The healthcare landscape in the United States is changing rapidly. Demand for care is growing faster than the availability of providers. For Nurses and Nurse Practitioners searching for the next step in their career paths, a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree has much to offer. Before you decide to pursue a DNP, take the time to understand what you can expect from an online DNP program, and what your career options may be upon completion.
Why Should You Pursue a DNP Degree?
The U.S. Department of Health and Human services projects a 14 percent increase in demand for primary care services between 2010 and 2020. This change is driven primarily by a growing and aging population and secondarily by the expansion of coverage under the Affordable Care Act. Nurse Practitioners are responding to this mounting shortage by fighting for, and winning, greater freedom to practice independently. According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), more than 20 states currently allow NPs full independent practice. As Nurse Practitioners increasingly practice at a level comparable to other op-level healthcare practitioners, there is a need for Doctorate-level Nurse Practitioners with a clinical focus, rather than the academic research focus of a Ph.D. The AANP states that a ”DNP provides a clinical option for advanced preparation in nursing practice that is more comparable to other intra-professional education.” A higher level of education and training and the opportunity to further specialize in the nursing field make a DNP an attractive option for nurses and NPs with master’s degrees.
The Benefits of an Online DNP Program
An online DNP program offers students the opportunity to work toward a doctorate in a way that does not interfere with family commitments, professional obligations, or geographic limitations. For students in an online DNP program, anywhere with Internet access can be their classroom. Online DNP programs require the same amount of credit hours as traditional programs, but students have the flexibility to complete class commitments at a time that works for them. While some online DNP programs have campus commitment requirements, Maryville University’s Online Nurse Practitioner Program does not. That means less time spent commuting and greater flexibility for students located far from Maryville’s campus. An online DNP program requires a strong work ethic and the ability to focus, as students are responsible for managing their own time. Fortunately, nursing professionals cultivate these qualities in their careers, making them excellent candidates for success in an online program.
Image via Flickr by Medill DC
Career Options for DNPs
DNPs may work in the same settings as those with a masters’ degree in nursing. However, a DNP degree qualifies candidates for higher-level positions with advanced responsibilities. According to AllNursingSchools.com, in a clinical setting, you may have greater influence over patient treatment plans and policy development or be qualified for executive roles. Alternatively, you may choose to open your own independent practice. There are many opportunities for DNPs outside of a clinical setting, as well. Public health policy makes up a significant part of a DNP degree, opening the door to a career in policymaking or research in a governmental position or research facility, according to AllNursingSchools.com. You may also choose to work in an academic environment, educating the next generation of nurses. A DNP degree is a common requirement for nurse educator positions. The DNP is a terminal degree in nursing, representing the highest level of education available in the field. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), “Employers are quickly recognizing the unique contribution these expert nurses are making in the practice arena, and the demand for DNP-prepared nurses continues to grow.” Take your education to the next level with an online DNP program, and you may play an integral role in the future of nursing.