A Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree can be paired with a Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing (PhD) program to give experienced nurses a path into research and academia while also advancing their practical nursing education to the highest possible level.
General Program Overview
The DNP is the doctoral degree in the nursing field, but it focuses more on advanced nursing practice than it does on the elements needed for a transition to an academic or scientific research career. Dual DNP/PhD programs generally ask nurses to pick a specialty track for their DNP, and then build the PhD portion of the program around their practical studies. The nurse who graduates from one of these programs has the option of moving into a leadership role in advanced nursing practice, or moving into teaching and research with their PhD experience.
DNP/PhD programs usually require that applicants have at minimum their bachelor's of science in nursing (BSN) completed and be currently licensed as an RN in that particular state. At least a year of work experience as an RN is usually helpful in getting accepted, but is not strictly necessary with some programs. The student's RN license must also usually be unencumbered (no disciplinary action requirements still pending), and they must also typically have a current CPR card to qualify.
Other qualifications that are common to program admissions requirements include a minimum GPA of 3.0 in undergraduate coursework, completion of the GRE within the last several years, two or three letters of recommendation, a current resume and CV, and a personal statement.
Students usually have to apply and be accepted to the DNP and PhD programs separately. In that case, they would need acceptance to both in order to pursue the dual degree.
DNP/PhD program participants usually come up with an individualized plan of study that incorporates the PhD program requirements into their desired specialty DNP field. The PhD program focuses on research methods and the use of statistics, while the DNP program usually focuses on advanced practice methods and how to work in a leadership role.
The following courses and program components are among those that DNP/PhD students can expect to encounter.
Statistics (Statistical Methods, Biostatistics)
DNP/PhD programs cover the collection, interpretation and communication of statistics within a nursing science context. Biostatistics, the specific study of the collection of statistics on living things, is usually an option if not an outright requirement. These programs often require prior coursework in calculus or linear algebra to complete.
Organizational leadership courses in DNP/PhD programs focus on leadership roles for nurses within patient care organizations. Relevant leadership theories and practical strategies are covered. Students also learn about various economic, political and legal factors that must be accounted for when making leadership decisions.
A health economics course in a DNP/PhD program will focus on how fundamental economic theories and concepts apply to patient care organizations. Topics covered include systems of financing, public health care and insurance. The specific role of graduates in policy crafting for their organization is also covered.
Pathology courses focus on unnatural bodily responses to injuries. Students in a graduate nursing program examine the specific mechanisms of responses of this nature. Data collection and interpretation are also covered.
Qualitative Research Methods
Qualitative research methods are those that are designed to broadly explore the causes of a phenomenon and are particularly important in both nursing readership roles and academic study. Students learn how to collect and interpret data, as well as how it is specifically applied in the health sciences.
The DNP/PhD dual degree gives nurses a broad range of options at the top of their career field. They can move into academia and do original research, continue working at the highest levels of nursing, or move between the two over the course of their career.