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Four Doctor of Nursing Practice Specialties (and What They Do)

Author Contributing Authors
Submitted 08-05-2020

The healthcare landscape is changing at an ever more rapid pace, and so too is the scope of responsibility for the nursing profession. Nursing is a profession with high demand and is a solid career choice for dads who are looking for both stability and exciting career choices.

The American Association of Colleges of Nurses (AACN) recently stated that nursing calls on the “highest level of scientific knowledge and practice expertise to assure quality patient outcomes” when discussing further education that nurses can undertake. The need for higher levels of education reflects the ever more specialized work that nurses across the healthcare sector are now doing. Credit is due to the hard work of nurses everywhere.

Nursing Education

There are four levels of nursing in the USA, each state regulates nursing their own way, but broadly these are: 

LevelAverage Salary (median)Scope of work
Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)$24,000 Certified Nursing Assistants usually work under the supervision of Registered Nurses. They are usually found performing basic tasks such as taking vital signs, moving patients in and out of wheelchairs, bathing patients and dispensing medications, etc.  
Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)$41,540Licensed Practical Nurses perform the same duties as a CNA in addition to more complicated duties. These may include performing a therapeutic massage, administering injections, changing bandages and dressings, preparing patients for surgery, maintaining patient records, and so on.
Registered Nurse (RN)$65,470 Registered Nurses are usually found in more supervisory roles, with one or more CNAs and LPNs below them. They will perform the same takes as a CNA and LPN daily, but they will also be qualified to make nursing diagnoses. 
Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner (ARNP)$96,460 Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioners are nurses that have undergone post-graduate education to specialize in a specific aspect of nursing, such as midwifery, anesthetics, or nursing practitioners.

By far, the level of nursing employing the most significant number of people is the Registered Nurse level, with over 2.7 million Registered Nurses in the USA. By contrast, Advanced Registered Practitioners account for only 151,400 nurses currently working in the USA.

To become a Registered Nurse (RN) in the USA, students must take one of three educational paths: a baccalaureate degree (BS), an associate degree (AD), or a diploma. It is possible to take an accelerated nursing program if you have a degree in another field of study.

The Advanced Registered Practice Nurse will have taken a post-graduate qualification, usually either an MSN (Master of Science in Nursing) or a DPN (Doctor of Nursing Practice). It varies state by state as to what responsibilities can be put on any level of a nurse, but the seniority levels are observed in every healthcare setting.

Doctor of Nursing Practice

Registered Nurses who choose to take the Doctor of Nursing Practice qualification are set to improve their career and salary-earning prospects quite significantly. This level of qualification is a post-masters doctorate level and is recognized to be equal to a Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing (Ph.D.). 

The Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing and Doctor of Nursing Practice have a distinct difference. The Ph.D. study field is much more based on research and less focused on clinical work. In contrast, the Doctor of Nursing Practice is a clinical-based qualification usually aimed at Nurses who wish to specialize in a field of Nursing.

Here is a brief introduction to four of the many specialties within a DNP program:

Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner (AGNP)

Adult-Gerontology nurse practitioners work with elderly patients, sometimes referred to as geriatric medicine. AGNPs work with older patients to ensure good health practices are being followed and to prevent illness. They will have experience in areas such as palliative care, health policy, and old-age diabetes as required by their role.

AGNP DNP duties may include performing extensive health assessments, supporting families of elderly patients, managing chronic health conditions, some diagnosis, and medical evaluation within a patient care plan.

Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)

Family Nurse Practitioners usually work within a family practice setting, although they may also be found in ER departments and other healthcare settings such as community outreach programs. It’s not uncommon for Family Nurse Practitioners to become consultants and run their own practices.

FNP DNPs work with a variety of aged patients, from newborn right up to seniors and end-of-life care, although other specialisms deal with these age groups specifically.

Nurse Executive Practitioner (NEP)

Nurse Executive Practitioners work a little differently to previously discussed DNPs. Nurse Executives are usually the most senior nurses in a healthcare organization. Their role is mainly administratively based and involved a high level of leadership understanding as well as the ability to communicate across all levels of the organization, from the nurses on the ground right up to the Board of Directors, to ensure the smooth and effective running of the organization.

Nurse executives are the most senior nurses in an organization. They handle the administrative side of healthcare and are instrumental in helping organizations follow their mission of delivering excellent healthcare services by ensuring all teams and facilities are operating smoothly. Nurses in executive positions carry out duties such as hiring and training staff, undertaking financial responsibility, and resolving issues within an organization. They also collaborate with other health professionals and develop networks and partnerships.

Just as the other DNPs on this list, it is possible to partake in one of the many online DNP nurse executive programs and specialize in this interesting area of study.

Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP)

Pediatric Nurse Practitioners work specifically with infants, children, and adolescents. In most states, this will be patients aged from 0-18, but in many states, Pediatric Nurse Practitioners will work with young people aged up to 21.

Pediatric Nurse Practitioners can be found in many settings, including hospitals, Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICU), Family Health settings, and private practice. The duties they will be qualified to perform are varied but, as with other DNPs, will involve many high-level decisions.