The number of RNs with doctorates of nursing practice is growing, but CNOs are still unclear about how DNP-prepared nurses can apply their skills and knowledge to benefit their organizations and the healthcare system.
In 2004, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing released a position statement recommending that "entry into practice" education for advanced practice nurses be raised from a master's degree to the doctoral level by 2015. Nurses with practice doctorates were rare at that time. According to AACN data, only three schools offered doctorate of nursing practice programs and there were only seven DNP graduates when the statement was released.
Catherine Nichols, DNP, APRN, BC,
Though the 2015 goal hasn't been met—many schools still educate APRNs at the traditional master's level—the number of DNP programs and graduates has increased enormously over the past decade. In 2014 there were 269 schools with practice doctorate programs and 3,065 DNP graduates, while another 18,352 students were enrolled in DNP programs, reports the AACN.
As the number of DNP-prepared nurses continues to grow, many healthcare professionals are asking, "What are we supposed to do with them?"
Well, to be honest, the jury is still out. The authors of a 2014 AACN-sponsored study, "The DNP by 2015: A Study of the Institutional, Political, and Professional Issues that Facilitate or Impede Establishing a Post-Baccalaureate Doctor of Nursing Practice Program," concluded, "Many employers are unclear about the differences between master's-prepared and DNP-prepared APRNs and could benefit from information on outcomes connected to DNP practice as well as exemplars from practice settings that capitalize on the capabilities of DNPs."
Catherine Nichols, DNP, APRN, BC, nurse practitioner at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute's Walt Breast Center in Detroit, found similar results with her study, "Exploring Early and Future Use of DNP Prepared Nurses Within Healthcare Organizations."
Nichols surveyed CNOs at public and teaching hospitals in Michigan to assess their views on the use and effect of DNP-prepared nurses at their various facilities. She asked about DNP nurses' practice settings, employment of the four types of APRNs, chief nursing officers' satisfaction with DNP-prepared nurses' organizational impact, and their opinions on DNP nurses' influence on achieving patient-centered outcomes. Her study findings, which were published in the February 2014 issue of The Journal of Nursing Administration, were quite telling.
Jennifer Thew, RN, is the senior nursing editor at HealthLeaders.