Nurses aiming to advance their careers can choose between a number of graduate and doctoral programs. Deciding which program is right depends on each nurse’s preferred career path. However, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) recommends the doctorate of nursing practice (DNP) to prepare academically for all advanced nursing practice roles. And as nurse practitioners (NPs) tend to have both high job satisfaction and high salaries, this profession has been ranked the second-best occupation in the United States.
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Increasing Demand for Nurses With Advanced Degrees
Lawmakers have given NPs new authority to treat patients throughout the United States. NPs are licensed to prescribe medication and other treatments in each of the 50 states and Washington D.C., and almost half of all states in the U.S. have granted NPs full practice authority.
Retail health clinics are a popular place for patients to find treatment, and many of these healthcare facilities are staffed by NPs and other medical professionals who are not physicians. Approximately 19 percent of Americans have visited a retail clinic within the past year, either for themselves or a family member.
Among patients who go to clinics staffed by NPs, 53 percent are seeking treatment for an acute illness, 35 percent are seeking the flu vaccine, 32 percent are seeking a health screening, 29 percent are seeking a general health assessment and 19 percent are seeking a general physical.
Health outcomes for patients served by NPs do not differ from those for patients served by physicians. Only 1.9 percent of NPs have been listed as primary defendants in malpractice cases.
Greater use of NPs and other advanced practice nurses can also lead to lower health care costs, with the state of Massachusetts noticing $4.2 billion to $8.2 billion in potential cost savings over a 10-year period. Patients with an NP as their primary care provider have a substantially lower cost of care than patients with a physician as a primary care provider, spending 29 percent less for Medicare evaluation and management payments, 18 percent less for office visits and 11 percent less for inpatient visits.
DNP Academic Programs, Graduates and Jobs in the U.S.
The number of students enrolled in DNP programs has increased from 21,995 in 2015 to 25,289 in 2016. Prospective DNP students can choose from 303 programs across the U.S.
There are 234,000 NPs currently licensed to practice in the United States, and the demand for NPs is projected to increase by 31 percent from 2016 to 2026. And while 89 percent of NPs work in primary care, they may also choose to work in a number of specialties, such as family practice, adult care, adult-gerontology, pediatrics and women’s health.
The states with the highest concentration of jobs for nurse practitioners are Mississippi, Maine, Tennessee, Massachusetts and Vermont. However, the states where DNP nurses have the highest salaries are Minnesota, Kentucky, California, New Mexico and Florida. The average salary for a DNP nurse in Minnesota is $200,000 per year, the average salary in Kentucky is $197,500, the average salary in California is $165,000, and the average salary in New Mexico and Florida is $117,500.
Nursing Advancement and DNP Career Paths
Depending on their preferred career path, nurses can decide between several advanced degrees:
A master of science in nursing (MSN) focuses on one of four practice areas: nurse practitioner, clinical nurse specialist, certified nurse anesthetist or certified nurse midwife.
A doctor of nursing practice (DNP) provides clinical practice-oriented leadership training.
A doctor of nursing (ND) develops advanced specialist skills.
A doctor of nursing science (DNSc) develops investigative and research skills.
A doctor of nursing philosophy (PhD) focuses on scholarly research.
After completing their degree, DNP-educated nurses can choose from a number of lucrative and in-demand career paths, including the following:
Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist
Certified registered nurse anesthetists administer anesthesia, assist anesthesiologists, monitor a patient’s vital signs and oversee a patient’s recovery from anesthesia. The demand for certified registered nurse anesthetists is projected to increase by 31 percent from 2016 to 2026, and their median salary is $160,000 per year.
Chief Nursing Officer
Chief nursing officers direct all nursing activities at a hospital or other healthcare facility, manage operations, supervise nursing managers and monitor quality of service. The demand for chief nursing officers is projected to increase by 16 percent from 2016 to 2026, and their median salary is $123,000 per year.
Nurse practitioners perform physical exams, assessments and evaluations. They also order diagnostic tests and prescribe medication. The demand for nurse practitioners is projected to increase by 31 percent from 2016 to 2026, and their median salary is $101,000 per year.
Certified Nurse Midwife
Certified nurse midwives provide prenatal care and assist with delivery during birth. They also coordinate family-planning counseling and gynecological care for their patients. The demand for certified nurse midwives is projected to increase by 31 percent from 2016 to 2026, and their median salary is $100,000 per year.