Reflection & Dialogue #1 - Doctor of Nursing Practice, April 2007

Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
April 2007 

The National League for Nursing believes that the nurse
educator role "requires specialized preparation and every individual engaged in the academic enterprise must be prepared to implement that role successfully" (NLN position statement, The Preparation of Nurse Educators, 2002). Doctoral preparation for nurses and consequential leadership in higher education and within the profession are strong values of the NLN.


  • The Essentials of Doctoral Education for Advanced Nursing Practice (AACN, 2006) suggests that individuals who acquire the DNP will "seek to fill roles as educators and will use their considerable practice expertise to educate the next generation of nurses." However, foundational essentials for DNP curriculum design do not include courses related to pedagogy, evaluation, academic role issues and elements, and educational theory, and the NLN fears that graduates of such programs will lack the complex and specialized knowledge intrinsic to the advanced practice role of nurse educator.
  • Innovation in Nursing Education: A Call to Reform (NLN position statement, 2003) calls for the development of a science of nursing education "that documents the effectiveness and meaningfulness of reform efforts." Faculty who are not educated in pedagogy, evaluation, and educational theory will not be in a position to engage meaningfully in nursing education research or make evidence-based contributions to reform.
  • In the midst of a very serious shortage of nurse faculty during a period of diminished resources, the DNP may have a negative effect on the current pool of students in other doctoral programs in nursing and nursing education and reduce the number of nurses whose research focus adds to knowledge development in nursing. (An unintended consequence of the practice doctorate in pharmacy is that it significantly decreased the numbers of PhD-prepared members of the discipline.)
  • University nursing faculty struggle daily with an environment that requires substantial acquisition of resources and, in particular, funding through research. A decrease in doctorally prepared faculty could negatively affect the ability of deans and their faculty to maintain the research productivity that has become a standard for survival.


  • Students seeking advanced degrees should select their programs carefully based on their own educational and professional goals. The PhD and the DNP will not necessarily include courses in pedagogy. Thus, a post-masters certificate in pedagogy may be desirable for those individuals wishing to assume or advance in an academic educator role.
  • Because of the complexity of the faculty role, mentoring is needed across the entire career continuum of nurse faculty. Such mentoring should encompass "orientation to the faculty role: socialization to the academic community; development of teaching, research, and service skills; and facilitation of the growth of future leaders in nursing and nursing education" (Mentoring of Nurse Faculty, NLN position statement, 2006).


The value of the DNP for contemporary practice is currently unknown and cannot be fairly evaluated. The title can confuse the public and may provide barriers for nurse practitioners and clinical nurse specialists to be fully recognized as essential safety net providers. However, the DNP can benefit nurses by balancing the playing field in terms of status and authority between nursing and other health professions such as medicine, occupational health, physical therapy, and pharmacology.

The overall concern of the NLN is the shortage of faculty and the need for significant reform in these complex, changing times. Nurses with the specialized knowledge fundamental to the advanced practice role of nurse educator, and who have formal doctorates that are acknowledged across all disciplines and professions, are needed.



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