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DNP Discussions

Benefits of the DNP

Published May 4, 2010 9:31 AM by Scott Governo

Here at the DNP Answers blog we take your questions about the DNP and answer them as best we can. DNP Answers blogger Scott Governo, NP, answers the following question.

Q: “What are the benefits of having [the DNP] versus the master's degree?” (from Reader Timbolin D. Holmes, who asked us on Facebook)

A: The benefits of having the DNP versus the Master’s degree are both personal and professional. I have always wished to challenge myself professionally and academically. Healthcare is rapidly changing and quality healthcare is hard to deliver in an environment that is being pulled in so many different directions politically, financially and structurally.

I chose to seek the doctorate to learn new knowledge and skills in the fields of leadership, philosophy, program evaluation, business and the theoretical basis of nursing care, to name a few. These are also taught in many master's programs, however for me the DNP degree has deepened my knowledge by looking at these concepts in a synergistic fashion. I feel that it has allowed me to take a new and fresh look at the care I deliver and to widen my perspectives. Personally, I feel that the clinical doctorate will be the culmination of my educational experience in nursing. Not that one ever stops learning, but I feel I will now have better tools to learn with. Asking the hard questions and seeking the true answers.

Professionally, the clinical doctorate has been a long time coming. Some in academia feel that our master’s programs have become so over expanded that the evolution to a clinical doctorate was inevitable. Many NPs today have taken on the roles traditionally held by physicians. A clinical doctorate is one way to continue to educate and prepare our nursing graduates for the daunting task of delivering high-quality healthcare.

Politically, some may feel that a doctorate degree can “level the playing field” when it comes to healthcare organizations and other related professionals. Striving toward our highest clinical level of education can only help when working with interdisciplinary groups. The lay public may have confusion initially, but most want you to be well prepared and experienced, regardless of your title. If they do need education regarding your new role, teach them. Who does it better than nurses?

Ultimately it is a personal choice. I think for me it was the right one, although not yet a graduate, I am waiting to see if my perceptions of the degree transition meet the reality of its acceptance. My only advice is that if someone you know chooses to get additional education and training, support them. The most troublesome comments I have heard have been with elements within nursing. How short-sighted we are. If you look back you will find many of the same tired arguments used in the discussions about the baccalaureate degree for nursing decades ago. Have we not learned? Support your nursing colleagues wherever they find themselves in their career. It can only help our profession in the long run. Will there ever be a time in our future when we think we no longer need to learn? I hope not.

Editor's note: Comment below to continue discussion on this topic, or send new questions to  


I think you raise some very good points, Cindy. However, I'd like to add that the idea that the DNP will soon become mandatory for all APNs is far from a sure thing. The NLN recently came out in favor of continuing to prepare APNs at both MSN and DNP levels for the forseeable future, countering the AACN's mandatory-DNP position. In addition, the AACN's accrediting body has said that it will not withhold accreditation from any program that continues to prepare APNs at the master's level, which means that no such program will be "forced" to adopt the AACN's recommendations. Hopefully, for the sake of the nursing profession as well as our nation's health-care system, the DNP will continue to be a choice rather than become a dictate at a time when the need for nurses, including APNs, is forecast to increase considerably in the years ahead.

Richard August 5, 2010 3:01 PM

The Nurse Practitioner profession continues to evolve.  Within our recent past entry level into practice was at a certificate level.  Entry level then evolved into requiring master's preparation.  In the near future it seems that entry level will once again progress in that entry level requirement will be that at the doctorate level.

Change always seems to be met with resistance.  I am sure that those NPs who were prepared at a certificate level were concerned with the new requirement for masters preparation.  These individuals continue to practice in our midst and very few of us are able to differentiate the different preparation levels.  There are some differences, although subtle.  I think this too will be the same as we transition to the next level.  

I would hope that we as a profession would support advancement and progress.  To those not choosing to seek a DNP I respect and support your choice.  You as a NP provide a greatly needed service and seemingly in the near future will play a much more important role as our healthcare system evolves.  To those individuals who choose to seek the DNP, I applaud your courage to seek and advance yourself and your profession and prepare to meet the demands and scrutiny that we will be under as our role in the evolving healthcare system will seemingly expand.

We must keep in mind that we are all playing in the same sandbox and should not be throwing sand at one another no matter the choice we make.  We are part of a team.  Let's work together.

In response to Jason, as a DNP I work in direct patient care all day long in addition to managing my own clinic practice.  This includes making marketing decisions, business decisions regarding equipment, supplies, medication, etc. as well as pay the bills and supervise my office staff.  Oh yes, I forgot, I also serve as a representative for my region in our state NP professional organization, serve on the ADVANCE for NP Editorial  Board, contribute an annual article for publication, serve as a volunteer officer on the Institute for Breast Health Board helping to sponsor a totally free annual education symposium, serve on our state NP Public Policy Committee, serve on a national board for aesthetic medical professionals, am active within our local state nurses association, Sigma Theta Tau, serve as a member of the Finance Committee for my local church as well as serve as a lector. Oh yes, I'm married and have children (although they are college age).  

I guess I mention these things because I also feel very stronly that it's important to be involved in professional as well as community organizations no matter the educational preparation. I feel my DNP program helped drive home that a part of our responsibility is to be involved so that we will be invited to the table when decisions  are made concerning our practice and our patients we care for.  It's up to us to manage our profession and future.  If we don't, someone else will.  

Cindy Cobb, Aesthetics - Clinic Owner, Allure Enhancement Center May 8, 2010 10:12 AM
Lafayette LA

I agree that a DNP is a personal choice, and it is one that I do not plan to pursue.  It will not help me to better relate to my patients, nor will it change how I diagnose and treat my patients.  I think the focus should be on more of an extension of what our knowledge base is and focus more on specifics that we can fine tune or broaden.  I love what I do, and while I do take

CME's to further my knowledge, it would be more adventagous to be able to broaden my base of knowledge in a setting that is more hands on and less text book.

Kim Sandford, Pediatrics - FNP-C, Office private May 7, 2010 5:26 PM
Cicero NY

While I agree that the opportunity for personal advancement is appealing.  However, I think instead of using resources on DNP programs, it would be more in line with nursing philosophy to expand current MSN programs in order to more quickly accomplish the goal of providing primary services to everyone.

Also, with the DNP being a practice degree, I think it would be interesting to see exactly how many DNP's work in direct care and hour many hours they see patients.

Just some thoughts.

Jason, Indigent Care - FNP May 6, 2010 11:19 AM
Raleigh NC

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