What career pathways are available to advanced registered nurses?

A Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) is an excellent choice if you consider expanding your career opportunities. In 2004, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing stated that the DNP is the most appropriate degree for advanced nursing practitioners.

Attaining this degree can open multiple doors of opportunity to practice in a high-level setting. With many career paths available to DNP graduates, let’s take a closer look at the program and career options possible.

What is a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree?

The DNP focuses on clinical practice, so you do not have to worry about researching and writing a lengthy dissertation. Instead, this program focuses on the following:

  • Preparing leaders in nursing practice to use research to improve patient outcomes.
  • Preparing nursing leaders to use evidence-based practice for strategic systems leadership and measurable quality improvements in nursing practices.
  • Taking nursing research and implementing it daily in nursing decisions and strategies.

The benefits of a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree

The COVID-19 pandemic changed the landscape of nursing practices dramatically. Even before this worldwide crisis, the demands of healthcare were changing rapidly. The shift from master’s degree programs to the DNP reflects this changing role. If you decide to advance your nursing career, there are several benefits.

Online courses in nursing educate you on the nature of current nursing practices and require the highest level of practice expertise and scientific knowledge. You can affect the momentum of this change in several ways:

  • You can provide increased patient care for complex cases.
  • You can improve patient safety and care quality.
  • You can apply the rapid expansion of nursing practice knowledge.
  • You will be able to design and assess nursing practices and care.
  • You can fill shortages of doctoral-level nursing at the academic level.

Financial aid for the Doctor of Nursing Practice

Completing a vital degree is a serious commitment. There are several payment assistance plans and options for aid. Federal student loans are dispensed through government agencies. You only have to repay them once you graduate.

  • Subsidized Direct Stafford Loans are awarded based on financial need. This loan does not accrue interest while you are in school and only requires repayment six months after graduation.
  • Unsubsidized Direct Stafford Loans are not awarded based on financial need. This loan does accrue interest from the beginning of loan disbursement and has a six-month grace period after graduation.

There are also private loans and scholarship loans you can locate and make an application for.

Nursing challenges in the coming years

The anticipated nursing and healthcare needs in the coming years are projected to increase dramatically. The ever-changing context of nursing requires a new approach to nursing practice. The DNP degree addresses many of the issues that will arise:

  • Nurses will expand their focus to include the health of the whole family and the patient.
  • You will address the challenges of building a culture of health.
  • Nurses will serve as change agents to bridge the gap between medical settings and community needs.
  • You will assist in developing effective nursing practices to address the disparities in healthcare.
  • You will address the competency and training needed to work outside acute care settings.

Career options as a registered nurse

As a DNP, you will aim to improve the role of nursing practices by advancing the profession, improving patient outcomes, and providing innovative healthcare. Each career path is crucial to meeting healthcare needs in the next decade.

Nurse practitioner

A Doctor of Nurse Practice program, such as the one offered by Walsh University, prepares you to work independently in many medical settings. You will be situated to influence the landscape of US healthcare on multiple levels.

This degree is an entrance to the academic arena of preparing future nurses. Along with teaching nursing school students, you can focus on research and publishing professional papers on the status of nursing care. You can partner with other medical professionals to conduct studies and implement research programs to improve nursing care quality.

You can specialize in clinical research areas such as infertility and pharmacology to discover new approaches to health challenges and diseases. A DNP degree allows you to implement advanced patient care in complex medical settings.


The aging population will always need high-level nurses to address the unique needs of older adults. The goal of providing well-rounded care is a lofty goal and one to which the DNP is ideally suited. As an adult gerontology DNP, you would perform the following duties:

  • You would operate in an acute care hospital setting to prevent illness, improve the healing process, and ease the effects of the disease for aging adults.
  • You would evaluate the biological effects of aging, including stiffening of the artery walls and other physical products that reduce the quality of life for older adults.
  • You would focus on the aging population, specializing in areas such as critical care, emergency/trauma, oncology and cardiopulmonary.

Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner

Mental health issues affect a significant percentage of the population, making the psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner a critical member of the healthcare community. In this role, you diagnose and treat mental health and substance abuse in patients. You would conduct the following:

  • You work extensive psychological and physical health assessments.
  • You provide group and family psychotherapy for your patients.
  • You provide evidence-based behavioral and cognitive healthcare to your patients.
  • You diagnose and prescribe medication.

Family nurse practitioner

As a family nurse practitioner, you work alongside doctors to treat and prevent disease and other health issues in diverse communities. You treat people of all ages and perform the following duties:

  • You perform physical exams for sick and well patients.
  • You order diagnostic tests to determine the underlying problem of poor health.
  • You prescribe medications to alleviate illness and health problems.
  • You work with a patient to develop a treatment plan.

Certified nurse midwife

A certified nurse midwife provides some of the highest-level care to women expecting babies. As a specialist in reproductive health and childbirth, you provide care to the mother from conception through the baby’s birth. While you are medically trained, many nurse midwives focus on natural childbirth techniques. You can work in multiple settings, including:

  • Private practices
  • Health departments
  • Hospitals
  • Birthing clinics
  • General clinics

Working with registered dietitians, physical therapists and other medical specialties, you provide care in the following ways to mothers:

  • You provide prenatal and postpartum care.
  • You perform health screenings throughout pregnancy.
  • You assist in childbirth by monitoring the baby’s status, checking labor progress, managing pain, anticipating complications, and performing episiotomies howitstart.

Clinical nurse specialist

A clinical nurse specialist focuses on helping patients resolve and prevent illnesses. You provide direct patient care, function as an expert consultant on complex cases, and work to develop effective healthcare management systems. With the DNP degree, you can work in multiple settings, including:

  • Psychiatric
  • Pediatric
  • Rehabilitation
  • Pain management
  • Diabetes
  • Oncology
  • Emergency room
  • Critical care
  • Geriatrics
  • Women’s Health

Nurse practitioner clinic

The DNP positions you as a healthcare leader by opening your clinic. In entire practice states, you can work independently of another doctor to treat patients. There are also reduced practice and restricted practice states that allow you to work under the supervision of a doctor.

There are more than 23 full-practice states where you can practice independently, while the rest offer reduced or restricted practice options. This freedom to practice independently is a fantastic remedy for providing medical services to underserved areas.

It also helps with the dwindling number of family care physicians who most often care for people in rural and impoverished areas.

Nursing instructor

Universities always need nursing instructors to teach the next generation. Nurse educators are highly qualified to impart the skills and clinical knowledge that future nurses need. Responsibilities in this career include the following:

  • You teach nurse subject matter to ensure mastery.
  • You oversee nursing students as they make clinical rounds.
  • You advise and mentor nursing students as they choose a specific field of practice.
  • You develop the curriculum and revise instruction.
  • You assist in managing departmental budgets and collaborating on research.
  • You participate in professional organizations and standards.

As part of the nursing instruction staff, you can shape the nursing field for the better. There are opportunities for part-time and per diem instructional positions and full-time. You can work in multiple environments aside from a university as a nursing instructor, including:

  • Community colleges
  • Private practice
  • Mental health clinics
  • Rural health systems
  • Political policy centers
  • High-level research institutions

Along with the current nursing shortage, the demand for nursing educators with a DNP continues to rise.

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