Essential Skills You Need to Become a Doctor of Nursing


A doctor of nursing does sound like a contradiction in terms.

However, if you are a registered nurse, are looking to set up your own clinical practice, or simply want to enhance your career opportunities, then it may be time to go back to university and study for a post-master DNP or a doctorate in nursing practice. 

There are, of course, many advantages to undertaking this additional training. It will help you to gain the qualifications needed in many states across the US to open your own clinical practice. Or, if you want to gain a leadership role where you work in a hospital or clinic, it can prove invaluable to have this qualification on your resume.

But are the skills needed to complete a post-master DNP different from those needed to train as a registered nurse? And how can your skill set be built upon by this training? This article aims to introduce you to what the course administrators are looking for in their applicants for this course, alongside how your clinical and leadership skills will develop.

What Does the Course Involve?

First, a short overview of what the course itself entails!

The University of Indianapolis DNP degree involves a part-time course based on completing assessments and materials online to be accessible for nurses already working in clinical placements, which will usually double up as a work-based placement.

If you are not currently in placement, then this course will be able to identify a suitable placement for you to undertake the training. 

Many post-master DNPs require you to undertake 700-1000 clinical hours, as well as 33-36 credit hours over around six semesters. So, it’s quite full-on, but it can be adapted if needed by most universities.

What Do You Need to Get onto the Course?

Next, to apply, there are some base requirements that you need on paper. 

You will need a BSN from an accredited school of nursing or a master’s in the nursing field in any area. You will need a GPA of 3.0 and 2 years of work experience before the course starts, along with a letter of recommendation from the head of your ward or previous head nurse.

Skills Needed

OK, so now all the practical tick-box elements are out of the way, it is time to focus on the skills that you will need as a person to succeed in this course. Some of them are soft skills, and some of them are hard, but all in all, you will need to have a diverse skill set to succeed in this area.


Based on how long you have been working in nursing, you may or may not have had more of a leadership role on the wards. But suffice it to say that when you are training for a post-master DNP, there will be a lot of emphasis on building on your capabilities as a leader. This will involve you needing to make clinical decisions based on findings, which will occur across the scope of your role as a clinical nurse. However, you will also need to be confident in your resolve and be able to explain why certain decisions were made concerning patient care. This will also mean that your bedside manner will need to be built upon to help you break down complex information to patients’ relatives. 


Many nurses are already unhappy with the level of administrative tasks that they need to complete. However, if you want to train for a doctorate in nursing, this area will need to be built on even more (sorry!). Remember, this is a qualification that many newly trained DNPs use to open their clinical practice, so you will need to be brought up to speed on what that kind of role entails relating to the administration and clinical practice. 

You will need to know what is required for a ward or clinical practice to pass inspections, as well as how to handle complaints relating to care in a more hands-on way than would be required for a registered or specialist nurse. 


These roles may all sound similar, but if you have skills in management in your current ward, then it is highly likely you will be invited to complete this course.

Managing staff is not as easy as it looks or sounds and requires a mixture of assertiveness, compassion, and knowledge of the requirements of the workplace. For instance, as a registered nurse, it was never your responsibility to manage staff absences or sick pay or to enquire about stock levels on the ward. If you are looking to gain a doctorate in nursing, these are all things you will need to be open to learning about and will need to take on board quickly to pass this course. 


Of course, when training for any advanced qualification in nursing, you will need to brush up on the basic skills. And when you are completing a DNP, this will mean getting back into assessing patient charts, making decisions relating to patient care, and aiming to ensure that all the nurses and staff under your care deliver a high standard of health care to those you are helping.

You will also be required to inspect issues that are highlighted by staff or patients relating to nurse competencies and will need to be able to implement designs and strategies to prevent such issues from happening again. You will need to be able to assess such information and data to potentially implement changes to the area of nursing, too, which can have an immense impact on all of those who are under your care. 

Interestingly, if you have been interested in the more research-based element of nursing, this is a skill that can help in this area too. You can use the DNP to act as a springboard for becoming a researcher in nursing practices and can use your knowledge of the area to influence change for the next generation or nurse training and overall care for patients.