DNP-What Does That Even Mean, Anyways?

It’s official, I can check that off of my vision board as complete :). As of earlier this year, I get to now throw around a fancy title that looks a little like this; Dr. Nikki Knight, DNP, APRN, FNP. Very cool, Right?! Yes, but what does it all meaaaaan??? First, a little back story…

Doctor Nikki Knight, Doctor of Nursing Practice, Advanced Practice Registered Nurse, Family Nurse Practitioner

I have ALWAYS had the intention of becoming a nurse practitioner (NP). When I was younger, that meant getting my masters of science in nursing (MSN) and being done with the whole shebang. In fact, back in the day the only doctorate for nurses was a PhD. Whats the difference between a PhD Nurse and a Doctorate of nursing? Good question. PhD nurses are research focused. They help us get the really good science to back up our practice. The doctorate of nursing implements that practice as we are practice based. We ensure that the best evidence based practice is in use. WE are the ones on the hospital floors, in the clinics, and out in the field taking care of patients. In the past 10 years or so, there has been a shift and a (slight) push to get our NP’s to the doctorate level.

….Times they are-a-chingin’….

A little history on the pull to create doctorate of  nursing programs: these programs were developed from the fact that masters prepared NP’s were required to complete 45-50 credit semesters, whereas earning a master’s in almost any other specialty areas were only required to complete 30 semester credits.  The amount of education required was approaching doctorate level anyway.  It is my experience that the amount of information and education needed to care for and treat patients and their ailments is insurmountable. It only seems natural for nurses to try and be as educated as possible to create the best patient outcomes.

So then, how do Doctorate of Nursing (DNP) Nurse Practitioners (NPs) demonstrate value? I’ve had to contemplate this question a lot during my schooling and here’s what I have come up with: Improved patient outcomes. It’s as simple as that. If the patients are getting better under the care of DNPs then our value has been validated.

It was not difficult to find research studies conducted on the value of NPs. The awesome thing was that all of the studies I was able to find were positive! I was even elated to see that the Institute of Medicine (IOM) was in favor of NPs and even deemed us “necessary” in the efforts to improve patient care and outcomes! Woohoo!!

Patients reported that one of the reasons they chose NPs over physicians was because of the time and attention given to them. I know that this is one of the things that sets us a part as care givers. Making your patients feel important and heard is invaluable to good patient care.

From my own experience I have always chosen to see the NP over the physician. Even prior to being a nurse I always felt that NPs were more relate-able, more down to earth, and more holistic (mind, body, spirit). It’s important to feel comfortable with and trust the person who is looking over your health. I strive to be that for my patients.

I think as DNPs we have a long while to go before our value is fully appreciated by skeptics but here’s what I know for sure: we will continue to use our gained holistic knowledge of our patients and their needs AND offer the best damn care we care capable of 🙂

 Peace & Degrees,

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