What is a D.N.P.?
The Doctor of Nursing Practice is a practice-focused doctorate, rather than a traditional research-focused doctorate.

Why a D.N.P.?
The AACN (American Association of Colleges of Nursing) has cited many reasons among them are:

  • The expansion of scientific knowledge required for safe nursing practice in an increasingly complex health care system.
  • Provision of an advanced educational credential for those who require advanced practice knowledge but who do not need or want a research focus.
  • To be on par with other health care professions that the clinical doctorate be the minimum degree required, as it is in medicine, physical therapy, pharmacy. Outside the health care arena, support for a practice doctoral degree exists among law schools who grant a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree.

What are the benefits of a D.N.P. degree?
The D.N.P. position statement (AACN, 2004, p. 4) identifies the benefits of practice focused doctoral programs as:

  • Development of needed advanced competencies for increasingly complex practice, faculty and leadership roles;
  • Enhanced knowledge to improve nursing practice and patient outcomes;
  • Enhanced leadership skills to strengthen practice and health care delivery;
  • Better match of program requirements and credits and time with the credential/degree earned;
  • Potential increased supply of faculty for practice instruction.

Are there any residency or clinical requirements with this degree?
Yes. There is a 4-credit clinical residency course that requires 360 (90 per credit) hours. Clinical hours are based upon student goals and interests. The residency is completed in four 1-credit increments.  Residency hours may be taken concurrently with project work.

Is this program accredited?
Yes. The Doctor of Nursing Practice at The Catholic University of America is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, One Dupont Circle, NW, Suite 530, Washington, DC 20036, 202-887-6791.

What are the admissions requirements?
Visit the admission page for admission requirements for the D.N.P. program.

Is this a research-based degree? What is the difference between a Ph.D. program and a D.N.P. program?
The Doctor of Nursing Practice prepares you for a clinical practice career rather than one in research. Essentially, you will learn how to apply research within the health care and nursing context. The focus is on clinical practice, not on research methodology. The Ph.D. is a research-focused doctoral degree in nursing. Designed to prepare nurse scientists and scholars, these programs focus heavily on scientific content and research methodology.

The two types of doctoral programs are both considered terminal degrees in nursing, but represent different goals — one in clinical practice, one in research. 

If I am an NP now, will I have to return to school to get a D.N.P. degree in order to practice?
Probably not. Advanced practice nurses with master's degrees will be able to continue to practice in their current capacities.

If I do want to go back to get the D.N.P. degree and I currently have a master's degree, how long will it take, and can I go part time?
Most of the post-master's D.N.P. programs are about 35-40 credits. Some programs offer both full and part-time plans of study.

Will the D.N.P. change the scope of practice for NPs?
No, the scope of practice for NPs will be the same. Scope of practice for NPs is determined by State Nurse Practice Acts, which differ from state to state.

Will doctorally prepared NPs confuse the public?
No. The title of doctor is common to many disciplines and is not the domain of any one group of health professionals. Many NPs currently hold doctoral degrees and are frequently addressed as "doctors." Other health care providers are addressed as "doctor," including clinical psychologists, dentists, and podiatrists. APNs should retain their specialist titles after completing a doctoral program. For example, Nurse Practitioners will continue to be called Nurse Practitioners.

Will D.N.P. graduates be able to assume the nurse educator role in schools of nursing?
Yes, but the D.N.P. degree does not prepare educators per se any more than a Ph.D. program does. Graduates from all doctoral programs (D.N.P. and Ph.D.) who want to teach in schools of nursing should have additional preparation that adds coursework in education to their base of clinical practice. It is important to remember that expectations of faculty in terms of scholarship, i.e.- research and publications, and how scholarship is defined, varies widely across institutions.

What’s the next step?
If you’re ready to apply, go to the Apply Now page. If you’d like to learn more about the D.N.P., request more information.


American Association of Colleges of Nursing. (2004). AACN position statement on the practice doctorate in nursing. Washington, DC: Author. Available online at: http://www.aacn.nche.edu/DNP/DNPPositionStatement.htm  

American Association of Colleges of Nursing. (2006a). AACN essentials of doctoral education for advanced nursing practice. Washington, DC: Author. Available online at: http://www.aacn.nche.edu/DNP/pdf/Essentials.pdf 

American Association of Colleges of Nursing. (2006b). AACN draft DNP roadmap task force. Washington, DC: Author. Available online at: http://www.aacn.nche.edu/dnp/roadmapreport.pdf 

American Association of Colleges of Nursing. (2006c). The Doctor of Nursing Practice teleconference 9/26/06. Washington, DC: Author. Available online at: http://www.aacn.nche.edu/DNP/ppt/DNPTeleConf.ppt