If you are a Registered Nurse wondering which direction to take your career in next, you have probably come across institutions offering a DNP (Doctor of Nursing Practice).
A DNP is currently the highest level of qualification for Nurse Practitioners, and it provides a huge amount of opportunity. Not only does it give you increased earning potential and the ability to take on additional responsibility, it actually equips you with the skills that you need to change the future of healthcare in America.
Not only this, but it opens up career paths to you that might not be available otherwise. This means that if you decide you want to work in a completely different type of role later in your career, you will have the opportunity to do so.
Nurse Practitioners are changing healthcare
The role of the Nurse Practitioner first came about in 1965. The Affordable Care Act had just been passed, meaning that thousands more people had access to healthcare than would have done previously. The only problem was, there weren’t enough physicians to treat the number of patients that were now entering the healthcare system.
In order to help to alleviate this bottleneck, Dr. Loretta Ford and Dr. Henry Silver created the first Nurse Practitioner program at the University of Colorado. The idea behind it was to give experienced Registered Nurses the knowledge that they needed to act as primary care providers so that people could receive the medical treatment that they needed. A particular concern was that children be seen as quickly as possible. Nurse Practitioners could act as primary care providers under the supervision of a physician, meaning that patients could be seen in a more timely manner.
Since then, many states have begun to allow Nurse Practitioners to practice with autonomy, that is, without requiring the supervision of a physician. In this way, they are allowed to provide care and reach their full potential, and even more patients can be treated.
This development is incredibly important in the face of the nursing shortage, as it means that healthcare organizations are operating in the most efficient way possible. There is also an additional benefit to patient care.
Nurse Practitioners are Nurses first and foremost, which means that their background is working closely with patients and ensuring that their needs are met. This includes their medical needs, yes, but also their emotional and personal needs. This is quite a different approach from that of the Physician, which is primarily concerned with medical needs. The combination of Nurse Practitioners and Physicians is a powerful one that is not only improving the quality of patient care but is actually improving patient outcomes and lowering costs.
MSN vs. DNP
If a Registered Nurse wants to train as a Nurse Practitioner, they can do so by studying for their MSN (Master of Science in Nursing). This level of qualification, along with a certain amount of hours of clinical experience, is enough to allow Registered Nurses to sit the licensure exam to become a Nurse Practitioner (the exact requirements are determined at the individual state level).
If a Nurse Practitioner wants to take their career even further, then they can study for their DNP (Doctor of Nursing Practice). This qualification is designed for Nurse Practitioners who want to take their career in a leadership or research direction. Some of the skills that a DNP qualification will help Nurse Practitioners to develop are:
- Leadership skills
- An understanding of technology in healthcare
- The economics of healthcare
It will also help the Nurse Practitioner gain clinical experience in a leadership level role and carry out research on real-life clinical and economic issues faced by healthcare institutions. All of this is absolutely invaluable experience that can be taken back to the workplace. As the healthcare industry evolves and changes, a DNP qualification equips Nurse Practitioners with the knowledge and skills that they need to keep up.
There are also financial advantages to undertaking the DNP. According to nurse.org, the average salary for Nurse Practitioners with an MSN is $113,930, while the average salary for Nurse Practitioners with a DNP is $137,500.
As the healthcare industry moves towards a model where Nurse Practitioners are given increasing autonomy, it’s more important than ever that they are able to both act as effective leaders and as part of a team.
A recent study has shown that in healthcare environments, moving towards a model of multidisciplinary teams is highly effective and improves outcomes for patients. This model means that rather than the traditional top-down hierarchical approach, with one leader directing the team, each member of the team can lead in situations where their skill makes them best placed to do so. This model leads not only to more effective care and decision making but to more satisfied staff, too, as everyone is able to feel valued.
For a Nurse Practitioner to work effectively within this model, it is important that they develop leadership skills that are based around communication, collaboration, conflict management, and negotiation.
They must also learn to read and understand the different cultures of different working environments to deploy the strategies that will be the most effective. DNP qualified Nurse Practitioners will be able to assess the culture of an organization, identify any ongoing or emerging issues, and make positive changes to the working cultures that facilitate more effective teamwork.
An understanding of technology in healthcare
Another key part of DNP study is to help the Nurse Practitioner to understand the ways in which technology can be utilized to improve patient care and the way that new technologies may be implemented in the future.
