Morrison and Furlong (2013) identify the four major ethical theories - nonmaleficence, beneficence, autonomy and justice - and apply them to healthcare. It is the ethical responsibility of the provider to ensure that these principles are upheld, regardless of the work load or stresses of the office practice.
Nonmaleficence: The first thought in any provider's mind has to be to prevent further harm to the patient. Even in a busy practice, the APN must take the time to listen to the patient, review the history, and make a diagnosis. Hurrying through any of these steps can result in misdiagnosis, missed drug allergies or interactions, and potential harm to the patient. It is important that the APN remains in control of the patient schedule and to never allow the schedule to build to the point that the patient is placed in jeopardy.
Beneficence: The concept of beneficence goes beyond prescribing the appropriate treatment. The APN must also narrow the studies and treatment to only those things that will aid in the diagnosis or treatment of the condition. In a healthcare environment where the emphasis is on maximum billing, the provider must be mindful of the orders that are written and the services that are being billed. If, for example, MRIs are being ordered because the office manager thinks that the office owned MRI is being underutilized, then the patient's best interests are not being met.
Autonomy: As Morrison and Furlong (2013) point out, the ethics of healthcare go beyond doing good and not doing harm. As the provider considers the treatment options, it is imperative that the competent patient (or the surrogate for a patient unable to make decisions) is a working member of the decision making team. The APN must be careful to make sure that the patient is properly informed and that they understand that information. The good intentions of nonmaleficence and beneficence mean very little if the provider acts against the patient's wishes.
Justice: Finally, the busy provider must be careful to deliver the same quality of care to every patient. Every provider encounters patients who try their patience or who do not fit the provider's concepts of responsible behavior. Despite their internal conflict with the individual's personality or lifestyle, the APN must focus on the presenting problem and treat that problem as they would with any other patient. There are times when the treatment options are narrowed by the insurance coverage or the patient's ability to pay. It is the provider's responsibility to explore every option to find affordable options or to help the patient find ways to finance the care they need. It is not enough to simply write a prescription when the patient does not have the resources to fill it.
For many providers, the ethical concepts relayed by Morrison and Furlong (2013) are the tenets by which they practice. While they may not use the same words to describe what they do, the basic philosophies are the same.
Morrison, E.E., & Furlong, B. (2013). Health care ethics: Critical issues for the 21st century (3rd ed.). Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.
Transitioning into specialty practice has been rewarding. The passion for what I do feels like it has been rejuvenated, especially in the clinical setting in which I am working in. What I still find most challenging is the battle between being seen as a specialist and having the confidence of one given my minimal experience in dermatology. I mean I took care of patients with dermatologic needs as a primary care provider, but that was not my sole responsibility. I had to juggle the other chronic diseases and often times the dermatologic issues, if not pressing or of a concern to the patient, were not always addressed by me. Often times, I would refer patients out to dermatology (because I did not have the time to focus on these problems, and often times because I did not feel comfortable addressing these issues). I am finding now in my new role that I possessed the skill all along to be able to manage and diagnose these diseases if I just had the time to focus on them.
The last three months has been eye opening (and I mean that literally!). Since dermatology is such a unique specialty you must have a good eye to detect subtle differences in the skin. I mostly practice this by taking pictures of what I see and reviewing them again later. I am still surprised at the difference in what I see at the bedside and what I am able to detect in a picture! I have a long way to go, but I am feeling more comfortable with what I am looking at and how to describe it (the pictures help me with this). It's hard to imagine, but three months ago I had difficulty doing this and now it comes with some ease.
As a DNP, especially a DNP in a specialty like dermatology, I have learned that no matter how uncomfortable I may feel, projecting a certain level of confidence when interacting with patients, nurses, and other providers is imperative. It is important because everyone is counting on you and whether you think so or not, those three initials after your name (DNP) are symbolic and they not only represent your level of preparedness, but also a level of expectation. You must demonstrate that you can walk the walk and talk the talk. It is a burden that you must bear, but it is one that you should take on without hesitation because it just might be this burden that helps to advance the NP profession.
