Nurses that are looking to expand their career options as well as their skillset will be interested to find out more about Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degrees which can help them take their career to the next level while they are working as nurses.

A DNP degree is the highest level of nursing degree that can be achieved. This article outlines some of the nursing skills which can be developed while earning a DNP degree and a few of the positions that are open to licensed nurse practitioners with a DNP qualification.

Diagnostic skills

Nurses that become nurse practitioners (NPs) spend a lot of their time diagnosing illnesses and health conditions. While a registered nurse (RN) has knowledge and experience that can help them make some good observations and assist doctors as well as NPs with a diagnosis, the skills that are learned when training to be a nurse practitioner at the DNP level can enable them to take these diagnostic skills further.

One critical part of the process is learning how to ask the right questions and creating a trusting relationship with patients. Developing honest communication can be facilitated through a stronger knowledge base of medical practices and diagnostic procedures, as this allows professional nurses to build confidence as well. This is obviously vital for any nurse who wants to advance their career and take on a different role in the world of medicine.

Collaboration and teamwork

While RNs are used to working as a team member to provide a high level of care, a DNP collaborates with a wider range of people, especially those outside of the healthcare facility at which they work. Providing total care for a patient as part of modern healthcare means working with a variety of specialists and clinics.

It is important for nurses to know where to refer patients and how to organize their treatment plan. They also need to keep everyone informed so there is less chance of miscommunication or mistakes.

Communication and leadership skills

While all healthcare workers must learn to develop good communication skills, these skills can be sharpened by a DNP degree program where nurses learn effective ways to communicate with people from a diverse range of backgrounds.

Nurses with DNP degrees often step into nursing leadership and managerial roles due to their advanced organizational skills. Although partially remote and 100% online educational programs are hugely beneficial in making curriculums more accessible, future professionals do have to develop strong planning and administrative skills in order to complete them successfully.

Organization skills

DNPs are likely to become very good at multitasking and keeping things organized. This helps patients receive a high level of care and allows for treating more patients with limited healthcare workers. Given the numbers of people seeking care and the increased care demands of a large adult population as they age, it is important that all areas of healthcare are as organized and streamlined as possible.

Critical thinking skills

DNPs need to be able to make good decisions as quickly as possible when necessary. Critical thinking is a skill that any professional should always be looking to improve. A DNP is often leading others, so they need to be able to assess a situation and offer guidance and instruction even during very stressful times.

Sometimes situations require coming up with unique ways of doing something to achieve a good outcome. Knowing when and how to question what is going on is an acquired skill.

Confidence and resilience

With more skills and knowledge comes a higher level of confidence. It is very important that advanced care nurses are confident in their abilities and level of knowledge when dealing with patients. Interacting with a lot of different people will help any DNP gain more confidence. As DNPs gain experience of diagnosing health conditions, they will be able to make a diagnosis and devise a treatment plan more quickly and with greater accuracy.

DNPs are also likely to develop resilience. There will be times that are stressful, but DNPs have new skills and knowledge enabling them to overcome challenges with greater ease. More experienced nurses are better at compartmentalizing tasks and emotions so they can provide a higher level of care to their patients while having a higher level of personal morale and mental health.

A DNP degree is expected to be the standard in the future

While in the past a Master’s degree was often the route to a career as a nurse practitioner, many states are considering requiring a DNP degree for nurse practitioners in the future. Of course, those that are already practicing will be given special consideration and time to obtain more education but any nurse currently considering the next step to take should consider starting on a DNP program.

Job opportunities for DNPs

There are a lot of different jobs that you can qualify for as a DNP. Here are a few of the more common opportunities that could help you advance your career after you have earned the highest level of degree a nurse can obtain.

Nurse educator

There is strong demand for nurses that have the skills, knowledge and experience to teach and train other healthcare professionals. Given the high demand for healthcare workers, it is easy to see why there needs to be a strong team of nursing educators to share their knowledge and ensure that students have what it takes to offer the highest level of care to patients.

Nurse educators may work within a single hospital system, or they may be part of an organization specializing in offering specific courses. Such courses can lead to certifications or continuing education credits that allow nurses and other healthcare professionals to maintain their license.

A nurse educator may also work for a medical supply or pharmaceutical company. There is a large market for medical equipment and advances in medicine mean new medications, vaccines and revolutionary treatments are always being researched and tested.

