Here Comes "Dr. Nurse"

To ease the nation's projected shortage of primary care physicians, more than 200 US nursing schools have either launched programs that would allow nurses to earn a doctorate of nursing practice (DNP) or have such programs in the planning stages, according to a recent Wall Street Journal report.

“Panic plays no part in the training of a nurse.”—Elizabeth Kenny

To ease the nation’s projected shortage of primary care physicians, more than 200 US nursing schools have either launched programs that would allow nurses to earn a doctorate of nursing practice (DNP) or have such programs in the planning stages, according to a recent Wall Street Journal report.

Nurses who complete the two-year program would serve a year of residency and emerge with more skills and knowledge than a nurse practitioner with a master’s degree, according to the nursing schools. They also claim that graduates will have a skill level equivalent to that of a primary care doctor.

Not surprisingly, several physician groups are taking issue with that claim, including the American Academy of Family Physicians. The nursing doctoral program is not the same as the four years of medical school and three years of residency training that medical doctors receive, according the AAFP. The programs are also catching flak from nurses, however. Officials of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners are worried that, to keep their jobs, its members may be required to go back to school for a costly advanced degree.

The AANP argues that there is no data to support the idea that nurse practitioners need more education for the jobs they are already doing. Other medical professionals worry that the doctoral programs will draw more nurses away from the everyday job of patient care, making an already critical nursing shortage even worse.

$60,970Average annual salary for a registered nurse.(American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 2008)