I do this by studying and reading all the time as well as conducting biopsies on everything I can, reviewing pathology reports and staying grounded in the most current evidence. Additionally, I take on the burdens and expectations while showing poise.
It is a day to day battle, but I cannot express to you how much this will help you along the way, in any specialty you choose.
Never let them see you sweat.
With the push for doctoral-level nurse practitioners, one of the major questions has been should NPs have to take an extended certification exam in order to be recognized as a Doctor of Nursing. This topic is highly controversial because most practice-based professions that have a doctoral degree do not required an extended certification in order to practice (i.e. physical therapists, pharmacists, etc.) Unfortunately though NPs are faced with physician counterparts arguing that although doctoral-level NPs have extended education, they do not have extended certification by a certifying body and therefore no difference should be made in the clinical arena between a nurse practitioner and a doctor of nursing practice. Many have argued that DNP graduates should the Comprehensive Care Certification (CCC) yet many NP organizations are saying no to such an exam.
So should we have to take an extra certification upon completion of our DNP education? I personally have not decided one way or another. In support of certification, I feel it does provide us with further leverage in both the clinical arena as well as in legislative issues. Certification would also provide a standard of accreditation for DNPs rather than simply going to school and coming out with a DNP especially due to the vast difference in some DNP educations. On the other side, I feel that the DNP education certainly does not support a further certification necessity. The focus of my DNP education was on leadership, evidence-based practice, and transformational care rather than on increased clinical knowledge like pathophysiology etc. So could this education and expanded knowledge actually be tested?? The debate certainly continues and I hope to hear some of your thoughts on whether or not DNP graduates should have to face certification exams.
Since changing from primary care to dermatology I have noticed there are a lot of basic skin issues that primary care providers overlook, and cannot correctly diagnose or properly manage in practice. Some examples are stasis dermatitis, psoriasis, tinea and candida infections, and actinic keratosis. Did you know stasis dermatitis is a result of uncontrolled edema? Or that treating psoriasis with oral prednisone can actually make psoriasis worse? Did you know that nystatin will not treat a tinea infection? Can you identify an actinic keratosis (which is a cancerous precursor)?
Let me give you an example. Recently in clinic I saw a patient with generalized pruritus and a papular rash. This particular patient has been biopsied and treated several times for this rash but it waxes and wanes. The primary care provider placed the patient on oral fluconazole for two weeks for what he diagnosed was a "generalized tinea corporis." First-the primary diagnosis is not correct so therefore the patient is receiving the wrong treatment. Tinea infections are typically not papular and are usually associated with some level of scale. Second-fluconazole does not treat tinea it is treatment for candidiasis. This patient was suspected to have a contact dermatitis from the laundry soap used in the nursing home based on the history of the rash and its primary morphology. In addition, the rash was previously confirmed by biopsy that it was not fungal.
I am bringing this matter to your attention because it is clear that the PCP could not distinguish a tinea infection from a contact dermatitis, and even worse did not know the appropriate therapy for tinea versus a candida infection. If the PCP was uncertain of the diagnosis he/she could've referred, re-biopsied the skin, or chosen a broader spectrum antifungal like econazole (if he/she was debating tinea vs. candida as this med treats both).
The skin is the most easily accessible organ of the body and so biopsy should always be the default (when in doubt) and can be done safely and routinely in the primary care setting. In this instance, lucky for the patient we caught this PCP's mistake during our follow up visit before the patient was treated with any more doses of an unnecessary anti-fungal for a contact dermatitis.
Please, as DNPs and providers I encourage everyone to go the extra mile and put in the effort required to familiarize yourself with skin conditions you are likely to encounter through additional formal clinical training i.e., post-masters certification or CME (NADNP conference each May).
Over the last 2 months, I have done several full body skin examinations, and you would be surprised by how many skin cancers and rashes are found on these patients with no complaints! It just goes to show you that just because the patient doesn't complain of a rash or a skin problem does not mean they don't have any!
By including a full body examination with each and every annual physical you will ensure your patient's dermatologic needs are met.
