As I was chatting with a nurse and recent nurse practitioner graduate at work in the ER late Sunday night, this particular coworker brought up an interesting point. He believes the hype surrounding the AACN’s position that nurse practitioners should be required to have a DNP degree by 2015 ruined the NP job market. His opinion is that the DNP requirement spurred a flood of nurses to suddenly enroll in NP programs in order to avoid a lengthier, costlier education should they delay their schooling. Interesting thought.
If you aren’t familiar with the DNP mandate, this movement goes back to a paper published by the AACN in 2004. The publication recommended that by 2015 nurse practitioner programs and state governments require a doctorate (DNP) rather than a masters (MSN) degree for entry into nurse practitioner practice. In turn, DNP programs were designed to further nurse practitioner education on a practical, practice-based level rather than focus on research like PhD programs. Nursing organizations believed the doctorate push was necessary to give the nursing profession a higher level of prestige and credibility. After all, many other healthcare professionals such as audiologists, physical therapists, and pharmacists often hold doctorate degrees.
Many students feared that the AACN’s recommendation would become reality. Should the policy be widely adopted, this would mean that the nurse practitioner education would require one to three additional years and cost, on the low end, $10,000 to $15,000 more to obtain. So, aspiring NPs decided to take advantage of programs continuing to offer the MSN degree while they could.
The number of annual nurse practitioner program graduates is on the rise. According to the AANP, about 11,000 NPs completed their academic programs in 2010-2011, 14,000 in 2011-2012, and 15,000 in 2012-2013. It’s difficult to tell if the increase in the number of NP grads is a direct result of the DNP mandate or if this trend is simply mirroring the enrollment in graduate health sciences programs across the country.
Regardless of the reason, new nurse practitioner graduates in some cities and states are finding it difficult to secure their first NP position. But, overall, the job market for nurse practitioners is quite good. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a net job growth of almost 3 million health care jobs by 2020, a number that beats every other group of occupations. Among those positions, nurse practitioners are a hot commodity.
While the DNP mandate may have put a few ripples in waters of the NP job market, larger healthcare trends such as the aging population, the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and the push to cut the cost of healthcare in the U.S. are far more influential trends. Nurse practitioners stand to play an integral role in our country’s healthcare delivery system, and the job outlook for NPs as a whole is quite good.
Nurse practitioners without experience, particularly those living in states with unfavorable scope of practice laws or cities housing multiple NP programs, may find that it takes time and flexibility when it comes to landing that elusive first position. But, DNP or no DNP, nurse practitioners as a whole are in high demand.
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