You have likely heard that educators and nursing organizations are pushing for legislation requiring a doctorate degree to practice as a nurse practitioner. Readers frequently ask me about the DNP; both current nurse practitioners and NP students want to know when the DNP transition will take place and how they will be affected. Although the path to rolling out the Doctor of Nursing Practice requirement for nurse practitioners is not yet clear, we can make some assumptions. In this post, I will address the most common questions I receive.
I Am Already a Nurse Practitioner; Will I Have to Return to School to Complete a DNP Degree?
No. Nurse practitioners who are currently practicing will not need to get a DNP degree. When state laws are changed requiring the DNP for advanced nursing practice, they will be written in such a way that NP’s certified and licensed before the transition will not need to get any additional training.
When Will the DNP Requirement Be Implemented?
Nursing organizations are advocating for legislation requiring NP’s to have a DNP degree by 2015. These organizations, however, do not have power to make this decision. Nursing organizations can recommend the 2015 deadline to law-makers but in order for the DNP to be a requirement, states must pass this into law. I believe that this will take much longer than a few years.
Policy-makers have no incentive to make it more difficult for NP’s to become certified for a few reasons (actually, one possible incentive would be if nursing organizations donate to them). First, with the shortage of primary care physicians so prevalent in the news, politicians are aware that NP’s will be necessary to help provide care for Americans entering the healthcare system with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Passing a law requiring the DNP for practice would delay the education of new NP’s entering practice and discourage others from becoming nurse practitioners at all potentially affecting access to healthcare. Secondly, (as you are well aware based on any trips you have made to the DMV) the government works slowly. Passing this legislation in all 50 states will take time. It is unclear which states will fall in line first, but it will be years before the DNP is required in all 50 states.
If I Don’t Have a DNP, Will I Still Be Able to Find a Job As a Nurse Practitioner?
Yes. Even as NP’s with doctorate degrees enter the job market, you will still be able to find a job, especially if you have experience working as a nurse practitioner. Employers are not as in tune with the push for the DNP as academia and honestly, many of them may not even be aware of the movement. In my experience, employers are looking for hard workers who are willing to learn and excel in their careers. They are looking for nurse practitioners who can do the job they are hired for, not necessarily NP’s who hold additional degrees.
I hope this helps ease your anxiety about the impending DNP requirement. Please contact me with any further questions and I will do some research to find the answers you need.