This will show your patients that their skin is just as important to you as it is to them.
Last weekend I went to a fantastic pediatric conference and one of the talks was on preceptoring and how to be successful as a preceptor. During this talk they also gave a plethora of encouragement for NPs to become preceptors and asked those that had been preceptors to raise their hand...only about a quarter of the room raised their hand. This lecture together with the experience of working with a local NP organization chapter and struggling to find preceptors for our student members, I really got to thinking...why is it such a struggle to find preceptors for our future NPs?
I certainly struggled with this as a student, and, like so many others, whipped out a list from the internet and began cold calling, ultimately to be left with many MD preceptors that practice on a very different model than NPs. Unfortunately, I have heard so much about the problems with nurses eating their young and horizontal bullying among nursing staff, but I would say the same is true with the gap in students being able to find preceptors. As we try to rise our profession up, it seems as though there is a missing link happening among seasoned NPs supporting NP students.
As a DNP graduate, I feel even more empowered to be a preceptor and lead the way for our future NPs through education, preceptorship, and involvement with students at the bottom level. For some reason, though, this does not seem to be a common theme among many NPs in practice... Whether it be because of barriers in their workplace, inability to take the time to teach due to busy schedules, or simply the reluctance to work with the less experienced NPs. Yet working with students has so much to bring to the practice of those who precept from updated knowledge on evidence-based practices to keeping the preceptor on their toes with being as informed as possible.
It is for this reason that I call on NPs to pay it forward and precept our up and coming NPs. Preceptors are as important of an influence on the new NPs education as the university they went. In a healthcare environment where the number of NPs continues to rise, so too does the dire need for preceptors to come forward in assisting students in their clinical education. So stop eating our young and start teaching our young about the amazing profession we have chosen!
As healthcare providers and patient advocates, we are often faced with convincing our charges that a change is needed. Human nature is to resist change. Most of us settle into familiar routines in our lives and jobs and, no matter how inefficient or unhealthy our routines may be, we are very reluctant to disrupt the flow of our conventions. It is the responsibility of the provider to coax the individual toward healthier choices. In order to be the champions for change, we must first understand how change takes place.
We all remember the various theories of change that were reviewed in nursing courses and some may have stuck with us over the years. In recent years, nursing has adapted the Transtheoretical Model from the psychologists (Pender, Murdaugh, and Parsons, 2011). Originally interested in the process of overcoming addictions, Prochaska, Johnson, and Lee (2009) developed a description of change that can be applied to any patient's transition to optimal health choices.
The Transtheoretical Model describes the stages as:
- Precontemplation: Without taking an action, the patient ponders the possible need for change. The patient weighs the benefits of change versus the hardships of change.
- Contemplation: The patient recognizes the need for change and resolves to make a change.
- Planning or preparation: The patient is on the verge of making the change. At this point, the individual may be taking steps toward the alterations in lifestyle..
- Action: In this phase, the patient is in the process in making the change. This phase is usually considered the first six months of the change (Pender et al., 2011).
- Maintenance: The change has taken place and has remained in place for six months. The patient is engaged in sustaining the change.
A DNP will recognize these stages in any sort of practice. Whether it is the long-term smoker giving up cigarettes or the oxycodone addict trying to overcome the addiction, all patients will pass through these stages. Psychologists realize that there are more complex factors associated with these phases (Pender et al., 2011). They speak of the mechanics that shape these stages in terms of self-evaluation, self-efficacy, consciousness, and reinforcement.
There are, of course, limitations in the Transtheoretical Model. It is broad and it may not apply to every situation. The stages tend to be arbitrary and some researchers resent the generic application of stages (Sharma and Romas, 2008). Despite these shortcomings, providers may better serve their patients by understanding the process of change as they guide the individual through the uncomfortable process of change.
Pender, N. J., Parsons, M. A., & Murdaugh, C. L. (2011). Health promotion in nursing practice. Nola J. Pender, Carolyn L. Murdaugh, Mary Ann Parsons. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson, c2011.
