A terminal degree means you've reached the highest level of education in a field. If you're considering a terminal degree in nursing, there are several paths you can take, including a Doctorate in Nursing (DNP) degree.
Qualified nurse leaders are needed now more than ever to guide healthcare teams, shape future generations of nurses, and help bridge gaps in patient care.
If you're wondering, "what can I do with a DNP," this blog will answer the most frequently asked questions answered by Baylor enrollment advisors. We'll also share real feedback from students enrolled in our online DNP program.
1. Make Your Voice Heard
A DNP degree will bolster your nursing practice. But how does that translate into your day-to-day as a nurse? For one, you'll have more of a say over the care of your patients.
You'll be actively involved in essential components of care: gathering information, diagnosis, planning and coordination, treatment, and follow-up. Your concern, your advocacy, and your clinical expertise will be a force that determines the trajectory of your patients' care.
2. Be In-Demand as an APRN
If you've set your sights on becoming an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN), pursuing a DNP could be the most clear-cut route to take. Demand for the APRN role, especially nurse practitioners (NPs), is expected to grow as our country's population increases, along with longer life expectancy and persistent gaps in accessible healthcare.
Indeed, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that nurse practitioners will be one of the fastest-growing occupations nationwide through 2031.
3. Stay Ahead of the Industry
Did you know? The nursing industry is shifting towards having the DNP as an entry-level degree for Nurse Practitioners by 2025.
The National Organization for Nurse Practitioner Faculties (NONPF) states, "As the healthcare delivery system has grown increasingly complex, the role of NPs has evolved. The DNP degree reflects the rigorous education NPs receive to lead and deliver quality healthcare."
NONPF also notes that post-baccalaureate DNP-NP programs have increased in the U.S. over the last few years.
4. Increase Your Salary Potential
If you're wondering how to increase your salary in nursing, a DNP is a great way to invest in your potential for future earnings.
Most NPs and nurse midwives earn a six-figure salary. Recent salary reports from the BLS indicate a median annual wage of $112,830 for nurse midwives and $120,680 for nurse practitioners.
Comparatively, the median annual wage for registered nurses is $77,600, meaning nurse midwives and NPs take home an additional $35,000 (or more) in yearly pay than they did as RNs.
5. Keep Leadership Roles Open
Employers often prefer a DNP degree for nurse leadership or executive positions; some even require a terminal degree for consideration.
DNP-prepared nurses undergo a rigorous education emphasizing leadership development and interdisciplinary collaboration; graduates learn how to apply evidence to improve practice and health policies.
It's no wonder why many employers recognize DNP nurses as having great potential to impact patient and system outcomes.
6. Gain More Autonomy
In nursing, autonomy is described as the "ability to apply professional knowledge to patient care and clinical decision-making."
Earning a DNP degree will offer you the opportunity for more professional autonomy. Greater autonomy can help you improve your quality of care as a nurse through timely decision-making, reduced stress, and better job satisfaction.
7. Choose Your Speciality
One benefit of becoming an APRN is the ability to specialize in a specific practice area. Each patient population has unique healthcare needs. With a DNP, you'll demonstrate your commitment to learning at the highest level of nursing practice.
Baylor's online DNP prepares graduates to actively reshape patient outcomes, policy, processes, and the future of nursing.
Learn more about one of our in-demand DNP tracks:
- Family Nurse Practitioner
- Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
- Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
- Adult-Gerontology Acute Care NP
8. Teach Other Nurses
Visionary nurses have an appetite to impact others, including patients and other nurses. With a DNP, you can do both of these in tandem.
A DNP degree expands your knowledge base and professional capacity. Your role in nursing can evolve and overlap with another area that sparks your passion, such as nursing education.
If you've thought about sharing your learnings and clinical expertise or supporting fellow nurses on their journey, a DNP will equip you to do that while still having the opportunity to care for patients.
9. Treat Underserved Populations
Where you live can significantly impact your health. Are there resources to get and stay healthy? How close is the nearest clinic or hospital? Can emergency assistance arrive when you need it?
Most nurses are aware of the need to improve accessibility to patient care, especially in rural or low-income areas, where staffing shortages are the greatest.
With over a quarter of Texans living in rural areas, there's plenty of opportunity to create positive change as a DNP-prepared nurse and reshape how communities experience healthcare.
10. Deepen Your Critical-Thinking Skills
Nurses are advocates, leaders, visionaries, caregivers, and scientists.
As a DNP nurse, you'll engage in research that will allow you to promote evidence-based practice in the field. You'll deepen your analytical skills to assess and evaluate scientific evidence and apply what you learn practically to improve patient outcomes, healthcare policies, and processes.
11. Stay Competitive
As a nurse, you know just how complex the dynamics of our healthcare system are, especially as we continue to recover from the effects of the pandemic. Our society is changing, healthcare is adapting, and nurses’ roles are evolving to meet these needs.
With a DNP, you can stay ahead of rapidly shifting trends and stand out as a nursing expert. You'll be more marketable and stay competitive in the healthcare field.
12. Leverage a Bright Outlook
Fifty-two percent – that's the job growth rate for NPs until the end of the decade!
Nurse midwives are also in high demand, with projected growth of eleven percent until 2030. These faster-than-average projections show how the need for APRN roles is outpacing supply.
Nurse practitioners, especially, can expect a high payoff, with the position landing as the second-best job in the U.S. and the No. 1 job in healthcare in 2022, according to U.S. News & World Report.
13. Expand Your Influence
Whoever said "less is more" was never a nurse. Nursing is more than a job – it's a way of life.
Even after their shift, nurses are still thinking about their patients. They want to widen their reach and make every day count. That's a shared call to nursing: making a difference.
With a DNP, you'll gain more responsibilities. You'll expand your scope of practice and empower yourself as a leader. You'll have a greater influence on what healthcare looks like for your patients.
