Frontier Nursing University (FNU) is a top-tier nursing institution dedicated to providing an outstanding education. Ten years ago, FNU raised the bar by offering an advanced degree: the Post Master’s Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). Joan Slager, CNM, DNP, CPC, FACNM, Interim Dean and Program Director of Post Master’s DNP at FNU answers common questions potential students ask about the Doctor of Nursing Practice program and why they should consider it.
Dr. Slager became a Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM) through Frontier’s program in 1991 (CNEP Class 1) after observing that the care provided by midwives was superior to traditional obstetrical care. To her, the partnership between the mother and her midwife provider was powerful in achieving healthy and satisfying birth experiences.
Even when complications arose, the shared decision making, anticipatory guidance and individualized care that embodied the midwifery model of care stood out to Dr. Slager as the best way to care for mothers and babies. She knew going into midwifery how wonderful and different the model was, but it wasn’t until she began her formal education program in midwifery that she learned how good midwives were at providing maternity care.
The decision to pursue her DNP came many years later when Dr. Slager was in a position of leadership. She desired to partner with a PhD researcher to improve care by acquiring knowledge and translating it into practice. Though she had good instincts, formal study of the DNP essentials created an armamentarium for Dr. Slager that she could draw from to implement change and improve care.
Like many practitioners, frustration over limitations to full practice authority, prescriptive authority, overly restrictive bylaws and practice agreements plagued Dr. Slager’s otherwise rewarding career.
The lessons Dr. Slager learned in the DNP program helped to develop tools essential in changing health policies and addressing barriers to practice.
When the time came to consider a transition from full time clinical practice, possessing the DNP enabled Dr. Slager to consider many more options.
Now, as Director of the Post Master’s DNP at FNU, Dr. Slager gets questions from potential DNP students every day. She answers the four most common questions below:
- Student: I have my MSN and am practicing as a CNM/NP currently. I am doing what I love in my clinical practice. Why should I obtain my DNP?
Dr. Slager: The DNP prepares the CNM/NP for clinical leadership. The focus of the DNP education is to teach students to apply evidence to practice. It takes about 14 years for research that gains new information to make its way into clinical practice and the DNP nurse is educated to decrease the time from adoption of the evidence into practice.
The individual who is educated in the DNP essentials will be in the best position to implement change and affect the changing landscape in health care. These skills will be sought after by administrators who seek to address gaps in practice or create efficiencies in healthcare delivery. As an employer, the DNP-prepared APRN will have the “competitive edge” over other applicants seeking positions.
- Student: I am currently enrolled in FNU’s MSN program and have the option to seamlessly continue into the DNP program. What are the benefits of completing the DNP now instead of coming back to finish the degree later?
Dr. Slager: Moving seamlessly into the DNP upon completion of the MSN program takes advantage of the momentum acquired through continuing in formal education. Additionally, students will be familiar with learning management systems and other technology currently in use as opposed to the inevitable change that occurs over time.
Currently at FNU, the MSN graduate has completed 9 credits or 3 didactic courses that are part of the DNP program. Eventually, as courses are revised and accreditation requirements change, these courses may not be accepted thus necessitating increased credit loads and the associated financial expense.
There is a balance, however, between the burden of learning a new role in a new career as an APRN and continuing on in a rigorous doctoral education program. Students should consider a slow and steady approach as opposed to a rapid progression through the program. Each situation is highly individualized and each student should evaluate when the time is right and at what pace they are prepared to approach this step in their formal education. The important thing is to have time to devote to mastery of the DNP essentials, not speeding as quickly as possible to the finish line.
- Student: I am considering FNU’s DNP program, but also considering other schools. What sets FNU apart from other university’s programs?
Dr. Slager: FNU has always provided exemplary education with a focus on vulnerable or underserved populations. The DNP embodies this philosophy as the desired outcome is the well prepared clinical leader who has learned to apply evidence to practice. Students implement patient outcome focused quality improvement projects in their practice site to achieve best practice.
FNU’s tuition rates are some of the most affordable in the country. An MSN and DNP combined option costs just $45,000.
Unlike other programs, FNU partners with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, using their model for quality improvement. Clinical projects must address one of the Institute of Medicine’s aims which includes improving safety, efficacy, efficiency, timely care, patient centered care or health equity.
- Student: I really want to make an impact on the patients I serve in my community. How does the DNP help me do this?
Dr. Slager: As noted above, there is a considerable delay between the time research is completed and knowledge is gained and such knowledge is translated into changes in practice. In many situations people and/or practices are resistant to change or poor consumers of research. The DNP-prepared nurse is skilled in evaluating care for best practice, implementation of the evidence and managing process or quality improvement. Additionally, DNP APRNs are formally educated to teach and mentor new clinicians, assume clinical leadership responsibilities and affect change in health policy
Prior to the development of the DNP degree, seasoned clinicians rose to leadership positions through years of trial and error. The DNP graduate has the advantage of an accelerated skill acquisition process through an education program that creates opportunities for mentoring and guidance from experienced faculty.
The Institute of Medicine has identified the DNP prepared APRN as the professional best equipped to bridge the ‘Quality Chasm’ that exists between evidence and best practice, allowing for better patient outcomes for mother and baby.