Prochaska, J. O., Johnson, S., & Lee, P. (2009). The Transtheoretical Model of behavior change. In S. A. Shumaker, J. K. Ockene, K. A. Riekert (Eds.), The handbook of health behavior change (3rd ed.) (pp. 59-83). New York, NY, US: Springer Publishing Co.
Sharma, M., & Romas, J. A. (2012). Theoretical foundations of health education and health promotion (2nd ed.). Boston, MA, US: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.
The last time I wrote about leaving my position in family practice and making the big leap into dermatology. Since then I have spent the last 5 weeks fully immersing myself into learning about dermatology. Needless to say, the last 5 weeks have been challenging and I have learned a lot about what I thought I knew, what I never knew, and what I should've known about dermatology. I have also felt a lot of emotions over the past 5 weeks; happiness, frustration, confusion, apprehension, fear and anxiety, but I am hanging in there because I know the payoff will be worth it in the end.
A point worth discussing is how daunting switching your specialty can be. Now I am expected to be the "expert," the "specialist," but I don't have as many years of experience in this field as I once did in family practice! Suddenly, I find myself thrown from the position of an expert in my previous position to a novice in my current one. If that wasn't enough there are new medications, new treatments, new research studies, a new language, and new disorders to know and learn! Ugh! Who knew dermatology was so broad?
This experience opens my eyes to remembering what it feels like to be a student again, the long nights of studying, and reading, taking notes on everything trying to ensure that you don't miss any significant tidbits of information. The anxiety you felt when your instructor asked you a question and you were unsure of the answer so you feverishly dug into your notes hoping to find what you were looking for (that's me right now).
Everything else aside the change feels like a fresh start. It has renewed my enthusiasm for reading and learning about new disorders and treatment options in a way that makes me excited about what I do again. A feeling I hadn't felt in some time and it is welcomed.
I still have a long way to go but my mentor is "patient" and I am hopeful that before she pulls her hair out I can make it through training.
I'll keep you posted.
In August 2013, California's SB 491 bill - which would allow full practice authority to California nurse practitioners - failed to get out of the Assembly Appropriations Committee. Senator Ed Hernandez took to the stand and fought for the SB 491 bill. Unfortunately, it was turned down and unable to advance in the Committee due to the strong opposition from the California Medical Association who spent over $1.2 million lobbying against the bill. Full practice authority of nurse practitioners is a fervent topic nationwide, especially due to the growing shortage of providers needed to give medical care to the people of the United States. This is especially true in California where it is projected to have a shortage of over 17,000 doctors in the next two years with the current ratio of primary care doctor to patient being 30,000 to 37 million.
This places California 26th in the country for its ratio of primary care doctors to patients. The ratio is further stressed in the many rural areas where only 16 of California's 58 counties have the supply of primary care physicians recommended by the federal government, and some residents of the state never see a primary care physician in their lives. The state is also likely to face an additional 4.5 million to 5 million new Californians that will have access to insurance due to the Affordable Care Act. As California moves forward with the changes in healthcare and an ever-evolving need for primary care providers, the need is dire yet the resistance remains.
Due to California's current status in healthcare, I have never felt more proud to be a doctoral trained nurse practitioner and leading the pay on the push for full-practice authority for NPs in California. For me, the DNP education provided me with more credibility in the stance for full practice authority. It also taught me leadership qualities to educate the opponents on the importance of this for our patients and the healthcare of California as a state, which thereby affects the healthcare of our nation. Not only did my education support the push to full practice authority but it has provided me with far more confidence in proposing this issue with legislators, medical peers, and other NPs who have yet to jump on the bandwagon of the DNP. For those of you that are in states that have full practice authority do you believe that your DNP has supported this?
Those in states that are not quite full practice authority states, do you feel that your DNP is helping in the movement toward full practice authority? Looking forward to sharing ideas and opinions on this topic!
Ultimately, it is the job of the nurse to ascertain the wants and needs of the patient and, if legal, fair, and feasible, meet those wants and needs. In other words, find out what the patient wants (or needs) and give it to them. That job does not change as we move into advanced practice and the DNP is faced with that same task. The challenge comes when the patient can't or won't follow the treatment regimen that is prescribed for them.
