What’s the difference between an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) and a Nurse Practitioner (NP)?
What about a Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) versus a Nurse Practitioner?
Should you become a Doctor of Nurse Practice (DNP) or stick with the Master in Nursing (MSN)?
When initially researching the nurse practitioner career path, it seems like a million different acronyms pop up and are used interchangeably. It can be extremely confusing, especially when deciding which role and title is best for you. Let’s sort through these different titles and make sense of each to help you decide what’s best for your career goals.
APRN vs NP
The good news here – a NP is the exact same thing as an APRN. Simply put, NPs are Registered Nurses (RN) with at least a MSN. Think of “APRN” as an umbrella term that encompasses Nurse Practitioners, Certified Nurse Midwives (CNM), Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA), Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS). Something that all of these APRNs have in common are prescriptive and diagnostic abilities — something that RN’s and CNLs cannot do.
**Keep in mind that different states will use various acronyms for APRN. Washington, for example, will call them Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioners (ARNPs).
Wait, what’s a CNL?
This is where things get confusing. If you do a general Google search for “masters in nursing programs”, a good chunk of the programs you come across will be CNL programs, not NP. There are two types of MSN degrees – one that makes you a nurse practitioner and one that makes you a clinical nurse leader.
Think of clinical nurse leaders as beefed-up RNs. They are nurses WITH a master’s degree, but their education and training is not advanced enough to make them a nurse practitioner. What’s the point of getting this degree? Well, this MSN puts you in a leadership role in nursing, but more of a charge nurse role rather than nurse practitioner. If you’re seeking a role in bedside nursing but want additional quality improvement and evidence based practice training, this is the route for you.
To read more on the CNL role click here
What’s up with the DNP?
Back in 2004, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) recommended that the new standard for becoming a NP is to have your doctorate – or your DNP. The goal was to enforce this by 2015. After that year, all new grads would be required to have doctoral level of training. However, it’s almost 2018 and this is still not the case.
You will come by many universities, like Columbia University, that have made this transition and ONLY offer the DNP. This is because the field of nursing is clearly moving in that direction, but these things take time.
What’s the difference between the DNP and MSN then?
A doctorate in nursing involves extensive training in evidence based practice, practice improvement, and innovation of care. It’s the ultimate, terminal degree in clinical nursing practice. While the MSN education touches on these aspects of healthcare, the DNP education prepares nurses as experts in implementing them. The DNP improves the delivery of evidence based care and drives innovation in the field.
To read more about the DNP click here
Should I get my DNP?
This is an incredibly personal decision and there’s no wrong answer. If the school you have your heart set on only offers the DNP, that may answer your question right there. If you’re applying to schools that offer the MSN and the DNP, maybe start with the MSN and make your decision to continue on at a later date. Most schools offer a seamless transition into their DNP program upon getting your masters (Vanderbilt does).
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