’s (RN) license without any lingering dispute
- A regionally or nationally accredited Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree
- A regionally or nationally accredited Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree
- 3.0 GPA throughout
- Experience and letters of recommendation, as specified by the nursing school in question
Do keep in mind that different colleges have different and additional criteria as well, so it will vary. Nevertheless, these are the usual requirements to apply for all accredited offline or online post masters DNP programs in the US.
Therefore, professional nurses who already have these qualifications are the ones who should consider getting a DNP for professional benefits. All the following reasonings will be based on the assumption that those reading them are already in a position to apply for a post master’s degree course.
Those Eligible and Willing to Take Up Leadership Responsibilities
For those that are eligible to apply for post masters DNP programs and wish to assume a leadership position in a hospital or clinic, the degree is an obvious choice.
The best choice would be the accredited professional online post masters DNP programs that are geared towards training future nursing leaders, rather than teachers. The online format is perfect as it allows nurses to work and study simultaneously,
in addition to gaining practical experience hours, which make a huge difference to employers. Not that teachers cannot be leaders in the field or vice-versa, but there is a significant difference between the two types of doctorate programs.
PhD programs are more suited for those that wish to take a up an academic career in teaching and training young nurses to face the future of healthcare.
DNP programs, on the other hand, are created to train highly experienced nurses into present day leaders in their field of work, the government’s healthcare policy making wings, and their respective departments of expertise.
A doctorate program designed to equip veteran nurses with leadership skills will tend to focus more on subjects as evidence-based advanced nursing practices, healthcare policy development, leadership skill training, ethics, legal aspects of nursing practice, and the like.
Those Looking for the Opportunity to Generate a Higher Income
The more qualified a person is as a nurse, the higher are their income opportunities. The same can be theoretically said about most other fields of work in general, but in case of healthcare, this is a reality.
The main reason why it is so has a lot to do with the fact that there seems to be a constant deficit of nurses in the United States, despite the fact being acknowledged by the government years ago. This is for nurses in general, but the deficiency in the available number of qualified nursing leaders is even more profound.
This is a result of several factors and not just one.
- A huge number of experienced nurses who used to lead are retiring every year
- New nurses cannot replace the retired nurse leaders due to their obvious lack of sufficient experience and qualifications
- It will take years for a young RN to complete the necessary qualifications, certifications, and experience necessary to fill those gaps
- MSN nurses who have the experience but have not yet completed their DNP, often do not pursue the terminal degree
- The global pandemic has taken a death toll on several experienced and aged nurse leaders early on
These are just some of the many reasons why there is indeed a viable opportunity for eligible nurses to raise their annual income quite significantly, after completing their DNP.
As far as the salaries themselves are concerned, it varies depending on the state, council, the nurse’s area of specialization, the employer, etc. It is still possible to draw average income estimates from PayScale, Salary.com, and other verified sources.
According to those sources, a highly qualified nurse leader can expect salaries close to what the following few examples should convey:
- were earning roughly $93,300 annually as a base salary in 2021, plus bonuses (an additional $1,000 – $16,000 per year)
- Chief Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA) are the highest earning nursing leaders with an average pay of $183,780 per year + $2,000 – $20,000 in bonuses
It should be noted that the same sources have also identified the average income of any veteran nurse who is working in a role fit for a DNP nurse. It is estimated to be roughly $105,000 annually, in addition to whatever bonus they might be eligible for at their place of work.
Those Willing to Help their Patients at a Greater Capacity
The medical profession is not for everyone as it is imperative to never forget why the profession exists. Nurses take care of and help patients who need it, which does not change with one’s income or qualification.
However, what can change for a caring nurse is his/her ability to help their patients at a greater capacity. For example, nurses who do not agree with certain healthcare policies for one reason or the other, can help bring about the changes that they wish to see by rising higher up the ladder.
The change could be at an institutional level, at a state level, or even at a federal level, depending on where the professional is working and in which field.
