What is a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)?

Doctor of Nursing PracticeChanges in the health care profession are advancing faster than anyone may have ever expected or wanted, especially for those who continue to argue the merits of what is a Doctor of Nursing Practice. As the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was introduced in 2008, later passed in the US Senate in Dec. of 2009, the struggle to extend the responsibilities of nurses as part of the medical "team" assisting in the health and welfare of patients gained a lot more steam.


What is a Doctor of Nursing Practice?

Simply, the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) is a professional terminal degree. It is primarily distinguished as a practice-oriented degree as opposed to the academic and research-oriented Ph.D. These two doctorate-level degrees in nursing are phasing out previous degrees. The Doctor of Nursing (ND) and the DrNP have transformed into the DNP, whereas the Doctor of Nursing Science (DNSc, DSN or DNS) all are now part of the Ph.D. The DNP is on par with other disciplines, such as psychology, dentistry and medicine.

The Needs of the Many

Aside from the decades-old fight for nurses to gain the recognition and authority of which they have been deserving for their knowledge and practice in the field, there was an immediate recognition for the number of patients outnumbering doctors. Action was already being taken in 2004 at a meeting of the American Association of College of Nurses (AACN). Member schools voted on a position statement on the Practice Doctorate in Nursing.

This was clearly a movement to transition the advanced nursing practice from the master's degree level to doctorate-level by the year 2015. It was not an overnight decision. In fact, this action followed three years of research by the consensus-building task force established to substantiate what is a doctor of nursing practice.

The Controversy Persists

The greatest source of conflict that remains over this change is in the nomenclature, according to the Online Journal of Issues in Nursing. The concern over title or role confusion is the reason given for disputing the development of the Doctor of Nursing Practice. Physicians who have enjoyed the distinction of being the team leaders have done so under the status quo; however, that is changing as rapidly as the patient population is growing. The need for advanced practice nursing is already a growing demand in the field and is soon to become so among physicians as they understand and appreciate the benefit of the help they deliver.

Related Resource: Specialize a Master's Degree in Nursing

Common Goals

Once Doctors of Nursing Practice have become plentiful in the field, it may very well become a situation where physicians are finally allowed the full exercise of their specialized knowledge and skills. The common complaint shared among patients and doctors is the lack of time available to them to spend with each other for a more meaningful experience. Perhaps the DNP is the answer to rounding out the field in ways that answer to the needs of effective health care delivery.

Regardless of which side of the argument upon which anyone lands, time will eventually decide. Between the lack of physicians in rural areas and the influx of patients into the system as a result of healthcare reform, now is the time for these changes to occur. It is going to be the market pressures that further define what is a Doctor of Nursing Practice and how that particular achievement will be formally addressed.

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