There are more ways than ever for working advanced practice nurses (APRNs) to go back to school for their Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree, including campus-based weekend intensive programs and satellite programs at hospitals. However, the most convenient and flexible DNP programs are offered online, which leads many APRNs to wonder if online DNP programs are a good fit for them.
Gina Severino, DNP, RN, ACNS-BC, recently completed Kent State University College of Nursing’s DNP program. Gina has been a nurse for over 30 years in multiple roles including advanced practice nursing and nursing education. When she was considering DNP programs, she too was concerned about how well she would do in an online program. Here she shares her experience:
Pursuing my Doctorate in Nursing Practice at Kent State University was one of the best decisions I have made. Initially I was hesitant to enroll in a 100% online DNP program. As a nurse with over 33 years of clinical experience, I was confident with my clinical knowledge, but I questioned my ability to be successful with distance learning. After completing a couple of the online courses, however, all of my worries washed away. Now that I have graduated and have had time to reflect, I now know that there were four benefits to earning my DNP online from Kent State: flexibility, support, collaboration, and the preparation to make an impact.
Kent State University’s DNP program offered me the flexibility that an on-site campus doctorate in nursing program could not offer. The program allowed me to schedule my course work around my full-time job while continuing to maintain all of my other obligations and responsibilities. It was a perfect fit for my busy life and allowed me to learn at my own pace.
The faculty and staff where always available to answer my questions, whether it was a telephone conversation, questions per email, or online office hours. Kent State’s DNP faculty are all actively engaged in research, scholarship, and teaching. They have extensive experience in advanced clinical practice, leadership, and evidence-based practice which helped to facilitate my learning.
Technical help was only a click away. Representatives from Kent State’s information services department were able to answer all of my questions about Blackboard Learn (the website where you complete online courses). Live chat was even available. Additionally, the faculty and staff provided resources that really helped me navigate the online courses.
According to The Essentials of Doctoral Education for Advanced Nursing Practice (AACN, 2006), a primary focus of the DNP education is “Interprofessional Collaboration for Improving Patient and Population Health Outcomes.” Since the Kent State DNP curriculum is online and asynchronous, it enabled me to collaborate with classmates from different places and diverse backgrounds. Collaborating and learning from my fellow classmates was very beneficial and enhanced my learning.
Throughout the program, both DNP and Ph.D.-prepared scholars collaborated to provide the coursework that was necessary to complete the DNP degree. I was able to see firsthand the use of interprofessional collaboration in my coursework. The curriculum included important concepts such as healthcare policy and advocacy, quality improvement, evidence-based practice, research, information systems and technology, advanced nursing practice, and organizational and systems leadership.
Preparation to Make an Impact
Nurses who earn doctorate degrees are expected to be in high demand through the rest of the decade. With our aging population and health care issues, there is a growing need for DNP-prepared nurses. As with any other DNP program, Kent State’s DNP program is rigorous and challenging, but a DNP graduate has the potential to positively impact their local community, healthcare institution, and the nursing profession.
As an advanced practice nurse, Kent State University’s DNP program prepared me to use evidence-based practice to facilitate the delivery of care to improve patient outcomes. As a nurse educator in an academic setting, I am pursuing more opportunities to engage in scholarship that focuses on the teaching of knowledge. I am hoping that I can disseminate knowledge to the next generation of nurses. Kent’s DNP program has prepared me to be a clinical leader and scholar skilled in the translation of research into clinical practice. Teaching new nurses about evidence-based practice is the first step to advance our profession and bring us to parity with other healthcare professionals.