Doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree in the United States: Reflecting, readjusting, and getting back on track.

Journal Article (Journal Article)


In 2004, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) called for all nursing schools to phase out master's-level preparation for advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) and transition to doctor of nursing practice (DNP) preparation only by 2015. Today, five years after the AACN's deadline, nursing has not yet adopted a universal DNP standard for APRN practice entry.


The purpose of this paper is to examine the factors influencing the ability of nursing schools to implement a universal DNP standard for APRNs.


Deans from top-ranked nursing schools explore the current state of the DNP degree in the US. The authors draw upon their collective experience as national leaders in academic nursing, long-time influencers on this debate, and heads of DNP programs themselves. This insight is combined with a synthesis of the literature and analysis of previously unpublished data from the AACN on trends in nursing doctoral education.


This paper highlights issues such as the long history of inconsistency (in messaging, curricula, etc.) surrounding the DNP, certification and accreditation challenges, cost barriers, and more. The authors apply COVID-19 as a case study to help place DNP graduates within a real-world context for health system stakeholders whose buy-in is essential for the success of this professional transition.


This paper describes the DNP's standing in today's professional environment and advances the conversation on key barriers to its adoption. Insights are shared regarding critical next steps to ensure national acceptance of the DNP as nursing's terminal practice degree.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • McCauley, LA; Broome, ME; Frazier, L; Hayes, R; Kurth, A; Musil, CM; Norman, LD; Rideout, KH; Villarruel, AM

Published Date

  • July 2020

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 68 / 4

Start / End Page

  • 494 - 503

PubMed ID

  • 32561157

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC7161484

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1528-3968

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0029-6554

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/j.outlook.2020.03.008


  • eng