Gap in executive leadership makes DNP more relevant

Doctoral programs in nursing fall into two distinct types: research-focused and practice-focused. The Ph.D. in nursing is research-based, and it prepares nurses for careers in nursing education or for science-based research in the areas of nursing practice and health care delivery. The DNP, or Doctor of Nursing Practice, prepares nurses either for advanced practice in a specialty area or for the highest leadership positions in managing patient care delivery.

Right now, there is a gap in nursing leadership, as health care becomes increasingly complex and reliant on technology. That’s why American Sentinel University specifically designed its doctoral-level degree as a DNP that’s focused on executive leadership, in a program that builds critical thinking skills and makes nurses highly marketable. This online nursing degree combines just two 10-day residencies with online classes, allowing students to build a sense of teamwork with fellow high-caliber students and the experienced faculty members who will support their Capstone project.

Three reasons why health care needs highly trained executive nurses

1.   The Magnet Recognition Program acknowledges the benefits of formal leadership training and cites research that shows strong nurse leadership is critical to the kind of positive workplace that wins Magnet status. To create Magnet-quality work environments, nurse executives must be trained to:

  • Foster nurse autonomy
  • Further evidence-based practice
  • Develop quality improvement initiatives
  • Ensure collaboration among all clinicians
  • Foster lifelong learning in nursing staff
  • Participate in the policy making process
  • Strategically manage resources

2.  Information technology is becoming increasingly important in health care. Nurse leaders who are taking advantage of every opportunity to foster nursing excellence will be able to exploit IT not only to enhance patient care, but to access the data needed to drive change. Decision support and quality tracking systems can provide data on staffing, patient satisfaction, outcomes, and more. That data can be used to recognize successful programs and to plan improvement initiatives.

Also, as hospitals begin to implement electronic health records (EHRs), they will need strong leaders to undertake the large-scale organizational changes that are inevitable. Along the way, nurse executives will need to gain input and buy-in from stakeholders, including staff nurses who will use the clinical information system.

3.  The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has issued several reports recommending that nurses in general should attain higher levels of education. A recent report, “The Future of Nursing,” commented positively on graduate-level nurses, saying that the DNP “provides a positive opportunity to advance the nursing profession.”

In another report, “Crossing the Quality Chasm,” the IOM stresses that increased quality in health care can only occur when all parts of the system recognize and act on their interdependence. This theme was further developed in “The Future of Nursing,” with the recommendation that nurses become “full partners with physicians and other health professionals, in redesigning health care in the United States.” It will take the visionary leadership of nurse executives to make these goals a reality.

Employment prospects

The job outlook is excellent for nurse executives during the next decade, with jobs not only in hospitals, but with government agencies, IT vendors, consultancies, non-profit organizations, and insurers. According the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), graduates of DNP programs are filling executive positions with these job titles:

  • Chief Nursing Officer
  • Chief Executive Office
  • Vice President for Nursing & Clinical Services
  • Program Director
  • Vice President for Patient Care
  • Health Officer
  • Commissioner of Health
  • Quality Improvement Director
  • Clinical Information Technology Specialist

American Sentinel’s DNP in executive leadership focuses on health policy, business intelligence, informatics, quality management, complex organizations and more. Courses are eight weeks long and all online, with just two 10-day residencies over the two-year program. It is open to nursing executives with at least three years senior management experience. For executives without an MSN, a bridge program is available. There are no GRE requirements. Contact Natalie Nixon at 866-922-5690 for more information.

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