Every nursing student is exposed to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs early in their education. The theory, simply put, is that a person's basic needs must be met before they advance to actualization of more advanced needs (Snell, 2007). In other words, a starving man has little interest in morality and creativity. It is the role of the DNP to assist the patient through those stages, meeting each of the needs to allow the patient to advance to the next level. A patient with an open fracture in the Emergency Department has the very basic needs of comfort, hydration, and volume control. There is little thought of intimacy or other more advanced needs until those basic needs are met. The DNP must not only keep focus on meeting the essentials of survival and comfort but must keep other staff members focused on those requirements as well. We've all seen providers get mired in the logistics of care without actually focusing on the immediate needs of the patient.
It is simple to see how Maslow's Theory can be applied in an emergency situation such as the one related above but it may be less obvious in a primary care setting. Many of us see patients with limited or fixed incomes who only seek medical care when the condition becomes too severe to ignore. These patients, faced with limited coverage or co-pays they can't afford, will often be viewed as noncompliant when, in reality, they are forced to pick between paying the rent and buying groceries or buying medications. Shelter and food are among the basic biological needs that make up the first rung of Maslow's ladder. Until these needs are met, other wants will take a back seat. It may be argued that the medications meet a basic biological need as well but unless the patient is in grievous condition they may not see it that way. They will opt for shelter and food as we all would in similar circumstances.
With our background in nursing and evidence-based practice, DNPs may be uniquely qualified to recognize the basic needs of our patients and to help them overcome the barriers that prevent them from reaching optimal health. Lower priced medications when appropriate, resources from community agencies and lifestyle changes are just a few examples of interventions that will facilitate their return to health. Without losing sight of patient autonomy, the DNP may be able to give the patient the tools they need to balance all of the essentials.
Snell, R. (2007). Compliance/ethics program hierarchy of needs: A less conventional approach to understanding the relationship between compliance and ethics. (Interpretation of the theory, Maslow's hierarchy of needs, a theory of human motivation by Abraham Maslow). Journal of Healthcare Compliance, (1). 33.
Well I have told you about everything that I have gone through at the place where I work. I've been battling for recognition and respect, but when it came down to it I realized it was happiness that I wanted - a place where I could enjoy my profession and the patients I serve without any drama. Sadly, after many hard fought battle, this was not that place.
I have embarked on a new mission. I have left my previous position in the clinic for a more lucrative role in the specialty of dermatology. I am excited, as I have wanted to work in this area for a while, but didn't quite know how to break into the field. By chance (luck, really), the opportunity came to me. I have an excellent mentor to learn from - she has worked in the field for over twenty years, is an expert in her own right, and has created the first and only dermatology residency in the country for ARNPs. What a blessing to have such an opportunity; I could not pass it up.
As an ARNP, sometimes you have to learn when it is time to look toward your future and reflect on whether or not your current position is going to take you to that next level (if that's where you are trying to go). I felt that my former position was not going to help me advance my career in the direction I was hoping for, and so I made the decision to leave. Through it all, I realized no matter how big or small the issue, it's important to speak up. Let yourself be heard, or risk being a pushover (or worse, dissatisfied). If things bother you, you need to be vocal about them - the saying "a closed mouth doesn't get fed" is true!
I am the first DNP that this clinic ever had, and maybe not the last, but at least I helped to create the path for the next DNP a little less treacherous. This whole experience reminds me of a famous Kenny Rogers song. Sometimes you have to "know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em!" I fold.
Here's to a new and exciting fresh start!
"Epidemiology" and "Health Indices of Urban Populations": these are the names of the two courses I am taking this semester. At first, I thought, What does this have to do with being an DNP?
I am learning that it has a lot to do with being a DNP. You need to know what is happening in the health of the community around you so that you can be prepared to take care of that community. This message could not be any timelier than it is now with the Ebola virus outbreak coming to the U.S. When I heard that the first patient in the U.S. went the ER, told them he was in Africa, had a fever, and was discharged from the ER, I was horrified. How could that happen? Lack of education, a breakdown in communicatior - or something else? What would I have done if I was the NP in that ER?
