What is a DNP

What is a DNP – Overview?

DNP stands for Doctor of Nursing Practice. It is an advanced degree in the nursing field. It is one of the highest degrees that a registered nurse can achieve.

The DNP (Doctor of Nursing Practice) is designed for nurses seeking a practice-focused leadership role rather than a research-focused role, unlike the Ph.D. in nursing, which is aimed at research and academic careers.

Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)

In simple words, DNP is a degree that allows you to practice. Any nurse with a DNP is considered to be skilled and trained in the nursing field, but not specifically in research or academia.

A DNP is a doctoral-level degree. Nurse practitioners, regardless of holding a DNP, have a scope of practice distinct from physicians and are not meant to have the same authority as physicians or other medical doctors.

The DNP degree affirms that a nurse has reached the summit of their educational journey.

The majority of nurses with DNP degrees tend to work in administrative positions or take on other responsible roles in the healthcare industry.

Still, some nurses use their DNP degrees to seek various nurse practitioner roles.

The DNP degree may offer a competitive advantage in leadership, policy, and advanced clinical roles. However, “NP” refers to a role (Nurse Practitioner), not a degree. Nurses with a DNP can be NPs, and the comparison should distinguish between educational level (DNP) and certification or role (NP). They are given preference over the latter when applying for the same roles.

As of the latest updates, there is a movement towards requiring a DNP for new nurse practitioners by 2025 according to recommendations by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing; however, this has not been universally adopted or mandated across all states or specialties.

What does a DNP do?

A DNP has several types of responsibilities. The two most common jobs that nurses with DNP degrees do are:

#1. APRN (Advanced Practice Registered Nurse)

#2. Administration and leadership

DNPs who want to become APRNs get an opportunity to work directly with patients. These professionals are responsible for assessing, evaluating, and managing patient care and treatment.

For this, nurse practitioners need to undertake the APRN certification exam. Apart from this, they may also have to get advanced specialty certification along with APRN certification.

APRN roles, including Nurse Practitioner (NP), Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA), and Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM), require specific certifications beyond the DNP degree. A DNP can prepare nurses for these roles, but the roles are defined by certification and licensure, not by the DNP degree alone.

#1. Nurse Practitioner (NP) – Healthcare professionals who do not work under a doctor’s supervision to prevent illness and educate patients.

#2. Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA)  – They are clinicians who assist physicians and nurses when administering anesthesia to patients.

#3. Nurse Midwife (CNM) – Healthcare professionals who give reproductive care during all stages of childbirth.

As a DNP, you can also assume administrative and leadership roles in healthcare settings. You can use your skills to help direct nursing initiatives and care programs for patients.

Apart from this, these professionals can also boost executive nursing leadership roles.

Conventional DNPs work in:

#1. Nurse management

#2. Organizational leadership

#3. Health policy

#4. Health informatics systems

How to Earn a DNP?

There are several ways to earn a DNP. Most people choose to get their BSN and then the MSN degrees before undertaking a DNP program.

However, you can also choose one of many bridge programs that can help you achieve your doctorate quicker and save significant time.

Let’s Check Out the Stepwise Process to Earn a DNP

What is a DNP

What is a DNP – Let’s check out the stepwise process to earn a DNP


Getting into an MSN to DNP bridge program is the most common way to earn a DNP degree.

Assuming that a nurse already has an MSN certification, it is likely they will work at a higher position.

Hence, they may not find it convenient to go to school full-time. This is a 1-2 years full-time program and 3-4 years part-time.

The program involves researching specialized subjects. The clinical hours from the MSN program can also be applied to the DNP clinical hour requirement.


This program combines the coursework of an MSN and a DNP. A few programs let you leave the curriculum once you achieve the MSN requisites.

This is a 3-4 years full-time program and takes 4-6 years part-time. This program includes the MSN to DNP curriculum and also includes an early exit option before the DNP portion starts.


Many people do not pursue the RN to DNP bridge program, which allows you to pursue a DNP without a bachelor’s degree.

This program can take around 4-6 years in full-time and more than 6 years in part-time mode. In this program, you will take undergraduate coursework before the graduation course.

Direct-Entry DNP

Direct-entry DNP is an ideal choice for students with a bachelor’s degree in any field apart from nursing.

This is a 4-6 year full-time course, but it currently does not offer a part-time option. You must earn an RN certification before pursuing a graduate-level curriculum under this program.


Doctor of Nursing Practice is an excellent choice for nurse practitioners seeking alternative non-clinical responsibilities in a healthcare setting.

You can achieve this degree and become a certified DNP specialist in several different ways.

See Also

Can Nurse Practitioners Prescribe


Online DNP Programs

Florida Board of Nursing

Texas Board of Nursing

Ohio Board of Nursing

How to Become a Clinical Nurse Specialist

Current Version
May 29, 2022
Written By
Shubham Grover
March 23, 2024
Updated By
Tim Bevelacqua, MN, RN

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