A DNP and a PhD in nursing are both advanced practice nursing degrees, but can be very different. One degree is not considered higher in education than the other, but the requirements for each can greatly differ. For example, a DNP student, “must complete a clinical project that demonstrates intimate knowledge of evidenced-based practices. PhD programs, however, most often have a focus on original research and research methodology, which results in a final research project and defense of a dissertation” (What’s the Difference, n.d.). But the main difference between the two degrees is, “…the DNP, or Doctor of Nursing Practice, is a clinical practice degree while the PhD, or Doctor of Philosophy, in nursing is a research-focused degree” (What’s the Difference, n.d.). A DNP focuses on different aspects of clinical patient care including: translating research evidence into nursing practice, healthcare policy, and cultivating practice expertise; while, in a PhD the curriculum focus is topics such as research methodologies, theories of nursing research, and faculty development. In a DNP program, the student is required to acquire up to 1000 hours in clinical work, while in a PhD program clinical work is minimal.
If I were to choose to pursue one of the two previously discussed degrees were I to continue my education to the doctoral level, I would strive to obtain a Doctor of Nursing Practice over a PhD, or Doctor of Philosophy in nursing. The reasoning is simply that mastering my practice skills, understanding of the nursing profession and all its aspects, and applying research evidence into actual practice in my community is far more appealing to me than that of theories of nursing and research methodologies. I enjoy being at the bedside, and even if I moved on to where my specific job does not require me to be at the bedside, I would still want my work to go towards improving bedside nursing.
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