As the healthcare professionals who are most often on the frontlines of direct patient care, these changes affect the daily work of nurses on a large scale. That being said, nurses haven’t always been in the loop when it comes to the evolution of policy and practice. Thankfully, the tide turned in this regard in the early 2000s with the development of a new advanced degree for nurses.
Those who possess a BSN, or Bachelors of Science in Nursing, can now earn a Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP). The first such program was started in 2001 and was a response to the growing need to have nurses prepared as leaders in the world of healthcare.
A DNP opens up so many more opportunities for nurses who hope to go beyond the work of direct-patient care and allows for those with such experience to be consulted when it comes to the bigger-picture aspects of the nation’s healthcare system.
More Leadership Opportunities
The overall purpose in the development of the DNP is to help prepare nurses to become leaders in healthcare. This only makes sense, as they are the ones who know first-hand what the immediate needs are in healthcare practice.
The two particular areas that nurses with a DNP can work in are leadership and administration and the direct-patient care role of advanced practice registered nurse, or APRN.
As far as specific leadership roles go, a DNP qualifies a nurse to work in the fields of nurse management, organizational leadership, health policy, and health informatics systems. As you can imagine, preparing nurses to work in such capacities falls directly in line with the purpose of creating the DNP in the first place, namely, to bridge the gap between direct-patient care and policy development and implementation.
Since becoming an available advanced degree option for nurses, it has become widely accepted that the educating of nurses for leadership roles at the doctoral level has achieved this. In fact, an article published in 2018 in the Nursing Outlook journal states that, “clinical care continues to grow increasingly complex, further necessitating the need for doctoral preparation for both direct care and systems change knowledge and skills.”
In other words, not only does a DNP offer benefits to the individual nurse who earns it by allowing for more opportunities for advancement, but also there is a specific need for more nurses who are educated at the doctoral level.
Affecting Change at a Higher Level
Healthcare might very well be one of the most hotly debated issues in America today. Everything from the appropriate cost of healthcare to the efficacy of the systems in place are contested and re-evaluated on a regular basis. Because RNs work directly in the field of direct-patient care, they should be the logical choice for consultation when it comes to these debates.
With a DNP, an RN can advance to become an influencer in healthcare by addressing policy intervention, by building coalitions, and by evaluating legislation. Influencing the political process sounds like a tall order to fill, but DNP programs are designed to equip nurses with the tools necessary to do just that.
According to the National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties, nurses who have earned a DNP possess the ability to:
● Analyze legal, ethical, and social factors in policy development
● Evaluate the globalization on the development of healthcare policy
● Influence health policy
Competency in each of these areas is necessary for nurses to be able to affect change at the highest levels. By bringing together the practical experience of an RN and an education geared towards leadership, the DNP truly is the best gateway for nurses who wish to do this.
What to Consider When Selecting a Program
Something to keep in mind of your to-do list if earning a DNP, is that not all programs are created equal. Firstly, there are different ways to earn such a degree. If you already have a BSN, there are BSN to DNP pathways designed for situations like yours. You can also look into DNP executive leadership online programs, or you can consider earning your degree in a more traditional college or university setting.
One thing that is worth looking into when selecting a particular program that is right for you, is whether or not the program itself will provide you with the requirements necessary to further pursue the area of nursing that you are after. For example, if your intention in earning a DNP is to practice as an advanced practice registered nurse, you should make sure that you are going to meet the educational requirements of the APRN Consensus Model.
If you are planning on continuing to work while at the same time earning your degree, it is also worth comparing the credit hour requirements of various programs. Some universities can require as many as 40 hours, while others are less time consuming with a credit hour count of around 35.
Another thing that must be considered when pursuing higher education is the cost of the program you are applying for. The cost per credit hour at some of the more well-known and prestigious institutions can be as high as $1,700. If the program you are looking into requires around 40 hours of coursework, then you are looking at a pretty heft bill. Thankfully, there are programs out there that offer a comprehensive education at a more realistic price point.
No matter what your professional goals may be as a nurse, a DNP is always a good option to consider. Whether you are hoping to specialize in a particular area of medicine or to rise to a position where you can help affect change on a grand scale, chances are a DNP can help you achieve your goals.