The Benefits of Earning Your DNP

The Benefits of Earning Your DNP

A nursing career offers many avenues for nurses of all stripes and interests to fulfill their professional goals. For some, earning a doctorate is a lifelong aspiration that they are keen to fulfill, and nursing offers three options for this accomplishment: the DNP, the PhD, and the Doctor of Nursing Science (DNS or DNSc).the-benefits-of-earning-your-dnp

Doctoral programs offer what is frequently referred to as terminal” degrees since they represent the highest possible level of educational achievement in most disciplines (some areas lack a doctoral option. Thus, the masters becomes the default terminal degree). Considering that a DNP is generally clinically oriented, and a PhD and DNS are geared towards academia and research, a nurse wishing to take their clinical knowledge and education to the highest pinnacle would do well to look at the DNP as a very promising direction.

If youre wondering about the benefits of earning your DNP, theres no time like the present to explore the career potential and professional development that such a high-level educational accomplishment can confer on your nursing career. 

A Rigorous Education 

One clear benefit of earning a DNP is that it offers an unequaled rigorous clinical training pathway. In some DNP programs, you can choose a clinical nurse specialist or educator track, or you can choose to focus on direct patient care as an expert clinician.

Your DNP program will provide a much deeper dive into the theory and science driving evidence-based advanced nursing practice. Your education may also steer you into organizational leadership, systems thinking, IT and technological advances in nursing and medicine, healthcare policy and advocacy, and quality improvement.

This form of doctoral education will enrich your understanding and professional perspective on multiple aspects of patient care, preventive medicine, population and community health, and other areas of study. Depending on the focus of the DNP program you choose, you may also gain a keener grasp of emerging ideas in nursing and medical science, the effects of climate change and the environment on populations around the world, the social determinants of health, and other trends to keep an eye on in the years to come.

With the promise of the most extensive clinical training possible for a nurse, doctoral education can open your mind and help you look at the world around you with a more discerning, critical, and perceptive eye. It will also deepen your understanding of identifying trends that can impact how you practice, the state of the broader healthcare system you are a part of, and your patients health and the well-being of larger communities and populations, including the most vulnerable.

DNP Earning Power and Job Opportunities, and Professional Parity

The Doctor of Nursing Practice designation demonstrates to your colleagues, your patients, and the world that you have pushed yourself to achieve the highest possible level of education as a nurse, accumulating more extensive knowledge and expertise.

In many job markets, nurses with a doctoral degree can sometimes command higher salaries than some of their masters-prepared counterparts. According to Payscale, DNPs earn an average of $112,000 annually, and NPs earn an average of $106,413, an arguably nominal difference.

However, CRNAs can expect to earn an average annual salary of $179,343. And since a DNP will be the entry-level degree for all CRNAs as of 2025, newly enrolled CRNA students have been automatically enrolled in DNP programs since 2022.

When applying for executive leadership positions, candidates with a doctoral education can have an advantage over their masters-prepared colleagues since a DNP education provides advanced training in organizational management, systems thinking, and the leading of multidisciplinary teams. Executive leadership positions include chief nursing officer (CNO), patient care director, nursing home administrator, director of nursing, or chief nursing information officer. As far as earning power, a CNO can expect to earn an average of $141,000 per year.

Professional Parity 

Since many healthcare colleagues — including MDs, dentists, and physical therapists — are required to achieve a doctorate, earning your DNP can provide you with professional achievement and equality of standing regarding professional parity.

As a nurse with a DNP, you will find yourself collaborating with multidisciplinary colleagues, often in a leadership position. A doctoral degree can bestow a feeling of self-respect and the right to expect and demand equal treatment as a highly educated, knowledgeable, professional healthcare leader.

Achieving Your Highest Goals

Nurses are all individuals whose personal circumstances and preferences dictate what level of education will bring them a sense of achievement and satisfaction. An aversion to accumulating student loan debt can be enough of a deterrent for some nurses to advance their education. For some, an ADN, BSN, or MSN is enough to scratch their educational itch, and the idea of a doctorate feels foreign, excessive, or simply unnecessary to reach their career goals.

However, there are always some ambitious nursing professionals whose eyes have always been on the prize of a doctorate, whether for personal achievement, professional advancement, or a combination of these and other motivating factors. Doctoral education is an intense and enriching educational experience that some individuals look forward to with relish and excitement, if not a healthy dose of trepidation at the amount of work that completing their education will entail.

Whether for personal reasons, professional advancement, earning power, career mobility, professional parity, or simply as a quest for knowledge, earning a DNP can deliver a unique sense of accomplishment for each individual.

