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Doctor of Nursing Practice Degrees: An Overview for Today’s Nursing Professional


In 2004, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) formulated a task force to investigate the challenges and opportunities involved with growing the nursing profession via Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degrees. The goal was to elevate the requirements for advanced nursing practitioners to include a DNP by 2015.


Latest available statistics show that only one percent of all nurses hold DNP credentials even though the degree was first introduced in 1979.  Only a handful of schools initially offered the degree program. Today, the majority of schools with nurse practitioner degree programs also offer a Doctor of Nursing Practice curriculum.

The Foundation of DNP Studies

Per the AACN, there are eight essential standards for the foundational curriculum content and outcome-based competencies for any online or campus-based DNP programs. These include:


  • “Scientific Underpinnings for Doctoral Practice”
  • “Organizational and Systems Leadership for Quality Improvement”
  • “Clinical Scholarship and Analytical Methods for Evidence-Based Practice”
  • “Information Systems/Technology and Patient Care Technology for the Improvement and Transformation of Health Care”
  • “Health Care Policy for Advocacy in Health Care”
  • “Inter-professional Collaboration for Improving Patient and Population Health Outcomes”
  • “Clinical Prevention and Population Health for Improving the Nation’s Health”
  • “Advanced Nursing Practice”

The Value of a DNP Degree

Earning your DNP degree will elevate your nursing status to the highest levels of professionalism. You will be prepared to advance your career in one of several directions, depending on your goals for the future.  Some opportunities to consider are:

Nurse Education

Pursue a professor or assistant professor role at school of nursing or work as a clinical nurse educator in a hospital setting.

Private Practice

Some states or areas allow DNPs to enter into Private Practice. In this situation, you would be able to join a family nurse practitioner group or start your own private practice to support the families in your community.

Hospital Administration

Advance into a director role or C-level position as an advocate for the nursing practice throughout the organization.

Healthcare Policy

Work in a local, state or national capacity where you can contribute to policymaking as it applies to healthcare access.

Patient Advocacy

Be a voice for patient rights with a focus on the delivery of safe, quality care that respects cultural preferences and individual needs.


Whatever path you choose, you’ll know that your work is essential to the future of the nursing practice and the opportunities for all others who follow in your footsteps.

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