The major difference between a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) and a Doctor of Philosophy degree (PhD) is whether nurses translate research into practice to improve patient outcomes with a DNP or whether nurses want to advance the science of nursing, conducting research using a PhD (AACN, 2018). Most nurses who want to complete their DNP are oriented in the direction of improving outcomes, patient centered care and population health. Most nurses who want to complete their PhD are oriented in the direction of developing new nursing knowledge and scientific inquiry (AACN, 2018). Nurses who are committed to their practice will usually choose to purse a DNP when deciding on a doctoral program and nurses who want to commit their lives to research will most likely choose a PhD program of study. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (2018), nurses who complete the DNP program or PhD program of study will be able to contribute to health care improvements through the development of practice and new knowledge from scholarly expertise in teaching and research.
Personally, if I had to choose between a DNP or a PhD in nursing I would go with a Doctor of Nursing Practice-Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (DNP-PMHNP), since that is where my passion and clinical expertise remains. After completing my BSN, I plan on becoming ANCC Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing certified. There is so much more to discover when it comes to assessing, diagnosing, and treating patients who are seeking help with mental health disorders. I wish to acquire the advanced skills and abilities to integrate my knowledge, while making a positive contribution to the community and improving patient outcomes. I see myself as a leader in health care, taking initiatives to promote health, educating peers, patients and other health care providers. I believe that a DNP would be in my best interest when it comes to my professional and personal goals as a professional nurse.
The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) prepares BSN or MSN degreed nurses for the highest level of nursing leadership and practice within organizations with the ultimate goal of improving health care. The DNP will prepare nurses to become nurse leaders in interdisciplinary health care teams by providing the skills necessary to translate evidence gained through nursing research into their practice. The DNP program focuses on evidence-based practice and quality improvement and system leadership. They will have the skills to improve systems of care and measure outcomes of patient groups, populations and communities. (All Nursing Schools, n.d.)
The PhD in Nursing prepares nurse “scientist” to develop new knowledge for the science and practice of nursing. They are prepared for an intellectual inquiry through scholarship and research. They pursue research interests; utilize external funding and creating well-designed methods to discover new knowledge related to nursing. PhD nurses will lead interdisciplinary research teams, design and conduct research studies and disseminate knowledge for nursing and related disciplines, particularly addressing trajectories of chronic illness and care systems. (All Nursing Schools, n.d.)
During my research of the DNP and PhD, I learned things about both degrees that I was not aware of. If I decided to continue my education to the doctoral level, I think I would go for the DNP. The DNP is more evidence based and hands on. I am more a hands on person and prefer to have the evidence there in front of me.
Difference between DNP AND PhD
Based on Curriculum Content wise
The DNP is a practice doctorate that places greater emphasis on direct clinical practice. The curriculum focuses on organizational management, systems leadership, clinical-practice administration, quality improvement and program evaluation, in addition to other specialty areas, and less on statistics and research methodology.
Ph.D. is more research-intensive and takes a scholarly approach to nursing. The curriculum for these degrees focuses on scientific inquiry and provides the evidence for nursing practice, as well as improving general nursing knowledge.
Based on Research Competencies
DNP-prepared nurses develop the skills necessary to implement the scientific findings conducted by nurse researchers with a Ph.D. or DNS (Doctor of Nursing Science). Graduates develop competencies in analytical methods, decision-making, enhanced knowledge and leadership skills to improve clinical practice and patient outcomes.
Ph.D. and DNS programs focus heavily on research methodology and scientific investigation. Graduates of these programs contribute to the improvement of healthcare by offering new information for practicing nurses.
Outcomes and Roles
DNP programs have become the preferred preparation for advanced practice nurses, including nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, nurse midwives or nurse anesthetists. Meanwhile, graduates of DNS and Ph.D. programs pursue alternate paths within the field of nursing, commonly seeking roles as researchers, nurse scientists or scholars.
I would like to choose DNP if I decided to pursue my further study. We nurses frequently work alongside other health professionals with practice doctorates – physicians, pharmacists, physical therapists and more. The DNP provides nurses with a clinical option for nursing education that is more commensurate to the education of these disciplines.
According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the DNP prepares nurses for the future tomorrow’s practice. If it is one’s interest in leading these changes, a DNP degree can help assume key executive positions as a nurse leader.