Impact Lives

What Does the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Mandate Mean for Advanced Practice Nurses?

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing member institutions recently voted that advanced practice nurses must have a doctoral degree rather than just a master’s degree by the year 2015.* That means the minimum education requirement for nurse practitioners will soon be a doctoral degree. For many nurses currently earning their Master of Science in Nursing degree, this means it will be necessary to add another few years of studies to meet this new requirement.

The new requirement will potentially affect the following advanced practice nursing roles:

  • Certified Nurse Practitioner (CNP): provides the full scope of primary care services in hospitals and clinics with an emphasis on prevention, wellness and patient education. CNPs can diagnose and treat a variety of illnesses, including prescribing medication.
  • Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM): provides care for women throughout their lifespan through family planning, gynecologic services and menopausal management. CNMs also care for women during and after pregnancy, deliver babies and provide newborn care.
  • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA): provides anesthesia and pain management care to patients with acute and chronic pain conditions and those undergoing all types of surgeries and medical procedures, including childbirth. CRNAs also provide expert airway management and critical care for emergency situations.
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS): has advanced knowledge in a specialized field of practice and is an expert at diagnosing and treating illnesses. A CNS also may prescribe medications. This specialist influences positive outcomes and focuses within three spheres of influence: patients/families, nursing, and systems/organizations and work in hospitals, clinics, offices or outpatient settings.

The Impact to Advanced Practice Nurses

If you are currently an Advanced Practice Nurse, you will not be required to return to school to earn your doctorate. You will be “grandfathered in” and only required to have earned a master’s degree. Students who are currently pursuing a master’s degree to be an Advanced Practice Nurse in 2015 and beyond will need to complete their doctorate before they can practice.

Earning a DNP takes commitment to your practice and to your education. Nursing master's degrees are usually 50-60 credit hours in length, while BSN to DNP degrees require 70-90 credit hours to complete. It usually takes four additional semesters or another year of classes to complete a doctoral program.

The nursing profession is constantly evolving, but the best nurses know how to keep up and welcome the improvements that come with change. To learn more about the new mandate or how to fit a graduate nursing degree into your professional development plan, visit or call us at (866) 295-3104.