Nursing is a field that never stops changing. Today’s nurses are not only caregivers but also leaders, educators and health policy advocates. To keep pace with the evolution in healthcare, nurses need proper preparation. That is why registered nurses (RN) are encouraged to complete advanced degrees, such as the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP).
What Studies Support Higher Education for Nurses?
The Institute of Medicine (IOM), renamed the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) in 2015, released The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health in 2010. In its study, the IOM recommended that the number of nurses in the workforce with a baccalaureate degree should increase to 80% by 2020. The percent of bachelor’s-prepared nurses was 57% in 2018, so there’s still work to be done toward the 80% goal.
The IOM followed up with the 2011 report The Future of Nursing: Focus on Education to address nursing preparation. During the time of the study, only 13% of nurses held a graduate degree, and less than 1% had completed a doctoral program. The IOM advised doubling the number of nurses with a doctorate by 2020. This recommendation has been surpassed, with the number of working nurses holding a Ph.D. or DNP increasing from 10,022 in 2010 to 33,646 in 2018, according to the Campaign for Action dashboard.
Why Do Nurses Need More Preparation?
Healthcare has shifted from primarily treating acute illnesses and injuries to providing long-term care for patients with chronic conditions, as well as preventive measures for the general population. Patients in the 21st century are living longer with more health problems as they grow older. Additionally, the patient population is becoming more diverse racially, ethnically, culturally and socioeconomically.
Aging patients who suffer complications from persistent ailments such as hypertension, arthritis, dementia, heart and kidney disease, and obesity need nurses who have the necessary competencies to deliver quality care. Along with attending to patients with complicated health diagnoses, nurses have to demonstrate proficiency with technology and information systems. They also have to collaborate and communicate effectively with co-workers and other healthcare professionals, coordinate care, incorporate evidence-based research into their practice, and take on leadership roles.
What Is a DNP?
A DNP degree program prepares RNs for advanced nursing practice positions. The DNP is a terminal degree in nursing — the highest level of education a nurse can achieve for clinical practice. Nurses with a DNP are nurse administrators or advanced practice registered nurses (APRN). The APRN Consensus Model recognizes four APRN roles:
- Certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA)
- Certified nurse-midwife (CNM)
- Clinical nurse specialist (CNS)
- Certified nurse practitioner (CNP)
Why Are DNP-Prepared Nurses an Important Part of Nursing?
With the demands placed on nurses in clinical practice, decisions are not always made using evidence-based research. Nurses with a DNP know how to review and critically appraise data. By analyzing the research, they can determine the best methods and lead nursing staff in patient care with evidence-based interventions and processes.
DNP-prepared nurses serve as leaders, change agents and evaluators. Their skill set is focused on merging up-to-date information with clinical nursing to improve patient outcomes. In most DNP degree programs, nurses also are prepared in the following:
- Health economics
- Health policy
- Information technology
- Interdisciplinary leadership
- Legal and ethical issues
- Population health
DNP-prepared nurses are an asset to healthcare systems and patients. They are knowledgeable leaders in clinical practice. They have the ability to enhance patient care, increase safety, reduce costs and support transformations in healthcare that can benefit everyone. As patient care continues to grow more complex, nurses need the expertise to make lifesaving decisions and perform innovative procedures.
Learn more about UTA’s online Doctor of Nursing Practice program.