Women Ask Wednesday: What I’ve been up to…And my thoughts on the DNP (so far)!

HUMMMMPPP day. Praise hands. Pandemic = pedal to the medal at work, Monday through Friday (plus the weekends I’m working). Anyways, I’m about halfway through my DNP (Doctorate of Nursing Practice) and I figured I would offer some thoughts at the halfway point for those considering the degree, or the long road to a terminal degree in nursing. FYI – there are two terminal degrees in nursing – the DNP or the PhD.

First, and for full disclosure, I was not a fan of the degree and purposefully went back for my Masters degree with the intent to only get my Masters. I wanted to catch babies and that was the end. I have also always wanted to teach – but back in 2008-2010 when I was deciding I wanted to go back to graduate school, teaching nursing was in my ten year plan, not my five year plan. Fast forward 12 years and I’m almost a Doctorate-prepared nurse. A lot has changed.

First, it wasn’t what I thought at all. I used to think the DNP was a degree in how to interpret research and a few other courses in basket-weaving for nursing. Don’t think I’m taking a whack at the profession. When the DNP degree came out in early 2000s (Kentucky established the first DNP program in 2001), every nursing school had a different degree plan and the goal was to make as many nurses Doctorate prepared by 2015. As a potential student, I was looking at the differing degree plans and thinking – how is this degree beneficial when the graduate schools of nursing can’t agree on mandatory coursework? I couldn’t see similarities in the coursework and didn’t see the value in the degree. Secondly, at that time, employers didn’t know what to do with a DNP on your resume – which made arguing for the degree’s value a little difficult since it was so new. There’s a little more background into the varied degrees of nursing but it’s a little too much to get into here. Maybe another post??

Fast forward almost a year of graduate work and I have a different opinion. Let’s dive in!

  • The faculty make or break the degree! The majority of my classes have had outstanding faculty. Truly, I’ve been so impressed by their dedication, motivation and intelligence. They inspire me to go back and offer the same to other students. I’ve had a few rotten tomatoes in the bunch, but have really been impressed overall.
  • Getting back into the swing of things as a student is not easy and takes a lot more mental effort than physical effort. Maybe it’s being married and having two kids (and being pregnant with a third!). Maybe it’s working full time and catching babes all hours of the day? I think it’s a little bit of everything. At the start of the program and at the start of every semester I’ve had to mentally prep myself for the challenge ahead. When I’d rather be playing with my kids or hanging with my husband, I’ve had to do homework on my Saturdays. After a long day of work, I do more homework after the kids go to bed. Like any other difficult thing in life, it gets done one step at a time
  • At some point, you and your faculty have the same experience level and you have to agree to disagree on some things. Oh man. This was such a good realization for me. This is the difference between Bachelors and Masters work. Everyone has different experiences and viewpoints, and are very seasoned in their own areas of the expertise. Their is a collegial respect that wasn’t there in my other programs – but at the same time, I look at the differences more as feedback and not pass/failures.
  • There is a LOT of learning and the learning is hard. The work is much harder than all my prior schooling. The degree is not an easy set of check boxes – you work hard through all the coursework. So much so, sometimes I have to work on an assignment, walk away for a while and think about it (sometimes even for days…), and then come back to it after a lot of critical thinking and analyzing. Most of my readings and assignments are higher level thinking than any prior Masters assignments….overall, it’s all much harder than I thought it would.
  • But…the learning contributes to lifelong lessons and is set up for knowledge application for the remainder of your career. Throughout the program, the faculty talk about how you are learning skills to transfer into your practice for the rest of your life. You are learning new lenses to look through and new ways to use evidence. You are learning to advocate for nursing in a whole new way – but also, to advocate for safe patient care and quality of care.
  • Lastly, not all DNP programs are the same. I think this is something that the nursing profession still struggles with, but, we are moving in the right direction. I talk to students in different programs across the nation and the programs are similar, but also remain different. As a profession, we’ll have to continue to work towards some continuity in order to help the degree become the standard, respected and desired degree in the workforce.

In case you’re wondering, I am enrolled at Frontier Nursing University. FNU is an online, distance university for Masters and DNP nursing programs. I’ve been very impressed with the university and can post more details about my experience if you guys want to hear more! Honestly, if I wasn’t able to complete the coursework through distance learning, it probably wouldn’t be accomplished in my life right now.

Interested in learning more about midwifery education? Check out the MAKE MORE MIDWIVES page!

Hope your week is going well…did you guys see my post on the insta about the contraception counseling tool I am working on?! Check out the Instagram on the bottom of the page for a sneak peak 🙂


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