Confusion persists when it comes to the concept of a transition to the DNP for all NPs in the year 2015. Will a switch suddenly be flipped, after which all NPs will need a doctorate? Read excerpts from past entries of the DNP Answers blog on what, exactly, this transition means.
What Will Change in 2015? by Scott Governo, NP, DNP:
The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) suggested that the DNP be the terminal degree for advanced practice nursing beginning in 2015. The AACN is a self-described advocate for nursing standards and does have considerable influence in educating nurses today and into the future. A more detailed explanation of the DNP can be found here: http://www.aacn.nche.edu/dnp/pdf/essentials.pdf.
State nurse practice acts are what guide NPs' legal status, scope of practice, and so on. They have not changed their requirements, despite a strong movement by many, from the master's preparation to a DNP degree. The hope among many proponents of the DNP is that eventually the laws will change toward a more autonomous role and a widening of scope. This, however, remains to be seen and my expectation is that special interest groups on both sides of the issue will be more than vocal and that only with strong public support and the recognition of the quality of healthcare delivered by NPs will nurses be allowed to practice to their fullest ability.
The future of nursing's role in healthcare is yet unwritten, and it is every nurse's duty to advocate for patients, personally and professionally, so that they receive the most effective and humanistic care. To do this we must carefully avoid the reinforcement of old stereotypes and skillfully craft innovative healthcare solutions to meet today's problems and tomorrows needs.
What's the Real Scoop on 2015? by Mai Kung, NP, DNP:
My understanding of the call for the transition from the master's to the DNP preparation by 2015 is that it is "recommended" or "endorsed," but NOT "mandated." However, just to be certain I reviewed many organization websites such as the AACN (American Association of Colleges of Nursing), CCNE (Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education), AANP (American Academy of Nurse Practitioners), and NONPF (National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties). I also attended the third National Doctors of Nursing Conference in San Diego in 2010. I had the opportunity to talk with nursing leaders and policy makers on this very issue. The verdict is that the call by the AACN for transitioning advanced practice nursing to the doctoral level by 2015 is only a "recommendation."
It is a bold step to transition advanced practice nursing to a doctoral level. No one is absolutely certain of the future outcomes of the DNP movement. However, this movement is showing great progress. In 2004 when the AACN Position Statement on the Practice Doctorate in Nursing was published there were eight clinical or practice doctoral nursing programs either in existence or in the approval stage. By September 2008, 80 DNP programs were available and over 50 colleges of nursing were considering starting a DNP program. As of September 2010 there were 129 DNP programs in existence and over 100 are in the planning stages. According to an AACN survey done in 2009, 72% of schools with APRN programs (388 schools) were either offering (120) or planning (161) a DNP program. Furthermore, the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists Council on Accreditation has taken the lead to mandate doctoral education. The mandate is for all certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) programs to transition to the practice doctorate by 2022 and the plan is not to accredit new master's programs for nurse anesthesia after 2015.
Whether advanced practice nursing will be successful in making the transition from the master's to the doctoral level will depend upon a combination of market demand, legislative and regulatory forces, and the buy-in from the nursing education, accreditation, and regulatory bodies. It may seem like a monumental task, but many have compared achieving this goal to the transition of advanced practice nursing from the certificate to the master's degree. This transition was also contested, but is now widely accepted, well underway and it has happened naturally and with time. Therefore, many feel transitioning from the master's to the doctoral degree will also happen gradually with time.
Grandfathering After 2015, by Lisa Chism, NP, DNP, NCMP, FAANP:
State licensure will likely follow certification trends as most APN licensure is dependent on certification. Current certification agencies require master's or doctorate degrees for certification. As students still graduate from master's degree programs, certification agencies will likely still recognize this type of educational preparation. With the transition date of 2015 approaching, many APN programs are already transitioning to DNP degrees with target dates to end master's preparation. It is likely that new APNs after 2015 seeking certification will therefore have DNP degrees. I would suspect that those with master's degree will then be able to renew their certification far into the future.
Grandfathering for anywhere in the United States will likely also follow certification trends. If a master's degree is acceptable preparation for certification within a certain state, then obtaining certification within that state will be attainable.
The good news is you are most definitely not obsolete! The literature is rich with evidence that supports the master's degree as preparation for advanced practice nurses. Despite the fact that master's degrees are converting over to DNP degrees, master's-prepared advanced practice nurses are qualified and certified to practice and will be even after the AACN's target date of 2015 for DNP as a requirement for certification. If you don't wish to return to school, that is your choice. However, after 2015, most APN programs will likely be converted to DNP programs and those returning to school at that time will have to obtain a DNP degree. Hopefully you are reassured that you are valuable and highly qualified and most definitely NOT obsolete!