The Ninth National Doctors of Nursing Practice conference took place recently in Baltimore. Close to 400 attendees enjoyed presentations that addressed collaboration, partnerships and ways to maximize existing systems to improve healthcare outcomes. This conference also explored ways to cultivate partnerships between academia and practice and also methods to maximize nursing productivity through collaboration.
A valued colleague suggested that future conferences should include both DNP graduates and their respective non-DNP colleagues to explore how collaboration is being realized and demonstrated. This is an intriguing idea.
A DNP-prepared graduate could bring a physician partner, a CEO, a CFO, a CIO, a non-profit organization director, or any number of other potential collaborators. The list is long and varied, as it appropriately reflects the scope and diversity of what colleagues are doing with this terminal practice degree in nursing.
What Is Academia's Role?
But who is missing from this potential demonstration of collaboration? One of the objectives of the conference was to help cultivate partnerships between academia and practice. This was demonstrated by several great presentations that provided examples of how academia supports practice.
But is practice supporting the efforts of academia? Is there adequate and available data from DNP practice to support a refined approach to building or augmenting academic efforts to prepare DNP graduates? Where is that feedback loop?
Those that have progressed through a DNP program as students or faculty recognize that the programs are structured and built around the Eight Essentials of Doctoral Education, as articulated by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. A concern that keeps nagging at me, however, is how practice is currently or potentially going to help build academia.
In deference to our learned colleagues in the academic world, are courses and structure based on true practice, or is the curriculum a set of delivery tools that meet the expectations of an accrediting body? Is academia embracing what DNP practice has to offer? If not, could it be that there is no mechanism to either provide or glean the wisdom of practice?
What's missing in this equation? Is DNP education a series of expectations that reflect scholarship, or do DNP programs better prepare the graduate to practice? Conversely, does practice influence the methods and techniques that academics can use to enhance practice?
Product Influences Practice
A colleague pointed out that one of the problems with DNP education is that the end product does not change practice. The nurse entering a DNP program with an MSN degree has already learned a role. Similarly, a BSN to DNP program student will more than likely "stop out" with Master's degree preparation in a role before completing the DNP degree.
Does DNP preparation truly build an advanced practice nurse (or a nurse in advanced practice) to assume full authority with a terminal practice degree? The gist of her thoughts is that DNP education is good, but it is not going to change practice. I found this somewhat disturbing but cannot discount that point of view.
So the question advanced practice nurses with the preparation of a terminal practice degree may ask is: Who or what is missing from this equation of DNP educational preparation? What is needed to close the loop and provide feedback to truly move this doctoral degree to the practice degree that is part of the name?
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I submit that those dedicated to advanced practice and doctoral education and practice must step up and be a part of the solution in all aspects of interactions that improve systems. This could be in any number of delivery systems, including community-based service organizations.
Perhaps more importantly, our contributions to academia could alter the trajectory of the DNP degree. Sharing processes, successes, evidence, and expertise that could enhance the education of future DNP students is an effort just as critical as decreasing a length-of-stay or preventing complications of services. What is missing from the equation is us-the DNP-prepared professionals that are dedicated to improving outcomes.
Are we missing from the table of academia? Are we sharing how the practice degree can improve the outcomes in this venue-not as academics, but as those prepared to practice at the highest level? I think we are pressing in that direction, but have a long way to go. ·?
David G. Campbell-O'Dell is the director and president of Doctors of Nursing Practice, Inc. Visit his web site at: www.DoctorsofNursingPractice.org.