Only you can decide if the DNP pathway is right for you and your career. Before you take the plunge:

  • Do your due diligence.
  • Research your options.
  • Talk with those whove walked this route before you. 

There are many benefits to earning your DNP, and you can make a prudent decision once youre armed with enough information to choose from a place of wisdom and certainty.

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Health Disparities and Black Communities

Health Disparities and Black Communities

Health disparities have historically impacted multiple populations throughout the U.S. When it comes to health and access to healthcare, consider the plight of Native Americans, undocumented immigrants, people experiencing homelessness and the chronically mentally ill, and rural communities in places like Appalachia, and we see a picture of what’s broken. The undeniable disservice that continues to millions of the most vulnerable is inexcusable, yet this legacy is slow to overcome.health-disparities-and-black-communities

In terms of Black communities and people of color, the disservice is centuries-old. To this day, the legacies of structural racism live on in health disparities that would have no place in 21st-century America if we had already learned our lessons and lived up to the potential outlined in our country’s founding documents.

Nonetheless, disproportionately negative statistics don’t lie. We know beyond the shadow of a doubt that Black Americans have received short shrift in the realms of health and healthcare since the first days of the American colonies, and the work to undo these wrongs is daunting and ongoing.

Distrust, Disparities, and Deceit

The Kaiser Family Foundation website states, “While Black people have made great contributions and achievements in the United States, they continue to face many health and health care disparities that adversely impact their overall health and well-being. These disparities have been exacerbated by the uneven impacts of the COVID pandemic, ongoing racism and discrimination, and police violence against and killings of Black people. Moreover, the long history of inequitable health outcomes among Black people reflects the abuses faced during slavery, segregation, mass incarceration, and their persistent legacies.’

Kaiser’s statistics point out that Black people face more significant financial obstacles to receiving appropriate healthcare and have a higher uninsured rate than white people. And with higher rates of poverty and food insecurity, it’s clear that many factors contribute to this calculus.

The growing gap of health disparities within the American healthcare system is resulting in the unnecessary deaths of people of color and the continued mistrust of the healthcare system,” states Jasmyn Moore, MBA, BSN, RN, co-host of the Distrust and Disparities podcast.

If you take a deep look into most health disparities that plague communities of color,” Ms. Moore continues, “you will see that the root cause is systemic racism. The medical field was built off experimenting on Black bodies.” In this statement, Ms. Moore is referring to a legacy exemplified by the Tuskegee experiments, where Black men were misled by researchers to believe that their syphilis was being treated, but in actuality, the course of the disease could be observed by scientists from the U.S. Public Health Service.

 “We have all heard the negative statistics surrounding the health of Black, Indigenous, and people of color,” Moore states. “Black mothers are three times more likely to die during childbirth. Black infant mortality is twice as high compared to white babies. African Americans are more than twice as likely to die from cancer.

Disturbing statistics are nothing new in the world of racial minorities in the United States. Moore comments that “the life expectancy gap between marginalized ethnic groups continues to widen despite health advancements. We are constantly bombarded with those negative and disheartening statistics. The blame is often placed on individuals and families versus a health care system that was not designed to promote and protect our health and livelihood.”

Moore concludes with the following food for thought: “Behind each of those statistics, racism plays a big factor that is often ignoredA report released by the National Academy of Medicine in 2003 pointed out how, in America, race is a determinant of health quality. Their study detailed how Black people and other ethnic minorities receive lower quality of health care than white people even when age, income, insurance status, and severity of conditions are comparable.”

Heightening the Focus

The COVID-19 pandemic and nationwide racial justice movement over the past several years have heightened the focus on health disparities and their underlying causes and contributed to the increased prioritization of health equity,” states the Kaiser Family Foundation. “These disparities are not new and reflect longstanding structural and systemic inequities rooted in racism and discrimination.”

Aggressively addressing disparities at their root — including police violence against Black citizens, maternal-infant mortality, discriminatory housing policies, income inequality, the impact of climate change on vulnerable populations, and access to care — can lead to us cooperatively working together to find multifaceted and forward-looking solutions.

As the Kaiser Foundation pointed out, these disparities are nothing new; thus, dismantling the structural and societal issues that cause them is an uphill battle. That said, many individuals and organizations have set their sights on these issues, and the 21st-century racial justice movement is an intrinsic part of that process.

