Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.
— Albert Einstein
Every January, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) organizes a conference focused on clinical and research doctoral education in nursing. Although the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) did not become a required degree for entry into advanced practice nursing as proposed in 2015, the number of DNP programs and nurses who have earned a DNP degree has grown exponentially over the past 20 years.
The most recent statistics reported by the AACN indicate that there are 336 DNP programs currently enrolling students nationwide, with more than 100 in planning stages for postbaccalaureate and postmaster's programs. All 50 states plus the District of Columbia have registered programs, and 9 states have 10 or more programs. From 2016 to 2017, the number of DNP students enrolled (29,093) increased by 15.04%, and the number of graduates (6,090) increased 25.44%.1
DNP graduates helped the profession achieve the Future of Nursing goal to double the number of nurses with doctorates by 2020.2 DNP-prepared advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) have acquired the knowledge and skills to promote change that improves quality of care and health outcomes for individuals, populations, and communities.
Special DNP issue
Each year, the April issue of The Nurse Practitioner focuses on the DNP. We publish articles written by DNP students, APRNs with a DNP, or faculty writing on education, practice, research, or policy related to the DNP. This month's authors include NPs and certified nurse midwives. Wendy L. Wright, MS, ANP-BC, FNP-BC, FAANP, FAAN, FNAP, and colleagues provide a quality improvement project that was designed to improve vaccination rates among adults age 65 years and older. Outcomes of the project demonstrated an increase in vaccination rates among the target population at four NP-owned primary care clinics.
Melissa G. Davis, DNP, CNM, FNP, and colleagues present a clinical update for primary care providers on assessing the risks of hypertension and stroke in later life in women who had preeclampsia during pregnancy. The authors cover practical, evidence-based guidelines to care for these women.
Finally, Andrea Savas, DNP, APRN, FNP-C, CCRN, and colleagues describe the implementation of an information technology process improvement project intended to measure and improve quality outcomes and optimize reimbursements at a primary care clinic, preparing staff and providers to meet criteria of the Quality Payment Program from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Through their writing, these authors demonstrate the performance competencies DNP-prepared APRNs are expected to master.
Is the DNP right for you?
When I decided to begin my doctoral studies, all I knew was that I needed to grow personally and professionally, and I wanted to become involved in scholarly work. I was not drawn as much by the thought of purely learning as I was by the anticipation of becoming. I encourage prospective DNP students to determine their short- and long-term goals, identify facilitators and potential barriers to achieving success, research options, make an informed decision, and then move forward with haste.
Jamesetta A. Newland, PhD, FNP-BC, FAANP, DPNAP, FAAN