Doctor, Doctor Nurse?

The beauty of nursing and one of the reasons I am thrilled about my future is how much you can do with it! As opposed to medicine, where once you pick a specialty and do your residency/fellowship, you’re kind of locked in. Even if realistically you could make a change, you’ve invested so much time and money that the idea of going back to Year One of Residency is enough to make many sick to their stomachs. True, most nurses find their niche, but it’s pretty easy to drift around to several areas that are somewhat related. For example, one of the clinical faculty I met yesterday has worked in the NICU and OB, and floats often to Pediatrics.

Most of you know I have aspirations of becoming a Nurse Practitioner of some kind. And the new expectation is that by 2015, those who wish to enter this track will need to be educated at the doctoral level – they’ve even created the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), a new degree that focuses more on clinical work than research; there is still a Ph.D. for nurse scientists. (See the attached PDF file – Doctoral Preparation for Advanced Practice Nurses – to read more about the AACN’s position on the importance of the doctoral education for advanced practice nurses.) The drawback of becoming an NP is that you do end up specializing into a niche. The benefits are the autonomy and the chance to become a clinical expert in your field.

But then again, I am really digging my research class. I’m one of those dorks who loves searching for articles and writing literature reviews and learning as much as I can about a chosen topic. So the idea of a Ph.D. is becoming more and more appealing to me, especially now that I’ve learned that qualitative research has gained a real foothold in helping the nursing profession better understand the lived experiences of those with health care needs. Since my first degree was in cultural Anthropology, I LOVE qualitative research (although I don’t love transcribing interviews :)).

So the thought has occurred to me…why not do both? Who says I can’t be trained in both clinical and research skills at the highest possible level? Especially if it means that I get to be in school for even longer? School is what I do! I could go for the Ph.D. first and let the DNP get more of a foothold in the profession, since it’s so new. Or I could do the DNP after I work for a few years and figure out where I fit best, clinically speaking. Then I could go for my Ph.D. later in life, when I’m tired of being on my feet for 12 hours at a time and my pace is more suited to taxing my brain rather than my body (not that all kinds of nursing aren’t intellectually challenging). To me, that would be the perfect way to spend the latter part of my nursing career – answering all those questions that come up in practice.

Not that I have to decide today…it’s just exciting to know how many options I really do have. For someone who loves a new challenge, it’s just another reason that nursing is perfect for me!

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