Much attention has been placed on the global nursing shortage — especially as nurses leave the field due to reasons like retirement or burnout. Earning a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree holds great potential for nurses who may be considering their options for the next step. With a DNP education, nurses set themselves up for career advancement opportunities. There are benefits to holding a DNP beyond a higher salary.
The following represent five leadership aptitudes nurses develop by earning a DNP degree:
1) An in-depth understanding of clinical and evidence-based practice (EBP) aids in decision-making processes
Leadership emphatically encourages healthcare workers to employ EBP. This patient-focused approach improves patient outcomes, lowers the cost of care and significantly elevates nurses’ skills. Specific courses showcase this method of care, such as the ones titled Evidence-Based Practice Design and Translation and Evidence-Based Practice Strategies — both of which are included in the Doctor of Nursing Practice online degree program from The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH).
2) Organizational and system-level experience to improve individual and population health
Whether working in a clinical setting or a governmental agency, DNP-educated nurses possess the skills and knowledge to advance individual and population health. As we witnessed with the COVID-19 pandemic, leadership had to act quickly at the outset. As the pandemic lingered, they also needed to address specific disparities in select populations. Both are examples of why it’s so important that professionals have individual and population health training at an organizational level.
3) Knowledge to advocate for health equity, social justice and ethical government policies
Nurses are always advocating for their patients on a one-to-one level. With a DNP degree, there’s an opportunity to support patients on a much grander scale. However, this involves more than just “creating policy.” For reform to be effective, functional and actionable, policymakers need input from those with deep experience in the nursing industry. The Health Policy and Politics: Implications in Health Care course at UAH prepares nurses to mitigate challenges when attempting to influence healthcare policy at local, state, national and international levels.
4) Economic know-how that is crucial to executive roles in any organization
Even the most dynamic, engaging and influential individuals won’t succeed as leaders if they don’t understand a healthcare organization’s financial structure. Financial planning is just as important as providing quality care. One might argue it’s the foundation of care, as every staff member, medical device and hospital bed contributes to care — and must fit the budget accordingly. Nurses serving in executive roles have a good grasp on what it takes to run a nursing team and advocate for aspects that may be lacking.
5) Leadership skills including communication, conflict resolution, collaboration, negotiation and team functioning
Leadership is a rather broad term — and not every organization leads the same way. The American Association of Nurse Assessment Coordination (AANAC) categorizes leadership styles in healthcare into five buckets:
- Laissez-Faire Leadership — Somewhat “hands-off” and typically works best among teams that are already running like a well-oiled machine
- Autocratic Leadership — Leaders make all or most of the decisions; this style can be stifling for team members, but there are situations where an autocratic approach works well, like emergency rooms
- Democratic Leadership — Feedback is valued, and leaders routinely seek input from team members and other stakeholders
- Transformational Leadership — Uses inspiration, motivation and intellectual stimulation to achieve results
- Servant Leadership — Focused on a “greater purpose” than the day-to-day involvement of leading teams; however, leaders are strongly committed to their team members
Regardless of the leadership style employed by an organization, the skills mentioned above are crucial for teams to operate effectively and efficiently. The Interdisciplinary Leadership and Role Development for Practice Excellence course at UAH thoroughly explores communication, conflict resolution, collaboration, negotiation and team functioning.
The Future Is Waiting
Earning a DNP degree is the first steppingstone to a rewarding career. No matter which route nurses decide to take — opening their own practice, working in education, getting into policy change or even continuing to work in a hospital setting — the opportunities to serve as both a leader and mentor are plentiful.