Nursing Blogs>Nicole Lehr

A doctor in nursing uniform?


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Being a nurse that is interested in continuing my education in upcoming years, I obviously love hearing/reading about how the nurse practitioner is the “next best thing” in the medical profession. The autonomy is yearned for, the medical malpractice burden is less than that of an MD, the opportunities for research are endless, and the pay is great. Some people even prefer seeing a nurse practitioner to a doctor. So if you are returning back to school for a Masters degree, who wouldn’t want to be a nurse practitioner? Well, what if you weren’t given the choice and the title was chosen for you…
The newest proposal in the nursing profession has been to phase out the Masters-prepared nurse practitioner option and make the role a Doctorate degree. Introducing the latest and greatest (?) letters behind a nurse’s name, DNP. The Doctorate of Nurse Practice degree adds one more year of schooling to the Masters degree programs and nearly doubles the clinical hours. But some claims suggest these clinical hours are based on hours of research to complete the graduation required research project, not actual patient contact hours. It has been released by the AACN that by the year 2015, all advance practice nurses will have to obtain their Doctorate. The good news for those nurse practitioners already in practice prior to 2015 is that they will be “grandfathered in” and will not need to return to school for the additional year.

The year that I graduated from University of Florida, the nursing school introduced the first class of incoming DNP students, but the option still existed to get “just” a Masters degree in nursing. From my research, I have read many objections to the newly arising licensing title, some of the main objections stemming from the fact that a stigma for current NPs will be that they are “just” NPs, as I have stereotyped above. The idea that NPs are experts in the nursing realm may be replaced by the new Doctorate-prepared nurses being viewed as those with the expertise. Other complaints stem from the extended amount of schooling with no guaranteed increase in pay compared to Masters-prepared nurses. The question of competing for jobs is a looming issue between DNPs and NPs as current nurse practitioners are worried about being able to compete for positions that newly graduated DNPs may apply for.

With so much objection from the current nursing community, why the need for the Doctorate-prepared nurse? I questioned this myself as I scrolled through page after page of pessimistic comments from advance practice nurses. And the response that I found from a women’s health nursing publication was not only valid, but convincing and encouraging.

The rationale for this change is described as the following: the need to have parity with other professional groups that have moved to doctorate education, such as pharmacists; an increased complexity of care and new technologies requiring additional hours of education; and recognition of the fact that many master’s level NP programs were just a few credits short of meeting doctoral requirements. Again, there is no data that demonstrates that currently functioning NPs who do not have doctoral level education are anything but excellent health care providers within their scope of practice.

So, as I get closer to advancing my own practice, I have a new respect for and a desire to learn more about the DNP. Yet another great example of the wealth of opportunities at our fingertips in this profession, a profession that I am thankful for everyday.

On a lighter note, a pediatric nurse that I know was commenting on the Doctorate degree and asked her patient what she should be called after graduating. The patient replied very matter-of-factly, “Nurse Doctor Ann, obviously.”  Yes, obviously 🙂

Nicole Lehr
Nicole Lehr is a pediatric nurse. She can be described in three adjectives: content, thankful and fortunate. All credit for the aforementioned description can be given to the love she has for her profession as an RN. She graduated from University of Florida with her Bachelor’s in Nursing and moved to Atlanta to work at the Cardiac Stepdown Unit at Children’s — her dream job.

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