If you are a prospective nursing doctoral student, you’ve examined the doctorate of nursing practice and the doctorate of philosophy degrees to decide the education path that’s right for you. If you’ve chosen the DNP degree, you’ve probably had many conversations with DNP students and alumni about the programs they’ve selected as well as the potential roles for DNPs across the healthcare system.
Three nurse leaders talk about the DNP education experience as well its challenges, and give words of wisdom to those interested in pursuing the DNP degree.
While earning my DNP degree, I gained valuable leadership skills and strong clinical expertise which helped me translate evidence-based knowledge in the clinical setting. I have mentored my peers, staff and other nurses in pursuit of their DNPs, and I have witnessed their professional growth as they completed the degree. Besides opening many doors for them, it has improved outcomes for our patients under their care because they’ve developed confidence and leadership and application skills for driving practice changes at the bedside. The biggest challenge in obtaining a DNP is the time commitment while continuing to work full-time. It isn’t an easy endeavor but well worth every moment of the investment. For those interested in pursuing a DNP, I wholeheartedly encourage you and know you will gain far more than you can imagine from the program. It is much more than receiving the credentials. It is a life-changing experience. Obtaining your DNP will give you leadership opportunities you never dreamed possible, enriching your life and your nursing career. It’s really about believing in yourself and reaching for your dreams. — Donna Richardson, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, vice president & associate chief nursing officer, Parkland Health & Hospital System, Dallas.
Many colleagues have asked me about my DNP program, and I could tell by their questions they were picturing themselves doing the same thing. One person I worked with pursued a doctoral degree, and thanked me for being his inspiration. I saw those who worked full-time found it particularly hard to devote the time they needed to their studies and assignments. However, some were getting tuition reimbursement from their employers. As a part-time employee at the time, I didn’t have that benefit, so my challenge was a financial one. If you are thinking about pursuing the DNP, be sure to research the various programs. Look at the curriculum and see if it aligns with your own career goals. Some programs combine distance education with opportunities to meet with colleagues on campus. For me, it was enjoyable and valuable to get to know students in my cohort face to face. And lastly, go for it! Education is never a waste of time and is priceless in terms of what it contributes to your life. Through my program, I learned so much about being a nursing leader, and achieving the degree definitely opened doors for me. — Donna Novak, DNP, CRNP, community health nurse practitioner, Maternal & Child Health Programs, Bethlehem Health Bureau, Bethlehem, Pa.
I see role transition as one of the major challenges for DNP students. In many cases, the students are advanced practice nurses who are compassionate and competent with a focus on individual patients and family populations. As they transition through the program, they develop into practice and organizational leaders, requiring a focus on population and organizational leadership. In the DNP program, students develop new skill sets, a new way of thinking and a balanced perspective as we assure quality care on both individual and organizational levels. Be proactive as you prepare for and engage in doctoral studies. Time management and organizational skills are critical. Prepare yourself as well as your family and those close to you. Plan ahead with your employer to schedule leave time if needed for practice immersion hours and study time. Self-awareness is critical as you appraise your strengths and needs, incorporating them into your individual development plans. Seek guidance from faculty or a practice mentor, such as a DNP in your community. Many individuals are ready to support you through the process including those in your life as well as engaged faculty and practice leaders. — Mary Hooshmand, PhD, RN, associate dean for DNP programs, University of Miami School of Nursing and Health Studies.