Those of us in the healthcare industry must maintain awareness, examine our own biases, and demand that our workplaces do their part in decreasing disparities impacting the populations of color that we serve. We carry that responsibility; stepping up and speaking out is our individual and collective moral obligation.

Nurse Residencies: Norm or Exception?

Nurse Residencies: Norm or Exception?

When new graduate nurses enter the labor market, many will clamor for the chance to land a position in new nurse residency programs. Presented as a game that only a lucky few can win, new nurse residencies provide great career-launching benefits for a small cohort of novice nurses. Meanwhile, their less fortunate new grad colleagues take positions where they may be subject to extremely poor (or veritably nonexistent) precepting and essentially set up to sink or swim.nurse-residencies-norm-or-exception

Why are new nurse residencies so few and far between, leaving countless thousands of new graduate nurses to fend for themselves after being thrown to the lions? Is this seriously how we want our neophyte nurses introduced to their new careers? And who does such a system serve? Indeed, not our patients or our society as a whole.

Feeding Our Young, Not Eating Our Young

When asked about new nurse residencies, some old-school nurses may gruffly say,

“When I graduated, nobody held my hand. It was trial by fire, and I had only myself to rely on. Why should these new nurses be coddled? We never were. Let them sink or swim!”

In these more enlightened times, we realize that just because something wasn’t done in the past doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it now if it has qualifiable or quantifiable benefits. From the point of view of many nurse educators, new nurse residencies are more than worth the time and effort needed to create and administer them.

“Nurse residency programs are crucial for healthcare organizations to enhance new graduate nurse retention by providing a structured transition from academia to clinical practice,” shares Damion Jenkins, MSN, RN, a nursing staff development and education specialist, NCLEX prep expert, and nurse career coach and mentor.

“These programs offer a supportive environment that fosters professional development, allowing nurses to gain confidence and competence in their roles,” Jenkins adds. “Improved retention translates to a more experienced and skilled nursing workforce, positively impacting patient safety through better continuity of care.”

In terms of the long-term care environment, Jenkins states, “Residency programs often don’t exist [in long-term care], and getting administrators to allow enough staff to manage them is difficult. Long-term care facilities may often only have one nurse educator. Without qualified nurse educators to develop and manage these programs, these facilities will continue to face extremely high turnover rates.”

Jenkins is correct—with the constant threat of nurse turnover amidst a nursing shortage that never seems to go away, we need our new nurses to stay in the profession, not abandon it before they even have a chance to find their sea legs.

If 18% of new nurses leave the profession within the first year (likely a significant understatement), were losing nearly one in five of our new nurses just when we need them most. Whether the cause is overworking, stress, understaffing, bullying, incivility, or other factors, the plain fact is this: we should be feeding our young, not eating them, and one way to feed them is through the model of new nurse residencies.

A Culture of Learning

According to Jenkins, new nurse residencies serve multiple purposes, including creating the work environments we want to see in healthcare. “These programs contribute to a culture of ongoing learning and collaboration, ensuring healthcare teams stay abreast of the latest updates in the delivery of care and best practices for optimal outcomes,” Jenkins states.

If new nurse residencies are led and staffed by nurses who feel deeply about the positive aspects of education, learning, and the optimization of care, the culture of the entire workplace will feel the repercussions of that way of looking at the system of which we’re all an intrinsic part.

Back then, a nurse would attend a nursing school run by a particular hospital. In this setting, the student nurse would receive intensive hands-on training and, more often than not, be hired as a staff nurse following graduation. While these diploma programs weren’t degree-based, the clinical training was robust, and one can assume that a new nurse residency wasn’t needed based on the rigors of a hospital-based education.

In the 21st century, with varying degrees of success in integrating didactic university or college-based education with supervised clinical experiences, new graduate nurses need more high-quality hands-on training to succeed.

Healthcare is significantly more complex than in centuries past, and the amount of clinical and didactic knowledge that nursing students need to absorb is astronomical. In other words, new grads need all the help they can get, and we owe it to them, ourselves, and society to ensure our new nurses are fully prepared for the complicated 21st-century care environment we’re hoping to launch them into.

Are Universal Residencies Realistic?

As Jenkins previously shared, new nurse residencies must be fully staffed, and many facilities start from a default position of having too few nurse educators. Hospital budgets are enormous, and the line item of a new nurse residency program is easy pickings when cuts are needed.

However, if the federal government is sincere about its commitment to the nursing workforce and nurses’ central role in American healthcare, funding could be available to create a robust system of nationwide new nurse residencies. Perhaps it could be shown that a massive investment in the retention of new nurses would save even more money over time when it comes to improved quality of care, decreased workforce attrition, and a less severe nursing shortage.

