'Practice' or 'Clinical' Doctorate?
Here at the DNP Answers blog we take your questions about the DNP and answer them as best we can. This is our first DNP question:
Q: “If the DNP is a clinical doctorate degree, why are programs admitting students that have a Masters in education, forensics, etc.?”
(from reader Melissa Prouty, who asked us on Facebook)
A: Melissa, what a great and pertinent question. The American Association of the Colleges of Nursing (AACN) has actually deemed that the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree be described as a “practice” doctorate, not a “clinical” doctorate (AACN, 2004).
The reason for this stems from the AACN’s definition of nursing practice:
"The term practice, specifically nursing practice, as conceptualized in this document refers to any form of nursing intervention that influences health care outcomes for individuals or populations, including the direct care of individual patients, management of care for individuals and populations, administration of nursing and health care organizations, and the development and implementation of health policy. Preparation at the practice doctorate level includes advanced preparation in nursing, based on nursing science, and is at the highest level of nursing practice."
It is helpful to understand that the definition of nursing practice is quite inclusive and that “practice” includes both direct and indirect interventions which impact patient care and healthcare delivery. So, while many programs admit students who are clinicians, many also admit students who are in indirect patient care and healthcare delivery roles, such as nurse educators or nurse executives.
It does get somewhat confusing and in an effort to reduce confusion regarding advanced nursing practice, the AACN defines advanced nursing practice as including but not limited to the four current APN roles: clinical nurse specialist, nurse anesthetist, nurse midwife, and nurse practitioner. Also, it is important to remember that “practice” is not just direct patient care. Practice encompasses all aspects of care and healthcare delivery including direct care, policy development, leadership and implementation and evaluation of evidence-based practice. Therefore, the DNP is a “practice doctorate” which focuses on all areas of practice, both direct and indirect. I hope this gives you some clarity regarding your question.
Editor's note: Comment below to continue discussion on this topic, or, if you have another question, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.