Years ago, a wise ADN professor stood in front of 60 new nursing students. With the authority of her 30-year nursing career, she issued an edict that almost sounded like a challenge. She announced that we should “never stop learning”. Her words have guided my educational and professional career ever since. What better way to “never stop learning” than to build upon that ADN foundation with a master’s degree and finally a terminal DNP degree.
Learning and knowledge are similar words often used interchangeably. The DNP position statement (AACN, 2004, p. 4) recognizes that DNP programs “enhance knowledge to improve nursing practice and patient outcomes” and provides “an advanced educational credential for those who require advanced practice knowledge” (AACN, 2006, p. 5) . Bloom’s Taxonomy provides the framework for what enhanced knowledge and advanced practice looks like when put into action. When reading through the DNP essentials, one can see how a DNP degree requires action through the “evaluation of new practice approaches based on theories” (AACN, 2006, p.9), “analysis of cost-effective practice initiatives” (AACN, 2006, p. 11), and the “dissemination of findings from evidence-based practice and research to improve healthcare outcomes” (AACN, 2006, p. 12).
If you learn best by reading and retaining information, you may have already identified the differences between an MSN degree and the DNP degree. If your style of learning of is kinesthetic, social, or visual/spatial, the preceding sentences may have left you perplexed. You may want to know firsthand what a DNP program looks like. You might want firsthand knowledge from a DNP student.
With my MSN degree, I learned how to be a Nurse Educator. Next, I earned a post-master’s degree that allowed me to practice as a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP). So far, all my education was very position specific. The DNP program was going to change all that.
In the first few classes of my DNP program, I learned more about leadership than I had in the previous six years of college. I was challenged to find organizational problems, research them, come up with solutions, and develop a business plan for the solution. All of this was in just the first semester of the DNP program. I was in a class with MSN-prepared students and other APRNs from different disciplines. We were able to confront healthcare problems as a team and find ways to improve them.
A DNP program teaches more than just patient care, it teaches one how to affect the systems that drive patient care. As a nurse, I can work with a patient at the bedside and feel the directness of my care when the patient smiles back at me after I have eased their anxiety about an upcoming procedure. As a DNP prepared provider, I can assure that patient of the safety of their procedure because I have researched the procedure and helped design, implement, and evaluate the therapeutic interventions of their care based on nursing knowledge learned in a DNP program.
American Association of Colleges of Nursing. (2004). AACN position statement on the practice doctorate in nursing. Washington, DC: Author.
American Association of Colleges of Nursing. (2006). The Essentials of doctoral nursing education for advanced practice. Washington, DC: Author.