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Understanding the Role of DNP Degree in Clinical Practice Settings: Challenges and Opportunities

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According to some people, the word ‘doctor’ only applies to MBBS degree holders and physicians, but even dentists, pharmacists, and psychologists can become doctors with a professional degree. Nurses can also obtain a professional degree called a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree. The DNP degree was introduced by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. 

Having a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree is an accomplishment because the DNP degree holders provide medical care to patients as well as offer proper alternatives to research-focused doctoral programs. A nurse practitioner can prescribe medicine, diagnose and treat patients and educate patients about their treatments. They also advise patients on prevention and maintaining physical and mental health.

While the industry hasn’t fully evolved and there are still questions about the legitimacy of DNP programs, one thing is clear. These innovative degree programs are not only training and preparing nursing professionals to take on advanced level skills in medical care, but they are also bridging the gap between the need and demands of medical care professionals in the country. DNP graduates work to enhance patient care and, at the same time, contribute to alleviating the nursing staff shortage.

Let’s take a look at challenges and opportunities in the industry, as well as the value of a DNP degree in traditional medical care.

 VALUE OF DNP:

As doctors, DNP-prepared nurses have provided many benefits to the healthcare system and transformed it over the last few years. DNPs are problem solvers, advocates, and role models. They play a vital role in the leadership, mentorship, and education of patients. DNP nurses are becoming essential to the healthcare system, particularly after the COVID-19 crisis, playing their role in educating the masses while enacting new healthcare policies. The value of DNP nurses can be seen through the shifting trends in healthcare, and the factors that led to this change are:

  • Growing complexities circling patient care
  • National regard about the quality of patient safety and care
  • Lack of doctoral staff
  • Research showing a clear link between patient results and a need for more advanced levels of nursing
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DNP practitioners have become leaders in the healthcare system. Practicing nursing professionals with a BSN or MSN can apply for online DNP programs offering them flexible classes and self-paced learning.

DNP professionals are now providing additive clinical care and tend to patients’ needs, introducing practices that offer cost-saving solutions to minimize patient care challenges while improving outcomes.

The focus of this degree is on three things: 

  • Understanding patient experiences
  • Introducing efficient and cost-effective patient care solutions
  • Advancing the applications of nursing practices to create hybrid care solutions for diverse populations

CHALLENGES OF A DNP DEGREE

Outside of academic practices, the role of DNP has not been openly explored or clearly articulated. Due to this reason, the significance of DNP nurses is still widely unknown. Despite nursing being a crucial and versatile unit in the healthcare system, there’s little awareness and understanding of the workforce’s skills.

We are less informed about the resilience that DNP-prepared nurses bring to the workforce when compared with advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). 

Since DNP-prepared nurses spend their excessive time on patient health care, it leaves them very little time to perform other tasks. As the graduates of the DNP programs enter the workplace, it is a critical challenge to explain their role to colleagues and employers and to decipher their influence on the results expected from the practice. 

As the number of DNP professionals increases, there is a need to understand and articulate the role of this degree in terms of practice, education, and policy. Another challenge in this field is finding professionals that can cater to practicing nurses pursuing the DNP degree. As the transition of Nurse Practitioners from master’s degree to DNP degree continues, the requirement for time and talent has become intense. As it is a relatively new degree, there has been an inconsistent curriculum, and an explicit curriculum is needed that includes portfolio requirements, capstone projects, and a pre or post-doctoral residency.

 

 OPPORTUNITIES

Educated nurse practitioners are essential to healthcare organizations as they apply and use innovative approaches in a medical environment. As an effective healthcare leader, it’s essential to understand the current state of policy, program, and system and improve policies accordingly. With their knowledge of clinical practice and leadership, DNP nurses are prepared to handle, manage and even run healthcare institutions. 

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After acquiring a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree, a nurse practitioner also learns leadership skills, which can further help them advance their careers. This includes:

  • Creating and fostering a healthcare vision
  • Building and managing health care teams
  • Understanding healthcare business
  • Managing conflict
  • Analyzing and evaluating growth outcomes
  • Mentoring and leading nurses
  • Improving patient outcomes through discussions.

All DNP programs offer a core curriculum and an opportunity to follow specialized professions through focused coursework. 

DNP programs with clinical career paths include the following:

  1. CERTIFIED NURSE PRACTITIONER (CNP): 

They are required to provide acute, primary, and specialty to patient care along with other healthcare professionals or as an individual and independent practitioner. They must be specialized in at least one patient population. 

  1. CERTIFIED REGISTERED NURSE ANESTHETIST (CRNA):

CRANs work with healthcare teams in pain management, surgery, diagnostic tests, trauma stabilization, and newborn deliveries. Usually, they administer local, general and regional anesthesia.

  • CLINICAL NURSE SPECIALIST (CNS): 

Their responsibilities involve serving as researchers, educators, and consultants to interdisciplinary colleagues. They apply evidence-based research to their practices and provide diagnosis and care to the patients. They provide expert support to nurses to improve patient outcomes and care systems. 

  • CERTIFIED NURSE MIDWIFE (CNM):

Midwives provide primary care for women and pregnant women. They educate families regarding newborn births, and offer neonatal care as well as maternal care.

CONCLUSION:

DNP is quickly becoming a crucial degree in the medical and healthcare industry. DNP professionals can diagnose patients, treat them and also prescribe medications. They play a vital role in the education and mentoring of students, however, it isn’t without its challenges, such as lack of recognition and clinical residency programs in the degree curriculum.

At the same time, many opportunities open up with a DNP degree, career upscaling being the most important one.


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