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If I only knew then: What else can one do with a doctoral degree?

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If I only knew then: What else can one do with a doctoral degree?


If I only knew then that using your doctoral degree is just as important as obtaining it. 

Two years ago, I presented my scholarly project to the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) committee feeling relieved because the hard part was over. At the time, academia was the obvious route for my career path as well as publications to disseminate my outcomes. If I only knew then that using your doctoral degree is just as important as obtaining it, I would have explored all the avenues. In general, we know this claim to be true about degrees. But, what else can one do with a doctoral degree?

First, obtaining a doctoral degree in nursing is less about morphing into a scholar and more about professional evolution. Unfortunately, many nurses who pursue this route become frustrated with not knowing how to communicate the benefits of this degree to those who may not understand its value. The opposition some have encountered from their colleagues may not be hate but maybe a cry to understand the non-monetary value of a terminal degree. 

Second, obtaining a doctoral degree grants one access to experiences in addition to knowledge. For instance, as a doctoral student, Dennis Kimbro focused his research on wealth and poverty in the Black community. His work sparked the interest of Napoleon Hill’s Foundation. Hill authored Think and Grow Rich, a book that contained the secret of success from the wealthiest Americans in the 1930s. Fast forward to the 1980s, Dr. Kimbro was asked to complete Hill’s manuscript for the black audience. For over 30 years, Dr. Kimbro has challenged the thinking of all racial and socioeconomic groups in his book Think and Grow Rich: A Black Choice.

I met Dr. Kimbro last spring and here’s what I learned:

1.    Your thesis or scholarly project is your book. Your work positions you as an expert for more than scholarly publications but textbooks, self-help books, courses, advocacy, board appointments, and speaking engagements.

2.    Think global. Why limit your expertise to your area code or nation? Consider developing relationships with other advanced practice nurses overseas.  Find out how you can serve them in evolving as we have in the United States. 

3.   Consider consulting work in nonacademic areas outside of the field such as a healthcare correspondent in the media.  Again, your expertise positions you for unique opportunities.

4.   Explore entrepreneurship.  This does not mean that a doctoral degree is required to be an expert or pursue entrepreneurial activities. However, the increasing desire to solve problems stimulates many to pursue entrepreneurial opportunities. It is also important to mention that you may not have to leave your full-time job to pursue entrepreneurial opportunities. Many advanced practice nurses have multiple streams of income. 

  “Your thesis is your book!”

Dr. Dennis Kimbro

Above all, the feeling that you have to have permission to pursue anything dissipates when you pursue a doctoral track. You develop the courage to take on any task, have the wisdom on how to approach it, and the tenacity to complete it. With graduation just around the corner, what do you plan to do with your doctoral degree?

Understand that a terminal degree may not immediately guarantee more money but it will grant you access to experiences to make more over a lifetime. What do I recommend to doctoral candidates and those actively practicing?

1.    Identify a person in practice who is in a position you desire to be in the future. Get to know them authentically not just for the opportunity.

2.    Outreach to one of your favorite authors from a nursing journal to learn how they developed their writing career.

3.    Read a book. You’ll be amazed at how you can receive mentorships from individuals you will never meet such as Mark Twain but acquire their wisdom to pursue new endeavors. I also learned this from Dr. Kimbro.

I am hoping that I have erased some doubts or confirmed some beliefs that the DNP works for and not against you. To recap, Kimbro’s work illustrates when preparation meets opportunity. Rest assured, it is possible for you too. Today, I challenge you to use your DNP to its fullest extent. But first, explore the pathways mentioned above and get ready to embark on opportunities of a lifetime.

Patrice Little, DNP, FNP-BC

I am an author, Family Nurse Practitioner, and Founder/CEO of NP Student, — dedicated to keeping you "in the know" in every aspect of your life in and out of school. I am candid about my wins and regrets and share these stories so you can learn from my, always revealing something new life. Contact me at editor@npstudentmagazine.com

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