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3 Reasons Why There is a Critical Need for More Nurses with a DNP Degree


It goes without saying that literally any career in healthcare is experiencing critical shortages in qualified professionals to meet the need. The shortage was already severe prior to Covid-19, but now, due to the loss of so many doctors and nurses as a direct result of the pandemic, the shortage has escalated to what is considered to be critical. Having said that, you will come to realize that each and every reason why there is a critical need for more nurses with a DNP degree is tied directly to the widespread shortages of nurses at all levels. Let’s explore that a bit further.

What is a DNP degree?

Perhaps it’s best to begin looking at answering the question, what is a DNP degree? DNP stands for Doctor of Nursing Practice, and it is classified as a “terminal degree.” This simply means it is the most advanced degree a nurse can achieve in the field, and it is one step beyond a Master of Science in Nursing, MSN. With a DNP you can go in almost any direction within the field of nursing, but it does differ in many ways from a nurse with a PhD in Nursing that focuses on academics and/or research.

With a DNP you can most definitely focus on research or academics, but it is with a different focus than nurses who hold a PhD in Nursing degree. A nurse who advances to a DNP is focused more on the clinical side of nursing as you will understand better by looking at the reasons why the shortage is critical. DNPs, even if working in research, focus on the direct applications that impact patient care. So, let’s look at just four of the areas in which there is a critical shortage so that you will know if this degree is calling out to you.

1. Shortage of university level nurse educators

To begin with, it is important to state that so many RNs with a bachelor’s or master’s degree lost as a result of the pandemic did not succumb to the disease. In other words, they did not die. However, they worked almost literally around the clock during the height of the pandemic watching patient after patient succumb to the disease for which there were yet no clinical answers. They simply got burnt out. As things began to calm down, they not only left their positions in hospitals, but they took a hiatus from the profession and many have yet to return.

Now there is a shortage of nurse educators at a university level to raise a new generation of nurses to fill the positions left open in hospitals, clinics and private practice around the country – around the globe, as a matter of fact. Although many colleges will hire nurse educators with an MSN, most universities require a DNP or PhD in nursing. Once again, although a nurse with a PhD in Nursing tends to lean more toward academics, so too, can a DNP lean toward academia and many universities prefer a nurse with terminal level clinical approaches when educating this new generation of nurses.

2. Growing need for clinical research

When SARS-CoV-2 hit the world by surprise, the global medical community was at a loss for how to approach this newfound virus responsible for Covid-19. Since the initial appearance in December 2019, there have been several variants arising, causing even more frustration in treating the disease. Much of their efforts have been leaning toward creating vaccines that would eradicate the virus much like those developed for smallpox and polio. This is one focus which a DNP can pursue, and it is, indeed, a much-needed position because the virus just keeps mutating.

However, SARS-CoV-2 and its variants are not the only viruses out there for which we have no definitive answers. There is a long list of bacteria, cancers, and other diseases for which there are yet no cures. Even those vaccinated can still be infected, usually mild cases, but they are not immune as is the case with most other vaccines. Clinical research has far to go and a DNP with clinical experience during the pandemic would be a huge asset.

3. Available leadership and administrative positions

Another path a nurse with a DNP could pursue would be in leadership and/or administrative positions. Many hospitals are seeking nurses with a DNP degree to become nursing administrators overseeing everything related to the nurses on staff. From hiring and onboarding to training and annual reviews, anything and everything related to nursing within the hospital falls within their ‘jurisdiction.’ However, Covid-19 may not be the only reason why administrative nurses with a DNP are leaving the profession. Many are retiring and so that leaves an open position to be filled.

Also, with a DNP degree, a nurse could be the administrator of their own lab, clinic or nurse registry that supplies nurses for private duty in homes. Although it isn’t always necessary to hold this degree for opening a private duty nurse registry, it adds that level of trust in consumers seeking care.

So much left to be said

Sadly, that didn’t even begin to cover every reason why there is such a critical shortage in nurses who hold a DNP degree. When asking, “what is a DNP degree?”, you might also consider the need for qualified professionals who want to have an impact on healthcare reform and innovations. Our policymakers are far from educated or experienced in healthcare, so it is imperative that well-qualified healthcare professionals are there in an advisory position. Who knows better, for example, what hospitals and staff went through during the pandemic than those who were there day in and day out often without so much as a day off? In the end, a nurse with a DNP degree can have one of the biggest impacts on the field of nursing and patient care, and that, alone, is perhaps the very best reason to pursue this degree.

Why is there a shortage in nursing? What do I have to do to get a nursing degree? Education, Jobs, COVID-19, Is there a need for nurses to do clinical research? Can I teach if I get a nursing degree?


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