I originally wrote this post for the Health eCareers blog.
I passed the psychiatry board exam and became an official nurse practitioner only weeks before my wedding in October 2012. I had recently graduated from Vanderbilt University’s master of science in nursing program and relocated to Pennsylvania. My first job was in the Pocono Mountains at a small, outpatient mental health clinic. Most of my time focused on seeing patients in 15-minute intervals and managing complex regimens of psychotropic medication.
During my first few months as a novice nurse practitioner, I did more than patient care. I kept noticing inefficiencies and envisioning solutions. My first big project focused on developing a benzodiazepine contract to facilitate communication between my patients and me regarding the appropriate use of medications such as Xanax and Ativan. After that project, I redesigned the laboratory and diagnostic test request form to include standard patient education written at an acceptable health literacy level.
Four months, and I itched for something different. During undergrad, I had taken the Myers-Briggs personality test, revealing an INTJ type. As a prototypical INTJ, I turned to the books. I read what is now one of my all time favorite nurse practitioner books: Role Development for Doctoral Advanced Nursing Practice. This book made a great case for doctoral education, solidifying the decision to return to school. However, the biggest decision remained: doctor of philosophy (PhD) or doctor of nursing practice (DNP)?
By no means easy, the decision resulted in months of contemplation, an Excel spreadsheet decision matrix, and many long walks with my husband. Both the PhD and DNP are terminal degrees yet they each possess unique differences.
Continue reading on the Health eCareers blog and check out their excellent job board for nurse practitioner.