And perhaps, in a historic public/private partnership between the federal government and foundations dedicated to healthcare—such as the Kaiser Family Foundation—funding sources could be found for hospitals to be incentivized to successfully create and maintain new nurse residency programs in the interest of the health of the country.

Some may say that universal new nurse residencies are an unrealistic pipe dream that could never come to fruition. Still, with creativity, forethought, and an eye toward innovation, we could create a system where every new grad nurse who wanted a spot in a residency could have one.

Do we want our new nurses to leave the profession in droves? Doesn’t it serve us all to support our recent graduates and usher them into their new careers with increased confidence and skill?

The days of throwing our novice nurses to the lions need to end. Instead, we need to feed them the educational and experiential nutrition they need for success. After all, every new nurse’s success is one that our society can share. 

Read the January issue of Minority Nurse focusing on RN-to-BSN and Nurse Residency Programs here.

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Change, Meaning, and Your Nursing Career 

Change, Meaning, and Your Nursing Career 

There are countless reasons why some of us fall into nursing. And when we choose this particular professional journey, all types of motivations keep us in the game.

For many of us, a family member who was a nurse inspired us to continue the tradition. For others, it was witnessing the nursing care of a sick or dying loved one that opened our eyes. For still others, nursing seemed like a flexible, well-paying job that could support a family, especially since nurses will always be needed (until the robots take over).

But we all change, as do our lives, and this begs the question: if the nature of your life and your reasons for being a nurse change over the years, how do you continue to find meaning in what you do?

How it all Began

You became a nurse because your grandmother and mother were both nurses. Your grandmother told fascinating stories about being a nurse during World War II, with air raid sirens, soldiers missing limbs, and lives lost and saved all around her. Your mother also had good stories, though maybe not as romantic as grandma’s.

You could have finished high school and gone to nursing school, launching your career at 22. Or your story might involve, like yours truly, spending your twenties doing all sorts of different jobs and arriving at nursing in your early 30s when you had a family to support and a pre-adolescent son to set a good example for. And there are also those who come into nursing after an entirely different career: FBI agent (a true-to-life story I recently heard firsthand), accountant, office manager, etc.

No matter how you find your way, you have a story that includes the motivations that led you there. Maybe you truly felt a calling, or perhaps you just needed a reliable job. Whatever the vehicle, it delivered you to the door. But what happens when that original vehicle eventually pulls out of the parking lot, and you’re left wondering why you’re still here?

When the Sands Shift

The sands of your life can shift for many reasons: having children, getting married or divorced, finding a new passion, aging, getting bored, or moving to a new state or country.

The sands of your career and the healthcare industry can also change. Here are some observations I’ve heard from nurses I’ve spoken with:

  • Healthcare is becoming more corporatized, and the healthcare business feels more focused on money than human beings.
  • The bullying and incivility at work is terrible and demoralizing.
  • Nurses are subject to an unprecedented amount of on-the-job violence.
  • Unsafe staffing consistently puts our licenses at risk.

And the list goes on.

What do you do When things change— inside of you, in the world around you, or likely both? If your motivations for being a nurse feel different than they used to, you’re not alone. And if you’ve lost your motivation and passion entirely, how do you continue?

Acknowledging and Accepting Change

For some nurses, when the world shifts around them, they bury their heads in the sand, perhaps doing okay for a while. Others become bitter, burnt out, and resentful, and may themselves become bullies who make the lives of those around them miserable. Either that, or they fall into depression, anxiety, or addiction.

You may also arrive at a place where your kids have left the house, and you have the freedom to explore. You can study massage therapy, learn astrology, write a book, or become a podcaster. It’s all valid, and the world is essentially your oyster.

But the original question remains: how do you continue to find meaning in your actions?

Much of this comes down to your core values. The Barrett Personal Values Assessment and the Schwartz Portrait Values Questionnaire are both valid tools for identifying your values. You can also work with a mentor, faith leader, therapist or counselor, career coach, or other trusted individual to help you uncover what’s currently most important to you.

Aside from your values, you also need to examine the current state of your life:

  • What are your needs?
  • How have the nature of your home life and relationships changed?
  • Do you have more people dependent on you, or are you more independent than ever?
  • Has your health changed over the years? Do you have less physical stamina? Have you developed chronic illnesses?

Acknowledging the changes in your life, your family structure and relationships, your body, and the world around you is one of the keys to examining what’s currently making you tick and how to continue.

