The DNP Transition: Commonly Asked Questions

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.

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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.

5 thoughts on “The DNP Transition: Commonly Asked Questions”

  1. I have 2 years experience thus far as an RN BSN, my first year being in a cardiac unit and my second (and current) job in the SICU. I have gone back and forth between CRNA and NP, and this site may have just convinced me to go the NP route. I love taking care of postsurgical patients in an acute setting, and also would be very open to OR, and read a comment previously from someone who had their FNP and was able to be employed in these settings! I like the idea of being an FNP so that I have more “employable” qualities. In anticipation of applying to an FNP program by fall 2013, would it be wiser to go for the DNP (though I would rather not)? Would I be at a disadvantage if I were only able to go to school part-time, therefore not having graduated before 2015 and somehow being required to add on additional years of schooling to complete the DNP requirement? That is, if somehow the government DOES work quickly somehow? Or am I “grandfathered” in as long as I am accepted to an NP program before 2015/the DNP transition happens? Hopefully these questions make sense! Thank you for such a great blog.

  2. As an FNP myself (who does not work in primary care) I have certainly found the FNP to be a very ’employable’ degree.  I have FNP friends who work in dermatology, ENT, geriatrics and cardiology.  I think you have chosen an excellent route!

    Regarding the DNP or MSN decision, you certainly have time to get your MSN degree before the transition.  If you are midway through an MSN program and the transition does occur, you will still be allowed to finish and be certified/ practice as an MSN.  When the transition is official, you will still be able to practice with an MSN without penalty.  As long as you start your MSN program before 2015, you should be OK.

    So, I think it is actually to your advantage to get an MSN rather than a DNP- you will be able to complete your program much more quickly (and cheaply!).  It will not affect your ability to be certified or your ability to practice in the future.  Some students ask me if I think employers will stop hiring NP’s with an MSN degree and instead opt for DNP prepared NP’s.  I don’t think this will be the case (unless you want to teach or work in an academic institution).  In my experience, employers are seeking work/ clinical experience and don’t place emphasis on your degree.

    Hope this helps!

  3. Thank you so much for clarifying. I have been searching for this information for a couple days now. Your site is great- I have it book marked and come check it whenever I need to refocus on my goal. Once again your site has helped me get back on track mentally.

  4. Hi Kalyn,

    There two programs I know of, one based in the Caribbean and the other in Samoa that offer NP to MD programs.  However, you can complete these programs with an MSN and don’t need a DNP.  Unfortunately, NP to MD programs aren’t much faster than traditional medical school.  They do offer more flexibility.

    I have written a post on NP to MD programs, check it out for more info.

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