According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), the demand for nurses with higher levels of education is growing in response to national concerns about the quality of patient care, staffing shortages in the nursing field, and an increasingly complex healthcare system.
For nurses with a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) who want to advance their careers and hone their skills, there has never been a better time to pursue a Doctor of Nursing Practice with Nurse Practitioner Concentration (DNP-NP). A DNP-NP is a clinical doctorate that provides students with the highest level of education in the nursing field.
Rising Demand for Nurses with DNPs
Since its inception, the DNP has had a reputation in the nursing industry as a valued, in-demand terminal degree. While a master’s degree was previously sufficient for advanced nursing roles, the AACN endorsed the position that such roles should now require a doctorate. The Institute of Medicine’s “Future of Nursing” report, based on a two-year study, recommended doubling the number of nurses who pursue doctorates by 2020 so that nurses can take on greater responsibilities in the healthcare field.
With this increased demand for nurses with doctorates, DNP programs are becoming more accessible for practicing professionals. Online DNP programs allow students to benefit from a rigorous academic curriculum while having the flexibility to complete coursework around their schedules and availability. These programs prepare students to excel in advanced practice and leadership roles with a curriculum that entails evidence-based practice, as well as quality and safety improvement, policy, legislative advocacy, ethics, digital health trends, and organizations and systems theory.
Upon completion, DNP graduates may have a plethora of advanced practice nursing career opportunities available to them. For example, they may seek employment in clinical leadership, administration, academia, and policy analysis.
Future Trends in Healthcare That Support the Value of DNPs
Leadership staffing shortages, an increased demand due to the aging population, and the opportunity to improve healthcare policy are a few future trends in healthcare that are influencing the role of DNPs in the medical community. More detailed information about these trends and the corresponding opportunities for DNPs is provided below.
Health Affairs estimates approximately 1 million registered nurses (RNs) will retire between 2017 and 2030, creating a significant shortage of qualified nurses. As part of the baby boom generation, many of these nurses have decades of on-the-job experience. These are the staff members who take on leadership roles in their teams, solve problems, mentor others, answer questions, and swiftly navigate the changing organizational culture to deliver quality patient care. Beyond a staffing shortage, the retirement of these RNs results in a significant loss of knowledge and expertise for the nursing profession and healthcare field as a whole.
This upcoming knowledge gap presents a significant opportunity for DNPs who have the education, skills, and confidence to take on new responsibilities and leadership roles.
Greater Demand for Services
The same retiring baby boom generation that’s triggering a nursing leadership shortage is prompting another challenge for the American healthcare system: changing patient demographics. The Population Reference Bureau’s “Aging in the United States” projects that the number of Americans age 65 and older will double from 46 million to more than 98 million by 2060. At that time, almost 24 percent of the country’s population will be 65 and older.
This rapidly aging population will place the healthcare system under extreme strain, as senior patients will need increasing amounts of care, including care for dementia and other chronic illnesses, and more long-term care facilities. This presents yet another opportunity for DNPs, who are equipped to educate and train future nurses, lead other nurses and medical staff, and influence health policy.
Acting as Advocates for Health Policy
A noticeable trend since the development of the DNP program is the positive impact that DNPs are having on the healthcare system, which has resulted in improved quality of care. This is particularly true in the area of healthcare policy, where DNP graduates are using their leadership skills and training in evidence-based practice to make improvements to the structure and delivery of healthcare.
According to the National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties (NONPF), DNPs have the competencies required to influence health policy. For example, they have the tools to analyze policy development pertaining to legal, social, and ethical issues, as well as evaluate the impacts of globalization on the development of healthcare policy. As health policy advocates and analysts, DNPs have the opportunity to engage in healthcare policy development by forming coalitions to support new policies, developing policy agendas, acting as experts and witnesses, and participating in policy evaluations.
A review of future trends in healthcare indicates that not only do DNP-trained nurses have the opportunity to highly influence the healthcare system, but these professionals are also in great demand and will continue to be for the foreseeable future.
Take the Next Step Toward an Advanced Career in Nursing
Are you an ambitious nurse who already has an MSN? If so, it might be time to start a new academic journey and pursue a DNP — the highest level of education in the nursing field. Learn more about what earning a DNP entails by exploring Maryville University’s online DNP program.