Based on what’s changed over the years, there may be a way for nursing to continue to be a natural fit, but you may also find that nursing no longer offers the fulfillment it used to. Being honest with yourself is an excellent place to begin since a critical assessment of your life and career must start with clarity.

As you examine your values, the current state of your life, the things that feel important to you, and your needs, things will become more apparent.

If you began your nursing career because of grandma’s inspiring stories but now find that the inspiration is no longer there, it’s not shameful to acknowledge the truth and seek other career options. And if nursing is now simply a job and no longer feels like the calling it once was, you may still be able to continue.

However you move forward, keep in mind that change is the only true constant, and the path that you once traveled may need some readjusting. Be patient, have self-compassion, and forge ahead towards whatever the future may hold.

Nurse, Know Thyself and Thrive

Nurse, Know Thyself and Thrive

When Socrates famously said, “To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom,” and that the unexamined life is not worth living, he certainly wasn’t thinking about the 21st-century nursing professional. Still, these Socratic axioms’ universality applies to anyone who breathes air.

Amid our busy and complicated lives, knowing ourselves can seem like the last thing we want to add to our already crowded to-do lists. However, we need to know ourselves and understand what makes us tick to make the best choices to move our lives in the optimal direction.

Your nursing career may currently feel like it’s on the right track, but when life throws curveballs, and we need to pivot or make adjustments, having the most significant possible level of self-understanding is a means to approach those moments with grace and self-assurance.

Take a Deeper Look

There are many paths to deeper self-knowledge. Some will pursue psychotherapy or counseling, some will attend personal growth workshops, and others will read self-help books, learn to meditate, study T’ai Chi, or join a church or spiritual community. Life coaches, career coaches, and other professionals with specific skill sets can also offer unique tools that could move the needle for you. There’s no right or wrong path to self-knowledge, and your chosen combination of preferred strategies will be unique.

When examining your life in the context of your nursing career, it’s not just your job that tells you something about yourself — it goes much deeper than that. In considering the current state of your nursing career, increased self-knowledge could be a central key to understanding what you want out of life, where you’re headed in your professional journey, and what you might need to do to move things toward your next career and life chapter.

If you want to get the self-examination ball rolling, consider these questions:

  • Why does my current job work or not work for me?
  • What choices did I make to get me to where I am now?
  • Have I made any mistakes or miscalculations that have thrown me off course?
  • What, if anything, would I have done differently if I could go back and try again?
  • Is the work I’m doing now aligned with my values or philosophy?
  • How do I see myself as a nurse and healthcare professional?
  • Have I become the nurse I envisioned when I first entered nursing school?
  • Is there any way I’ve lost my focus or compromised my values?
  • Am I living the kind of life I can be proud of?

When we ask ourselves probing questions and answer as honestly as possible, we might be surprised at the answers we receive. Some of us can do this on our own, but many of us might need the help of a counselor, mentor, or coach to guide us in our explorations. No matter how we approach it, compassionate self-assessment should be the cornerstone of this type of inquiry to steer us from going down the road of self-recrimination and regret.

Compassionate Self-Assessment

It’s inevitable that when he admonished his fellow citizens to know themselves, Socrates wasn’t telling his followers to blame and criticize themselves in the interest of self-exploration and self-knowledge. That said, we can probably surmise that he was pushing us to be honest, to take a deep, hard look inside, and to honestly examine and admit to our basest motivations and fears, not to mention our loftiest ideals and aspirations.

Self-compassion is an excellent place to begin if you strive for a life of open self-examination and optimal self-knowledge. We all want to live our very best lives, which means making prudent choices, living as closely as possible according to our personal ideals and values, and hoping that our work reflects the core or essence of who we truly are.

When you arrive at a crossroads, when life seems uncertain, and you have no idea where to turn or what to do next, where can you go for self-reflection and inspiration? Whether it’s the Bible, your therapist, or some other avenue to self-knowledge is beside the point — the critical part is that you’re making a concerted effort to know yourself more fully.

Nursing and healthcare aren’t easy, and we can sometimes lose ourselves amidst the stress of work and the pace of our personal lives. If you can somehow slow down, take a deep breath, find a way to look inside, and dig deep for that core of your true self, you may unlock the door to the next iteration of your life and career.

Whether you’re a nurse who’s one hundred percent thrilled with your job or miserable, self-knowledge will come equally in handy. So, nurse, consider Socrates’ axiom and strive to know yourself, and you never know what magic might happen as your self-knowledge, self-compassion, and self-understanding grow.

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