14. Make the Most of Your Time
Many people feel pressured to make their next move as soon as possible; however, quicker isn't always better.
Here's one question: "is the juice worth the squeeze?" Think about how you're investing time in your education and will your efforts be worthwhile.
It doesn't take much longer to earn a DNP than an MSN degree. Most MSNs take two to three years to complete, while DNP programs tend to be around the three-year mark.
Baylor's online BSN-DNP is designed for efficiency, allowing you to skip the MSN track so you can focus on completing your DNP.
Click here for our FAQ about Baylor's online BSN-DNP.
15. Diversify Your Skillset
With a DNP, your skillset will become more diverse and robust than if you were to get your MSN degree. As a doctorate student of nursing practice, you’ll dive deeper into developing your leadership acumen, engage in research, and actively build your competencies.
A DNP education is rigorous and well-rounded; it focuses on practicality – translating concepts and learnings to the real world. You’ll be more prepared as a DNP graduate to improve quality and patient outcomes and achieve practice changes.
16. Finish Now – Don't Worry Later
The DNP is a terminal degree in nursing, the highest level of education you can receive in nursing practice. Earning your DNP now means you won't have to return to school later.
Of course, you can always add to your credentials and continue a lifetime of learning. But the pressure to go back to school and "pick up where you left off" will be gone. You'll have your doctorate – the sky is the limit.
Enrollment advisor Shawna Narter, MS, provides insight on how going back to school can change your life:
"When I was completing my graduate level degree, my mentor had this quote on his desk, "Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right." It’s something I share with my students now.
My nurses are working some of the toughest schedules out there, and if they are able to tell themselves they "can," then they WILL.
A lot goes into this, and it doesn’t happen overnight. I’m constantly reminded why I do what I do when I get a "thank you" email from a student that didn’t think they could and they DID."
17. Collaborate Better with Colleagues
Today's patients typically require more than one discipline to address complex health issues.
Interdisciplinary collaboration is one of the best ways for healthcare teams to meet each patient’s unique, multifaceted needs.
During their program, DNP students learn extensively about effective communication and leadership development, their professional identity, other healthcare professionals' roles, and how to leverage community care resources through a solutions-focused lens.
18. Boost Your Confidence
It feels good to invest in yourself – and it can boost your self-confidence.
Confidence helps us adapt and feel more capable of moving forward with challenges or opportunities. It also helps us reevaluate, pivot, and try again.
With a DNP, you'll be an expert in your practice. Your confidence as a nurse will grow, along with your clinical competencies. When you graduate, you'll feel proud of the knowledge you’ve gained and everything you've accomplished, personally and professionally.
19. Choose Your Work Environment
With a DNP, more professional doors will open, so you'll have options for choosing the best practice environment.
Do you thrive in an acute setting, working in unison with a team to deliver lifesaving care? Or do you prefer working traditional office hours and focusing on preventative care?
A DNP degree will allow you the flexibility to choose a path beyond the bedside, giving you the freedom to be the nurse you've always wanted.
Learn about Baylor's online DNP and our five in-demand tracks.
20. Connect More Dots on the Job
When you get your DNP, you’ll have plenty of “ah-ha” moments where your perception at work changes.
Rachael Carmichael, a student in our online DNP-FNP program, describes it best:
“The most exciting light-bulb moment for me was… learning about lupus… then having a patient… who had a history of lupus come into the hospital for heart-valve problems.
While the nurse was saying, ‘Yeah, she's got a history of this’ in a very disjointed way, the lightbulb clicked for me. I said, ‘Wait, she's got a history of lupus, it's uncontrolled, probably led to this heart-valve issue there, and that's why we're in the situation we're in.’
It was just amazing to start to put those pieces together and connect those dots.”
21. Improve Your Work-Life Balance
Work-Life balance is not easily achieved but is more likely among some nursing roles, including nurse practitioner. Indeed, this is one of the main reasons NP landed the No. 1 Best Job in Healthcare.
Even if you don’t choose the NP path, your life becomes balanced when you accept a job that meets your expectations for salary, hours, and more. Your career satisfaction will improve, and you’ll feel like you have flexibility most days and more choices – luxuries you’ve worked hard to achieve.
After putting in your time for a DNP from a leading educational institution like Baylor, you deserve to enjoy the years ahead, helping those who can benefit from your skills, knowledge, and experience.
22. Give Back to Nursing
Giving back strengthens your sense of purpose.
With a DNP, you’ll lead change through practice – you’ll be equipped to inspire generations of nurses, reshape healthcare policies, improve processes, deliver quality care, and bridge gaps in communities that need medical attention the most.
A DNP will also give you the opportunity to pay it forward in nursing. You’ll be able to maximize your potential to make an impact on patients and nurses alike.
23. Everyone Benefits
In the words of Florence Nightingale, “Nursing is a thing, which, unless in it we are making progress every year, every month, every week… we are going back. The more experience we gain, the more progress we can make.”
Becoming a nurse is highly personal – so is your decision to grow in the profession.
However, advancing your nursing career is valuable not only to you individually but to the nursing industry.
Everyone benefits when you gain more as a nurse.
Shine as a Baylor Nurse
With a new year comes new possibilities. Are you ready to let your light shine as a nurse?
Baylor University offers two online DNP program options — a BSN to DNP, which involves three years of study, or a Post-Master’s degree that can be completed in even less time.
Some highlights of Baylor’s online DNP include:
- Clinical placement assistance (90% of clinical placement sites provided to DNP students were within 125 miles of their homes)
- Baylor’s DNP program is ranked above 88% of the Best DNP Programs in Texas in 2021
- 100% certification pass rate for Family Nurse Practitioner and Nurse-Midwifery graduates