Mentorship and Making the Right Choice

By Dr. Dolores Fazzino, DNP, RN, FNP-BC, CRNFA

Back in the mid 1990s, I was deeply up to my eyebrows in my Master's of Nursing Program for my Family Nurse Practitioner Certificate. As I researched through the Nursing Indexes at the campus library and retrieved the articles I needed to write the numerous papers, I had a visionary moment. Though it was 1996, it now was 2006, and I was working on my doctorate. I thought “well, isn’t that interesting!”  I took notice of this, since for other events in my life, I'd had a visioning several years prior to the actual manifestation.

I was interested in the doctorate degrees in nursing. However, at that time, there was a limitation of 2 degrees:  PhD and DNS, neither of which I felt drawn to. My faculty advisor and mentor suggested that I wait a few years, since there was another doctorate degree being created called the DNP, or Doctorate of Nursing Practice. She had the insight to guide me towards that educational opportunity.

I decided after graduating in 1999 with an MSN/FNP to give myself 10 years. I felt that within ten years, I would either have started a doctoral program or I would have graduated from one. 

It was 2005, and a group of 16 fellow nurse practitioners and clinical nurse specialists in San Diego were very interested in the new nursing doctorate, the Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP). We learned about an opportunity provided through Case Western Reserve University, Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing offering a distance program with cohorts set up around the United States. The professors would come to our city, twice a semester for 3-day didactic learning experiences and the rest of the course work (usually a paper or a project) submitted via email. An additional requirement was to complete 6 credits on campus at Case in Cleveland. These were provided in week-long didactic courses. Defending your dissertation on campus was also a mandatory requirement.

So I applied, and was accepted. I chose this program due to its flexibility with my schedule. I continued to work full-time, attend classes for my doctorate, wrote and defended my dissertation, in just over 2 years. I started my DNP program May, 2006 and graduated August, 2008.

In retrospect, I am appreciative of my faculty advisor from my MSN/FNP program for the fore- sight to direct me to where I would best be served with my doctoral education. I am also appreciative of myself for allowing and trusting that outer guidance, along with my inner guidance--you know that voice that tells you to do something, and when you do not, you live to regret it. Without both, I may have ended up somewhere completely different.

Deciding on doctoral study, be it a PhD, DNS, or DNP, is an individual choice based on what your career passions and goals are. I chose a DNP since I spent my entire nursing career in hospitals and clinics as an entrepreneur. The DNP has allowed me more flexibility, credibility, and creativity in the realms of healthcare delivery.

What is important to note is that DNP programs are now available all through the country and many are virtual. The best part is that you have access to a wealth of information through your computer, access to libraries, search engines, and ability to receive your articles for papers and projects right from the comfort of your home office. 

To recap, the Doctorate of Nursing programs (MSN to DNP)

  • Care-based focus on scientific knowledge

  • Creates nurse leaders in interdisciplinary healthcare teams

  • Translates evidence into practice

  • Project or dissertation

  • Distance/on-line programs

    • On-line programs with on-campus sessions typically once, possibly 3 times per semester (often on weekends)

  • Shorter time (5 semesters versus 4 to 5 years)

  • MSN with Nurse Practitioner, Clinical Nurse Specialist, Nurse Anesthetist, Nurse Midwife, Nurse Administrator, Executive Leadership or Health Informaticist degrees

  • Yes, you can work full-time or part-time and complete this degree


My best advice is to have a clear vision of what you want to accomplish with your career, make the correct choice for you, and be patient and kind to yourself. Sometimes it’s a timing concern….is it the right time to start?


Dr. Dolores Fazzino (Doctor of Nursing Practice) has recently partnered with ONA Healthcare, a startup company in Utah focusing on wellness care instead of sick care, offering a solution to health concerns. ONA Healthcare has a functional medicine approach to wellness that gets to the root cause of illness and starts healing from that place. With nearly 4 decades of nursing experience, Dr. Fazzino has assisted in approximately 9000 surgeries and empowered her clients to take ownership of their health and wellness. She enthusiastically shares this specific expertise via Recovering Healthcare and her Concierge Surgical Coaching Program TM. Please see her website for more about this special offering.