They do not have to be revolutionary but even several small changes made gradually over a long period of time can make a huge difference in healthcare. Those with a vision should certainly pursue the terminal DNP certificate as it will allow them the necessary qualification and credibility to take up leadership roles.
Despite there being differences in personal opinions, it is an undeniable fact that change can only be brought about from the top.
Those Who Wish to Operate Independently
While changing, rewriting, amending, and creating healthcare policies is the most profound way in which nurse leaders can usher in positive changes for patients, that is not the only way to help patients by getting a higher qualification.
For example, a family nurse practitioner (FNP) with DNP certification is allowed in a number of US states to act in almost the same capacity as a general physician. They have the power to diagnose patients, order medical exams, and even write prescriptions for their patients independently.
In rural areas where people hardly have access to any form of healthcare, family nurse practitioners have been helping women and children in particular for a long time at this point.
They are more than just highly qualified and experienced nurses in such communities, because they often assume leadership roles at a much greater capacity. Unknown to many, these are the nurses who face the most critical of healthcare challenges with highly limited resources.
Things have improved significantly in the last few years, but that too is a result of their efforts which have made FNP and other NP clinics more accessible and approachable to people living in remote locations around the States.
While the job has its challenges, the potential income, prestige, result and freedom of working without physician supervision is more than worth it for a lot of nurses.
Those Willing to Improve Nursing Conditions
Nurses face grueling hours and go through hectic duties on a regular basis. Sometimes, the conditions of their workplace make working even harder than it has to be.
Very few nurses with any degree of experience will argue with that fact, but an even fewer number of professionals are willing to pursue a path that can change some of those scenarios.
Just like a doctorate degree can help nurses purse careers where they can bring about changes to help patients who are suffering, they can do similar work for their coworkers as well.
Undue problems for nurses are often created by inconsiderate company attitude, a lack of sufficient resources, or a combination of both. By joining the management with a goal, it is possible for nurse leaders to change some of that effectively.
The nursing profession will always remain a challenging one, but it is possible to eliminate several unnecessary problems to make their jobs more patient-centric than corporate. Then of course, there is also the question of safety.
A number of safety issues and workplace hazards have been identified by the American Nurses Association as being the most common. While changes have been made from several angles by the present leadership, additional officials to identify solutions and more importantly,
lead their implementations, is necessary. A quick look through the aforementioned safety issues should provide a better picture:
- Inadequate implementation of established, safe staffing levels endangering both patients and nurses
- Inadequate implementation of safe nursing hours will often result in tired, overworked nurses making life-threatening mistakes
- Mandatory overtime hours make it very unlikely that nurses will be able to avoid the scenario mentioned above
- Improper recruitment and/or assignments where young nurses are forced to face situations that they are not qualified or experienced enough to deal with
- Reluctancy by applicable authority to recognize hazardous and unsafe working conditions for nurses
- Inadequate measures taken by the hospital/clinic authority to provide a secured work environment to their nurses
Those Willing to Teach After Retirement
Previously, it was mentioned how a PhD in Nursing Practices is a better degree for those willing to join academics after a certain point in their career. That remains true, since PhDs are more focused on academic training.
That being said, a retired nurse leader who has had decades of practical experience in dealing with several real-life challenges throughout his/her professional career will be considered an asset for any nursing university looking to hire new teachers.
Nurses who do not wish to retire from active nursing duty right now but would like to keep the opportunity to teach at a later time should definitely consider completing their education and getting a DNP in their field of expertise.
Nurse educators are not as highly paid as nursing professionals, which is exactly why it might be more appealing to someone who has already retired. On an average, nurse educators can expect to get paid about $77,700 per year, with bonuses ranging from $500 – $12,000 at most.
However, having a doctorate degree is almost an essential requirement for getting hired as an educator after retirement. It should be noted that career nursing educators usually have to possess their teaching degree to be eligible for such jobs.
In the case of veteran nurses with a DNP though, exceptions are often made on account of their vast, real-life experience in training and leading young nurses in active healthcare. Nevertheless, a lot still depends on the discretions of the nursing schools in question.