Doctorate of Nursing Practice at a Glance…
What is the Purpose of a Degree?
As with everything else in life, there are differing schools of thought regarding the purpose of a degree.
There are certain communities and cultures that value education,
not for a utilitarian purpose, but for a purpose of pride; a rite of
passage. The more letters after your name, the better (regardless of
Then, there are others who are of a more practical nature. This group sees a degree as a means to an end – a requisite to a specific career. I fall into this camp.
Reasons to get a Doctorate of Nursing Practice Degree: Pros for getting the DNP
To say it bluntly, the DNP is not for everyone. In fact, it’s not for most people who want to become a CRNA.
However, if you fit in one of the following five categories, you should get a terminal nursing degree:
Why You Should NOT Get a Doctorate of Nursing Practice Degree: Cons for getting the DNP
The DNP will not make you a better CRNA
With practice degrees (as opposed to research degrees), experience in the field (or on the floor) is way more valuable than classroom training. Obviously, without a certain level of classroom training, you wouldn’t be competent enough to begin your practice, but the training you’ll gain in your masters CRNA program is sufficient. There is no evidence that a doctorate degree will improve your competence as a CRNA.
I’m not saying that you won’t become more knowledgeable as a
result of your extra training, I’m saying that the knowledge you gain
won’t make a significant difference in your daily practice as a nurse
The DNP will not earn you a significant pay raise
At most hospitals, the pay difference between an RN with an Associate’s degree and a one with a Bachelor’s degree is marginal; it’s usually no more than 50 cents or a dollar per hour. Those who get their Bachelor’s degree in nursing generally don’t do it for the pay raise, but for the potential of advancement (they want to become an advanced practice nurse or go into management).
The same is true with the terminal degree. Because the Master’s
level CRNA and the Doctorate level CRNA are both capable of completing
the same tasks, they will both be paid a very similar wage.
The DNP will not drastically affect your chances of getting hired, at least not for the next 20 years
If you’re worried that some “newbie” who has a Doctorate of Nursing Practice will take your job 15 years from now when the DNP is required, consider the following points:
The DNP may take time away from your career, costing you lost income as well as tuition.
I say it may take time away from your career, because some will chose to work full time as a CRNA while completing the DNP part time.
Many students, however, find it difficult to balance work, school
and family responsibilities and would rather hold off on entering the
work force until they have all their degrees completed.
Also important to note: there are some CRNA programs that will have a part-time option while others will not.
DNP vs. DNAP
If I haven’t dissuaded you from pursuing the Doctorate of Nursing
Practice degree, great! For the five types of people listed above, it’s a
great degree to pursue.
Now that you know you want to pursue a terminal nursing degree, you’ll need to know which degree (specifically) to get.
So, what is the difference between the Doctorate of Nursing
Practice (DNP)and the Doctorate of Nursing Anesthesia Practice
Essentially, they are the same degree with a different title.
Every student in a Doctorate of Nursing Practice program is required to choose a specialty. According to the DNP Essentials,
(page 17) published by the AACN (American Association of Colleges of
Nursing), you can choose to specialize on the care of individuals (CRNA
is an example of this), or practice at an aggregate, systems, or
If you choose the DNAP, you have already chosen to specialize in Anesthesia, the care of individuals.
If you choose the DNP, you have the choice to specialize in Anesthesia or on a leadership role.
The only other notable difference between the two degrees is public recognition.
The title of “Doctorate of Nursing Practice” will be more easily
recognized and identified by the public, as it will be the standard
degree title given to all advanced practice nurses who graduate after
Components of the Doctorate of Nursing Practice degree
After your bachelor’s degree, it will be a minimum of three calendar years, or 36 months of full-time study including summers or four years on a traditional academic calendar.
If you enter a post-master’s degree program it will be a minimum of 12 months full time study to complete your DNP.
Practice Experiences in the curriculum
Minimum of 1,000 hours of practice post-baccalaureate as part of a supervised academic program.
Final DNP Project
Rather than requiring that you write a dissertation, as you would with a research oriented doctoral program, the DNP final project could take many forms. The final DNP project is a tangible and deliverable academic product that uses evidence to improve either practice or patient outcomes.
This section (components of the DNP) is a summary of pages 18 and 19 of the DNP Essentials (see below)
DNP Essentials The Essentials of Doctoral Education for Advanced Nursing Practice, October 2006.
It’s a 20 page PDF, published by the AACN (American Association
of Colleges of Nursing), describing the 8 essential components of the
Are you a current CRNA student or a recent graduate? If so, please share your experience with other visitors to help them choose the CRNA school that’s right for them!
*This page was updated November 15th, 2010.*