In order to be an effective leader, it is absolutely essential that a Nurse Practitioner understands the benefits and challenges that come along with the use of technology in healthcare. This way, they can help their team to understand the benefits of using technology, help them to learn to use it and ultimately provide the best possible care. Some of the ways in which technology is changing healthcare are:
- Artificial Intelligence (AI). Artificial intelligence is the ability for a computer program to learn new information and to extrapolate likely outcomes based on that information. Because of the sheer amount of information that a computer can take in and the flawlessness of the logic it can apply, this is incredibly powerful. For example,AI bandages have been developed that can monitor things like the temperature and size of a wound. This allows medical professionals to detect infection and monitor healing without having to remove bandages and risk infection. AI has also been developed that can analyze breast tissue and determine whether or not there is cancer present.
- Virtual reality. Virtual reality is being applied with great success in the training of medical professionals. With virtual reality, doctors and nurses can get as much practice as they need carrying out complex procedures without needing supervision and without any risk to a real-life patient. While under the current model, the doctor or nurse would have to wait for a patient with the condition they wanted to understand to come into the hospital, with VR, they can simply call it up anytime they like.
- Healthcare trackers. Healthcare trackers like FitBits are not only great for people looking to improve their health. With data being collected daily on a person’s heart rate, sleep patterns, and caloric intake, medical professionals are able to use this information to much more accurately diagnose health issues.
- Genetic testing. This enables healthcare professionals to look at your genes to determine what health conditions you are at risk of developing. This is important not just for diagnosing you when you are displaying symptoms, for advising you on what you may be at risk from in the future so that you can take preventative measures now.
- Robotics. Robotics are already being utilized to carry out surgery. The robotic surgeon can be programmed with the experience and knowledge of thousands of experts, making their levels of experience at a procedure enormous. Not only this, but robots are not prone to tiredness, and physical ailments like human surgeons are, meaning that lengthy surgeries could actually become safer when placed into robotic hands.
- 3D Printing. The possibilities of what we will be able to do with 3D printing in medicine are almost endless. 3D printed drugs have been available since 2015, and the technology is also being used to 3D prosthetic limbs for refugees from war-torn areas. The first 3D printed skin, complete with blood vessels, has also recently been created.
A sound understanding of what is made possible through technology is essential for leaders in the medical field. It is through this understanding that institutions can become pioneers and have a profound impact on patient care.
DNP qualified nurse practitioners are also increasingly being employed in the academic field, carrying out research and helping to train the next generation of Nurses and Nurse practitioners. A knowledge of how technology is changing the landscape of healthcare is vital for this work.
A focus on the economics of healthcare
Perhaps surprisingly, for some, economics is an important part of healthcare. Like any other industry, money is needed to keep it going.
The economics of healthcare is focused on making sound economic decisions that allow the institution to remain profitable. This might involve things like investments, but also decisions around which groups of patients to focus research on and which parts of the business to invest in.
To do this effectively, you need to be able to apply economic models to the population to predict which health issues are likely to become prevalent. This then helps you to make decisions that are not only financially sound, but that also place you in a better position to serve your patients.
A sound grounding in the economics of healthcare is vital to leadership positions in existing healthcare organizations, and perhaps even more so to Nurse Practitioners who would like to start their own healthcare practice. It is also an important discipline for Nurse Practitioners hoping to work in academia, as trends in healthcare are likely to be predicated by financial factors. If you can predict these, then you can ensure that your research is relevant and publishable.
One of the important things to look for when you are choosing your DNP program is that it is able to provide you with some real-life clinical experience.
Clinical experience is the most effective way to solidify all that you have learned throughout your studies, and it also gives you the opportunity to show potential employers what you are capable of.
Not only this, but clinical experience is the only real way to contextualize the academic ideas that you have been presented with and experience them in a real-life setting. Employers value this, and it is essential for your own growth and your confidence as a professional.
Improved career prospects
The DNP opens up careers in a multitude of areas. You might work at a senior level as a Nurse Practitioner, or you might transition into healthcare management or even academia.
According to the BLS, healthcare management as a field is predicted to grow 32% between 2019 and 2029, which is much faster than the average across all other occupations. The average salary for healthcare management as a field is $100,980. Healthcare management professionals’ role is removed slightly from the direct care of patients; instead, you would be working to determine the direction of the institution and ensure its smooth running as a business.
Alternatively, your DNP also puts you in a great position for employment by an academic institution. As a Nurse Practitioner working in academia, you would be teaching the next generation of Nurses and Nurse Practitioners, equipping them with the skills that they need to provide care to their patients. Not only this, but you would be carrying out research that could help to shape the future of healthcare.