Enrolling in a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program can be a daunting task for many students due to the rigorous academic requirements often associated with it. Although DNP school can be intimidating, students who choose to enroll not only embrace the significance of pursuing higher education but also the possibility of advancing their roles as prominent health care leaders in the nursing profession. As a DNP candidate myself, I’ve grown to appreciate the triumph and struggles associated with pursuing a terminal degree. Therefore, I believe students who are considering pursuing their DNP degree must harness these seven attributes to ensure that they are not only readily prepared but also successful in their scholastic endeavors.

1. Clear Vision

Setting a vision and goal for the future is vital for success in the DNP program. Possessing a clear vision is necessary because it helps you organize your individual objectives and helps you maintain accountability throughout the program. If choosing to enroll in DNP school perfectly aligns with your personal and professional goals, having a vision that is well defined will not only help you focus on your objectives but also create a sense of purpose that ultimately becomes your own measurement for success.

2. Ability to Prioritize

Students who know what and how to prioritize tend to be more successful in DNP school because they know how to differentiate tasks as either critical or noncritical. One of the best ways to prioritize in DNP school is by looking over the program and course objectives of each class and determine which tasks need to be completed first. By knowing how to prioritize your tasks wisely you will not only be able to minimize stress but also maximize results more effortlessly and efficiently.

3. Effective Time Management Skills

Possessing excellent time management skills is an important trait prior to beginning DNP school because of the high academic workload associated with pursuing a doctoral degree. Managing your time effectively will allow you to accomplish more tasks in a shorter period of time and help lower your stress and increase your concentration and attention. To ensure that your time is properly managed, it helps to keep a written or electronic record, diary, or calendar to ensure that you know what tasks are required and when they must be completed.

4. Strong Work Ethic

Maintaining a strong work ethic is essential in determining your overall success in DNP school. Students who possess a strong work ethic understand that success can only be achieved by practicing the ideals of discipline and hard work on a regular basis. To maintain a strong work ethic, it is vital to practice positive habits consistently every day so that hard work is almost automatic. Forming respectable habits such as exercising daily, staying punctual, maintaining your obligations, and finishing tasks immediately help establish your credibility and image as a doctorally prepared nurse.

5. Healthy Work-Life Balance

While it is important to study and work hard in DNP school, it is equally important to create a healthy work-life balance and set aside much needed time for yourself and your loved ones. Learning how to care for yourself is extremely important in DNP school as working too much can ultimately cause you to become overwhelmed, overworked, and overstressed. To avoid this, it is best that you take consistent breaks throughout the day to maintain your overall well-being. Learning how to take ample rest breaks is vital to ensure your physical, mental, and emotional health is adequately cared for in DNP school.

6. An Understanding that Excellence is a Lifelong Process

One of the key principles that DNP students must understand is that excellence is a lifelong process. Understanding this concept is vital because sustainable success in DNP school and in life is not something that is built overnight but rather an extended period of time. As leaders in the nursing realm, DNP students must understand that sustainable excellence requires constant monitoring, learning, and improvement with the realization that the journey is just as important as the destination.

7. Perpetual Curiosity

DNP students who remain perpetually curious are more susceptible to success because curiosity not only propels innovation but also self-reflection. Fostering your curiosity in DNP school is essential because it allows you to be fully present in the moment. Curious people are not only happier but also more successful because they are non-blaming, non-shaming, supportive, and focused on exploring options to find the best solution that supports collaboration and innovation.

Jonathan V. Llamas, DNP (c), BSN, RN-BC, PHN

Jonathan V. Llamas, DNP (c), BSN, RN-BC, PHN, is an ANCC board certified registered nurse and freelance writer from Los Angeles, CA. He received his BSN degree from West Coast University - North Hollywood in 2013 and is currently pursuing his DNP degree at Loma Linda University to become a Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner. In addition to this, he currently functions as an acute psychiatric registered nurse at Kaiser Permanenete - Los Angeles with previous inpatient experience in both the ER and ICU settings.
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