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Which is best for me: DNP? PhD?

To continue supporting nurses in the armed forces and federal health services, USU’s GSN now offers a workshop to help them understand the differences between doctoral options. (photo by Tom Balfour)
USU offers workshop to help guide nurses

By Laura Taylor, PhD, Professor and Director of Clinical Education in the GSN

What’s the difference between a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) and a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)?

USU’s Daniel K. Inouye Graduate School of Nursing (GSN) offers a unique, interactive workshop to help nurses in the armed forces and federal health services understand the difference, and helps them decide which fits best with their talents, resources, and goals.

The workshop, led by Dr. Laura Taylor, professor and director of Clinical Education in the GSN’s Family Nurse Practitioner Program, helps nurses clarify their options (DNP, PhD, Dr PH, EdD, etc.) and allows them to establish a network of colleagues pursuing the same degree. It also addresses common barriers to doctoral education and offers clear information about the requirements of the military or federal services, as well as the impact their advanced education will have on both their immediate and long-term career opportunities.

A classroom from behind as people in chairs pay attention to a man at the white board
Navy Capt. Justice Parrott helps answer questions during a workshop offered by USU’s GSN, helping nurses in the armed forces and federal health services understand the differences between doctoral options. (courtesy photo)

“This program is one of the GSN initiatives to develop a pipeline for military nursing leaders. Dr. Taylor and her team are responding to a nurse officer career development need for information about options for advanced education in nursing in the areas of research and in practice,” said Dr. Carol Romano, GSN dean and professor. “This program provides mentorship and coaching for military nurses in their decision process to pursue a graduate doctoral degree. It is this decision process that facilitates the beginning of the journey to become either an advanced practice nurse or a nurse scientist. I am enthusiastic about and applaud the work of the GSN faculty in addressing this service need.”

The workshop emphasizes two key components: pre- and post-workshop coaching and mentoring, and establishing a cohort for sharing professional goals, strengths, and areas for improvement to strengthen their doctoral program application. They’ll have a chance to work on tailoring their application essays to emphasize their unique strengths, and they’ll identify barriers to success and strategies to overcome those barriers. They’ll also gain perspective from current and recently graduated doctoral students during a panel discussion.

Since June 2016, more than 60 nurses have participated in the workshop, led by Taylor, along with Dr. Penny Pierce, professor and director of the GSN’s PhD program in Nursing Science, and Dr. Mary Terhaar, professor and endowed chair from Case Western Reserve University. Together, the trio bring more than 70 years of nursing education experience and wisdom.

A patient talks to a military nurse from a hospital bed
Lt. Col. Candy Wilson (right), 779th Medical Group nurse practitioner, consults a human anatomy chart to determine where to place a Calmare electrode for a patient at Joint Base Andrews, Md.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joe Yanik) 

“Prior to attending the graduate workshop, I was unsure of my options to obtain a PhD or DNP. I had no idea which program to choose,” said Air Force 1st Lt. Niniola Folake, who recently participated in the workshop. “I learned a great deal about the differences between the DNP and PhD, which I am now able to select wisely on my education path.”

Air Force Maj. Joe Loendike, who attended in December 2017, echoed similar sentiments.

“The course was outstanding and provided great information. I believe it provided all of the steps to start the process and the motivation to succeed,” Loendike said.

For more information about upcoming workshops, contact Dr. Laura Taylor at laura.taylor@usuhs.edu.