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What to Expect in an Online DNP Program

An online program is a good way for nurses to earn a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree. A working registered nurse (RN) who already holds a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and a master's degree can advance in their career with a DNP. The University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) offers an online DNP program that culminates in a post-master's degree meant specifically for advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) and nurse administrators.

What Is a DNP?

A DNP program prepares nurses to translate clinical research into practice as part of improving patient care outcomes. The DNP is a terminal degree, which means it is the highest possible degree for nursing practice. While a Ph.D. in nursing — also a terminal degree — is considered a research degree, the DNP degree relates to nursing practice.

The DNP extends a nurse's education beyond the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) to prepare them for leadership roles. The DNP prepares APRNs and Nurse Administrators to assume leadership responsibilities, allowing them to influence policy and practice and have a greater impact on improved health outcomes.

Why Should Nurses Pursue a DNP?

A DNP is a doctoral degree in clinical nursing that expands job opportunities for graduates. In fact, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) calls for "moving the current level of preparation necessary for advanced nursing practice from the master’s degree to the doctorate level." This move toward DNP-level preparation for APRNs will surely impact the future of nurses aspiring to advanced practice and leadership roles.

The duties of a nurse with a DNP can include the following:

  • Using informatics to lead improvements in healthcare outcomes
  • Developing or updating policies and procedures
  • Educating patients and public about healthcare
  • Innovating new healthcare strategies to improve patient health outcomes

Along with expanded job opportunities, earning a DNP can also lead to an increase in income. For example, ZipRecruiter reports the average July 2022 salary for DNPs in Texas to be $107,958, an increase of more than $13,600 over the average nurse practitioner salary in the same state ($94,344).

Why Should Nurses Consider an Online DNP Degree Program?

An online DNP degree program is geared toward nurses who need a flexible schedule or have financial limitations. Generally, online doctorate programs are popular with these types of students:

  • Parents
  • Residents of rural areas
  • Employed nurses

In an online program, you will find the same quality courses that are offered on-campus. An online program provides the opportunity to work asynchronously which means you do not have specific class times you must meet. The accelerated design of the online year-round program can enable students to complete the degree more rapidly than in a traditional, campus-based program.

And, notably, online programs are inherently resilient to disruptions like the COVID-19 pandemic, providing students more certainty and continuity in their educational path.

What Kinds of Courses Are Found in a DNP Degree Program?

The courses in a DNP degree program explore the way diseases affect patient populations and examine evidence-based strategies used to improve patient outcomes. Students study complexity in the healthcare environment and how to lead changes within their healthcare setting. The following are UTA's online DNP courses:

  • Leadership in Healthcare Systems
  • Healthcare Policy
  • Clinical Information Systems
  • Translational Research
  • Clinical Scholarship to Improve Healthcare Outcomes
  • Evidence Appraisal
  • Population Health
  • Project Proposal Development
  • DNP Practicum I and II

Do Nurses With a DNP Need Continuing Education?

All nurses, regardless of degree, should stay current with new techniques and improve nursing skills through continuing education. Plus, completing a certain number of continuing education units (as set forth by a state's board of nursing) every two years is required by most states to maintain nursing licensure.

Nurses with a DNP have an enhanced understanding of the complicated aspects of patient care, and they are knowledgeable about instituting necessary changes. These attributes make DNPs a natural fit with employers who seek solutions to today's healthcare challenges.

Learn more about UTA's Doctor of Nursing Practice online program.


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