Home Forums DNP Professional Growth Understanding Professional Growth Among DNP Students

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    The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) is a terminal degree within the nursing profession. The course for obtaining this degree is focused on preparing graduates to think and practice at the highest level of the nursing practice to have a significant impact on healthcare outcomes through organizational leadership, systems thinking, interprofessional collaboration, health policy, and direct patient care (Giardino & Hickey, 2020). As a current DNP student, I learned the importance of the DNP Essentials for our professional growth. In 2006, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing published the original Essentials of Doctoral Education for Advanced Nursing Practice but recently adopted a new version in April 2021 (Chism, 2023). These eight Essentials lay out the foundational competencies needed for graduates within a DNP program. Luckily, nursing schools can modify how they design their framework as long as they include the Essentials (Chism, 2023). There are competencies in every Essential that are relevant to professional growth to fulfill specific goals within healthcare. Each nurse goes through a process of professional identity within each level of education, from bachelor’s to doctorate, like how every child goes through pre-K to high school. Each education process provides a different learning experience, knowledge, and skills. Professional growth, however, continues beyond the end of our DNP education; it keeps evolving and changing based on experiences and healthcare needs. Nursing has always been a profession that has juggled multiple roles. Being a DNP graduate means ensuring we deliver high-quality, patient-centered care and utilize the necessary avenues to provide that care (Chism, 2023). Understanding and incorporating these eight Essentials is the catalyst to help us learn and grow professionally and transform healthcare (Giardino & Hickey, 2020).


    DNP students engage in rigorous academic coursework that expands their knowledge and expertise in clinical practice, leadership, research, and healthcare policy. They delve into topics that deepen their understanding of evidence-based practice and equip them with the skills needed for advanced nursing roles. DNP programs often emphasize advanced clinical skills and competencies. As students progress through their education, they refine their clinical judgment, critical thinking, and decision-making abilities. They learn to apply complex clinical reasoning to real-world patient scenarios. DNP students develop leadership skills that enable them to advocate for patients, contribute to healthcare policy discussions, and drive quality improvement initiatives. They learn to lead interdisciplinary teams and effect change within healthcare systems.
    DNP programs emphasize ethical decision-making and cultural competence. They gain insights into healthcare policy, learn to navigate regulatory environments, influence policy decisions, and advocate for patients and the nursing profession. Many DNP programs include practicum experiences that allow students to apply classroom knowledge in real clinical settings. These experiences contribute to their overall growth by bridging the gap between theory, and practice. DNP education instills a commitment to lifelong learning. Graduates continue to seek opportunities for professional development, staying current with advancements in healthcare and contributing to ongoing improvements in patient care.


    Speaking from my own experience, so far I really.do see a value to my post graduate education in nursing. In my journey in getting my DNP-PMHNP I feel like I view nursing from a fresh and even more humble perspective. There is so much to the field of nursing, which can be hard to take in from the perspective of floor nurses. In my career I have played a variety of roles in nursing, so I do believe this helped transition to learning to become an APRN. The various competencies and essentials you highlighted really did give me a good understanding of the value of the APRN, even giving me more motivation on the oath ahead of me in my education. There is a component of adaptation for sure, but I also feel as every nurse at any level has to be good at adapting to overcome. This will especially benefit many of the future DNPs in the coming years, especially as most of the old guard in nursing are now facing retirement. It will be on those of us who take up the challenge now to see it through, expanding the field of nursing which is ever growing and evolving.

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