What Does DNP Stand For?

View all blog posts under Articles | View all blog posts under Doctor of Nursing Practice

Nurse wearing face mask

The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) is an advanced degree that might give those with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) more career options in health care leadership and nursing education. Graduates of a DNP program are considered the thought leaders in their field and are the highly trained health care professionals who help shape the conversation around health and wellness in their organizations, communities, and wider spheres of influence.

What Is a DNP

Many wonder, “What does DNP stand for?” DNP is the acronym for Doctor of Nursing Practice. The DNP is an advanced nursing degree that allows nurses who have strong backgrounds in clinical practice to progress within the health care field. As with any doctoral program, prospective DNP students must meet the prerequisites for program acceptance.

The DNP can lead to high-level careers in nursing and health care. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) recommends that the DNP be required for all advanced practice nurses by 2025.

The Difference between a DNP and a Ph.D. in Nursing

Some students wonder what does the DNP stand for in contrast with what the Ph.D. in nursing stands for. The DNP focuses primarily on nursing practice, while the Ph.D., or Doctor of Philosophy, is more focused on areas other than clinical practice, such as research. In addition, the DNP provides the type of education that gives students a solid basis for advanced careers in clinical nursing management.

Students in the DNP program take part in projects and clinical participation throughout their studies. In general, a Ph.D. program is completed on campus and usually does not offer a flexible curriculum. Therefore, those enrolled in a Ph.D. program will likely be unable to work while they complete their studies.

Students in the DNP program can continue their nursing careers and take classes simultaneously. This is an important distinction because the program can take two or more years to complete.

Typical DNP Curriculum

Students enrolled in the DNP program can expect to take advanced courses designed to build upon their previous education and experience. These are high-level courses that can prepare students for positions after graduation.

Courses in a DNP curriculum may include subjects such as Cultural Perspectives in Health Care, Epidemiology/Biostatistics, Advanced Research Methods for Evidence-Based Practice, and Informatics in Health Care. Students also participate in scholarly projects.

Projects allow students to pursue specific educational goals and nursing specializations while also participating in community health care. These projects will further prepare students to take part in the types of activities that they may expect to see when they accept high-level positions after graduation.

Why Pursue a DNP?

There are many reasons why a nurse may want to pursue a more advanced nursing degree. The health care environment is changing, and the demand for more advanced knowledge is increasing. Health care is becoming more complex, and aging patients need more advanced health care options. Providers must have the advanced education needed to treat patients with more complex disease histories. Patients, too, might wonder, “What is a DNP?” It’s important for patients to understand that advanced practice providers with a DNP represent the pinnacle of their profession. From the nurse practitioner’s perspective, being at the pinnacle of the profession is one of the main motivators to pursue the terminal degree.

Nurses who also have clinical experience may want to teach new nurses who are just starting out in the health care field. The DNP program provides a path to career advancement in health care. Practicing nurses might strive to become administrators and take a stronger leadership role in their current health care organization. The online DNP program might be an option for nurses who want to explore opportunities in health care leadership, nursing education, and advanced patient treatment and care.

Learn More

The demand for nurses continues to increase, and the need for professionals with doctorates in the nursing field will only grow. Place yourself on the cutting edge of nursing practice by earning your online DNP degree from Regis College. Speak with an enrollment adviser today about how Regis College’s online BSN to DNP program can help prepare you for the future of nursing.

Recommended Reading

What Can I Do With a BSN-DNP Degree?

5 Reasons to Get a BSN to DNP Online

7 Leadership Skills Nurses Can Gain by Pursuing a BSN to DNP Program Online


American Association of Colleges of Nursing, DNP Essentials

American Association of Colleges of Nursing, DNP Fact Sheet

National League for Nursing