What is a DNP?

 In the field of education there are basically two broad categories of doctorate degrees:

1) A Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) and 2) A Practice Doctorate.

PhDs are trained to be conceptual thinkers in their field. They go on to conduct research, write about philosophical approaches to their field of interest and teach in universities. Professionals with PhD degrees are addressed as “Doctor”.

Practice doctorates are many and varied and include: MDs (medical doctors), JDs (attorneys), DDSs (dentists), NDs (naturopathic doctors), PsychDs (clinical psychologists), DPMs (podiatrists),  PharmDs (pharmacists) and ODs (optomotrists). Professionals with practice doctorates, with the exception of attorneys, are also addressed as “Doctor”.

In a very general sense, you might say that those with PhDs are the “thinkers” and those with practice doctorates are the “do-ers”.

The PhD in nursing has existed for many decades. But nurse practitioners and other nurses in practice have not typically been attracted to this degree because they see themselves as “do-ers” and have no desire to work with concepts, philosophy and education.

Enter the doctorate in nursing practice (DNP), the practice doctorate degree for the nurse. This doctoral training is geared towards clinical nurse specialists and advanced practice nurses. It prepares these nurses to be leaders in their field.

In 2004, the members of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) voted to move the current entry level preparation for advanced nursing practice from the master’s degree to the doctorate level by the year 2015.