University nursing professor

Nurses who thrive while working in a clinical setting may, at some point, decide they would like to teach in a formal setting, either part-time or full-time. Colleges and universities can offer more traditional working hours and more time off than working in a healthcare facility.

A DNP may need to acquire a PhD in order to become a university professor. They could ultimately teach a variety of nursing classes, or they may be asked to teach topics in which they have the most experience.

Within academia there are many opportunities for research that can make a huge difference in the world of medicine. Nurses with the relevant qualifications may lead research projects with student assistants in collaboration with sponsors and donors from any number of sources.

Over time, nurses in such research roles may be able to pitch their own unique research ideas that could help people lead healthier and more productive lives in the future.

Nursing home and assisted living manager

Nursing leaders are needed to help manage and run day-to-day operations in nursing care and assisted living centers of all sizes. There is a large population of aging adults that are entering care facilities. While some patients may require full-time nursing care, there are others that simply need assistance with some daily necessities and medical care.

DNPs are in an excellent position to obtain a higher-level position in management at assisted care centers. DNPs that specialize in adult gerontology or who learn a lot about age-related physical and mental healthcare are at an advantage when it comes to hiring decisions.

Clinical nurse roles

Of course, if you particularly thrive in a clinical setting, then working at a healthcare facility and taking an active role in diagnosing and creating treatment plans for patients is another route in which nurses can take on specialist roles. These include clinical nurse leaders, certified nurse midwives, psychiatric nurse practitioners, and many more.

Some DNPs split their time between some managerial tasks and seeing patients. For some nurses, this balance may be ideal. Working at a private clinic or a healthcare specialty center that keeps standard business hours can be helpful for nurses that are mid-career or more experienced and want to move to standard business hours instead of shifts.

DNPs help improve access to healthcare

More people have access to health insurance than ever, and this has led to more people seeking out healthcare, particularly primary care providers. A shortage of MDs (Doctor of Medicine) has been a problem for a long time and unfortunately there is no time in the near future where the shortage is set to be alleviated due to how long it takes to train an MD.

Some of the effects of this shortage can be alleviated by more nurses becoming DNPs with advanced skills. DNPs can help provide primary care services to more patients after less time spent in the classroom or residencies. This is important because it means nursing colleges can train and prepare more nurse practitioners within just a few years. Online degree programs allow RNs in good standing to earn advanced degrees quickly without leaving their current job.

With more healthcare workers with advanced skills, those in disadvantaged areas or from underprivileged backgrounds will have better access to healthcare. Smaller medical clinics, like urgent care centers, help people who do not have a primary care provider to access care. This helps patients stay out of emergency rooms for less serious emergencies which are not life-threatening. These medical clinics need advanced care nurses for management and clinical positions.

DNPs can provide preventative care and routine testing and screenings

People may be tempted to put off preventative healthcare visits and tests, particularly after COVID-19 when many people did not go to see doctors unless it was necessary. Unfortunately, this means that some illnesses and conditions are left undiagnosed or untreated for longer periods of time. When this happens, it can take longer, and be more expensive, to treat a patient. In some cases, the consequences may be more dire.

DNPs are trained to provide preventative care and schedule routine screenings based on a patient’s age, existing conditions, and other factors. By having a DNP in charge of preventative care, patients can schedule appointments well in advance, so they stay engaged in their own preventative healthcare.

Training to be a DNP

There is an ongoing shortage of nurses with advanced skills. Professional nurses can consider online Doctorate of Nursing programs that enable them to gain more experience and a more developed skillset. Becoming a DNP at Wilkes University could put them in a great position to take on leadership roles. It offers a DNP online degree program for nurses who have a Master’s degree and an unencumbered RN license. In two years, nurses can earn a DNP and be ready to apply their advanced skills in job roles. The Wilkes program includes classes covering the ethical aspects of nursing, cultural diversity in healthcare as well as leadership.

DNPs can help lead the way to a brighter and healthier future

With better health, people are more productive, and communities have a brighter future. DNPs can bring advanced healthcare to more people while reducing the cost of healthcare by offering preventative care visits that catch problems before they become more serious. Nurses that want to expand their opportunities and take on different healthcare roles are potentially more likely to achieve their goals by gaining a DNP degree and license.