With so many challenges in U.S. healthcare—including dire shortages of primary care physicians and continually changing healthcare regulations—an increasing number of advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) are seeking new ways to utilize their professional skills to support medical care.
APRNs are turning to the highest practice degree in nursing, the doctor of nursing practice (DNP), as a way to develop their leadership skill and impact clinical policies. DNPs, in particular, are filling gaps made by provider and leadership shortages.
With an impetus to advance nursing education and practice skills, many APRNs are turning to online programs, such as Duquesne University’s online DNP program, for the convenience of self-paced learning and quality education. Through Duquesne University’s online coursework, DNP students learn about implementing changes that can improve health outcomes.
Researchers have found a clear link between higher levels of nurse education and improved patient outcomes, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) said.
“The changing demands of the nation’s complex healthcare environment require that nurses serving in specialty positions have the highest level of scientific knowledge and practice expertise possible,” the AACN said.
Even though multiple studies have proven online education is as good as, if not better than, traditional classroom settings, some students remain concerned about how online learning would fit into their lives.
On-campus graduate degree programs have their place, particularly for students who prefer attending lectures and work groups in person. But many APRNs who want to pursue an advanced degree are dealing with time constraints in balancing family and work commitments. An online format reduces barriers to education by providing convenience and flexibility without sacrificing a quality education
APRNs who choose to study online have ample opportunities to network with fellow healthcare professionals from around the world. That means APRNs can share information about experiences and challenges beyond their local area for a broader perspective on healthcare.
Online DNP students are also given access to ample resources, such as career advisors, tech support, and faculty mentors. The coursework provides students with the opportunity to hone their writing skills through writing assignments, online discussion boards, and professor-student interactions. Students are expected to participate by posting thoughts and reflections, allowing students who are shy in a traditional open-classroom setting to contribute while building confidence. Students also learn self-discipline and connect to a global village of healthcare professionals who have similar goals.
Despite widely held misconceptions, online coursework is not simplified or altered to ensure an “easy A.” At Duquesne University’s DNP program, online students are held to the same high standards as students seeking on-campus graduate degrees, including requirements to attend all classes, practice labs, and clinical experiences. An overall 3.0 QPA is required for graduation.
For more than a decade, healthcare leaders and policymakers have been eager to see more DNP graduates practicing across the United States. Experts see the DNP degree as a way to ensure the highest level of patient care and protection.
Unlike the research-focused PhD in nursing, the DNP degree prepares graduates to use critical thinking skills to translate evidence-based practices into improved systems of care and clinical practice. DNPs have a place in healthcare ethics, research, practice, education, leadership, and information technology.
The largest U.S. healthcare think tanks consider DNPs part of a solution for the increasing shortage of primary care providers. Jeanette Wrona Klemczak, the state of Michigan’s first chief nursing officer, said DNPs are in a position to shape the future of healthcare policy because of their experience as caregivers and administrators, particularly related to healthcare financing, economics, and patient care.
From a clinical point of view, DNPs review and appraise data for improved patient outcomes, said Stephen Ferrara, editor of the Journal of Doctoral Nursing Practice. They translate evidence into practice, which is important because duplicating successful interventions without the same circumstances may not be possible, he said.
“DNP-prepared nurses acquire a skillset intended to artfully meld this new knowledge in clinical practice leading to improved outcomes that are measurable while having the ability to refine the interventions as needed,” Ferrara said.
As a leader in distance education, Duquesne University prepares DNP students for real-world practice. The school’s advanced program prepares APRNs for the following:
Through Duquesne University’s online DNP program, APRNs learn the necessary skills to be advanced practitioners with skills in decision-making, leadership, and policy. The university’s DNP program, which opened its doors in 2008, builds on existing knowledge for complete education. Duquesne University’s nursing programs—BSN, MSN, DNP, and Post-Master’s Certificates—are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), which is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
Students who work toward a DNP through Duquesne University’s online program have the added advantage of being able to continue their career and family responsibilities while pursuing the degree. DNP graduates are ready to assume roles in medical centers, clinics, and private practice. For more information, visit DU’s online DNP program website.