DNP First-hand Perspective

Posted on: September 7th, 2021 by Dera Harvey 1 Comment

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.

One Response

  1. Hello Dera!

    I truly appreciate your post as I am currently a BSN-DNP student and could not agree with you more. The concept that you brought up that we “never stop learning” is correct in my book, whether you are a current student or not. There is just a plethora of information and knowledge out there that no one individual can know all and it creates for an enriching environment especially doing a post-baccalaureates degree. The DNP program for me so far has taught me more about leadership and the “enhancement of knowledge” within our given discipline and career focus than I have learned in the 5 years of my bachelor’s degree. I am currently taking a course that is teaching me about the different APRN roles but most importantly is teaching me about the purpose of being DNP prepared. We are not just “doctorate” obtained individuals, but we are leaders, researchers, advocates, and examples for our profession and our communities and most importantly our patients. I liked how in your last paragraph you discussed how the DNP program ‘teaches more than just patient care, it teaches on how to affect the systems that drive patient care,” and I find that statement to be thought provoking and shows that even the first competency we learn about, direct clinical practice, is exemplified through all programs and reassures to me that DNP prepared students are leaders.

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