If you ask some APRNs about the increasing popularity of the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), they express concern that the degree may not be necessary for their advancement in the field of nursing. “I already have my MSN and many years of experience, why go back to school and put forth the effort to receive another credential?”

We asked Lisa Onesko, DNP, APRN-BC, the director of Kent State University’s DNP program for her thoughts. Dr. Onesko has been an Adult NP since 2002 and sees patients at a Cleveland Clinic-affiliated internal medicine practice. Lisa earned her DNP in 2013 from Rush University. In the post below, she explains how the DNP provides an excellent foundation for APRNs to explore new and more influential positions in the healthcare industry.

Through my own DNP education and my experiences with instructing and guiding students through their DNP education, I have come to realize that attaining this terminal degree in advanced practice nursing is more than obtaining another degree, it is about making a lasting impact on your patients and embracing your leadership role within the healthcare system.

Many prospective students ask, “Why should I get my DNP?” My answer has evolved over the years.

DNPs Improve the Health Care System

As APRNs, we are poised to lead health care change and improve patient, population and aggregate outcomes. This is the primary reason why APRNs should get their DNP. In our dynamic and complex healthcare system, more than ever, health care organizations are looking to reduce costs while also improving quality of care. To accomplish this goal, providers must have an advanced understanding of why our health care system has performed poorly in the past and how it can function optimally today and into the future.

With skills in leadership, organizational systems, healthcare finance and population health, for example, an APRN can lead teams to deliver innovative and sustainable change that provides a broad spectrum of improvements across systems, which affects populations and patients for the better.

Through the pathway of earning a DNP, nurses learn how to translate research into practice and see firsthand the “how and why” of the improvements made in the clinical setting, whether that be at the bedside, in a clinic, or at the administrative level. Current evidence-based practice is an integral piece of achieving these improved outcomes and students learn to access, translate and implement it into their practice throughout the program.

DNPs Acquire Essential Communication Skills

Many students do not have the opportunity in their BSN or MSN programs to fully develop and refine their writing skills. The ability to write well is vital to becoming a leader in healthcare as it enables the health care professional to communicate intelligibly and credibly across multiple disciplines. It is also an important professional milestone to publish one or even multiple manuscripts to disseminate findings.

In the DNP program, the student acquires the skills necessary to write and communicate effectively and impactfully. They learn how to present ideas, inquiries, and data to support their change initiatives to stakeholders.

The Future of Health Care Depends on DNPs

Lastly, the DNP-prepared nurse is looked up to as a role model by nurses and other healthcare professionals. I am not exaggerating when I say that the future of health care depends on DNPs. DNPs will be (and increasingly are) the leaders of multi-disciplinary teams that develop and plan quality improvement initiatives, implement interventions and evaluate outcomes. It is truly an exciting time to be a DNP.