The Ebola outbreak is another occasion for nursing to show their leadership in healthcare. We need to educate ourselves about this disease and how it can be prevented, because we need to educate the public - who are concerned and asking a lot of questions. We need to keep up-to-date with developments in its spread and in any changes in treatments or diagnoses. We also need to educate the health professionals that we work with to recognize signs and symptoms, so that we do not "drop the ball" again, like what happened in that ER with the first American Ebola patient. I am sure there are nursing leaders who are well-versed in epidemiology and public health that are doing much more to keep the public safe. I know I will do my part, and thanks to the classes that I wasn't sure why I was taking, I will know much more of what my part is.
Since I seem to have lost a host of readers last post in my discussion of what we can learn from history, I will proceed with... more lessons from history. Never fear, I expect the next couple posts will be about nurse entrepreneurship, which seems to garner more enthusiasm.
As philosopher George Santayana said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Until more recently, I would suggest that nursing had done a bit of that.
There are now 19 states which offer an environment for fully independent nurse practitioner practice. This is amazing progress since I became an NP in 1996. I am fortunate to practice in one of those states, and to work in a progressive health care environment in which physicians and nurse practitioners, for the most part, see each other as colleagues. But I have also heard from many NPs whose state professional organizations year after year fight the medical association's hold on the legislature for the ability to practice to the extent of their education.
Take heart, you are not the first and you are not alone. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, optometry was a nascent profession scoffed at by ophthalmologists. The quack word came up. Frequently. In the 1930s and 40s, the idea of the Doctor of Optometry (OD) degree began to take hold. Over time, optometry's emphasis on prevention and treating common eye problems, won them a wide public following. In the 1980s and 1990s, the profession began to gain prescriptive authority slowly, state by state, for eye-related medications. Sound familiar? And does society currently question seeing an optometrist for general eye care?
But there's more. In the late 1800s, osteopathy emerged as an alternative conception of wellness. Initially, the profession was primary focused on outpatient care. In 1950, Missouri became the first state to allow osteopaths (DOs) to practice with the same unrestricted privileges granted to their MD counterparts. The AMA was opposed and presented restrictions such as not allowing DOs to serve as medical officers in the armed services and attempting to prohibit licensure of DOs in California. By 1973, DOs were able to practice autonomously in all 50 states. Despite continued clashes, DOs persevered and gained prescriptive and surgical authority, maintaining doctoral education and residency programs that emphasized the discipline's particulars. Well, that is interesting, isn't it?
In 1948, the American Pharmaceutical Association recommended that colleges begin establishing doctoral programs. While these programs were implemented in the 1950s and 1960s, debate became heated in the early 1990s over the increased educational costs, increased consumer costs, underuse of the pharmacist's preparation, inadequate faculty to train these students, and concerns regarding the quality of these programs. Pharmacists were frustrated that physicians tended to view them as extensions of themselves, as dispensers, rather than health professionals in their own right. In 1997, the American Council on Pharmaceutical Education mandated the PharmD as the sole degree program for accreditation to be implemented in 2000. Something about this is sounding familiar...
Chiropractic history began just before 1900. The AMA encouraged extensive prosecution for practicing medicine without a license and even established a Committee on Quackery. Their plan to undermine chiropractors included media denigration and, among other things, even encouraging high school counselors to discourage pursuit of the career.
Naturopathy also began formally just prior to the 20th century and was closely aligned with chiropractic in the beginning. Although it has a formal doctoral program and often has associated postdoctoral residency programs, it continues to experience skirmishes state by state seeking full recognition and licensure. An historical lack of uniformity in regulation and education continues to plague the profession. Naturopathy also struggles for federal support for education and residencies. Well, I'll be.
Physical therapy, audiology, and other professional health disciplines continue to work towards the implementation of doctoral education across the board.
I have heard from many RNs and NPs (typically in the same states where NP organizations go to all out war every year with MD organizations) who insist that nurse practitioners don't really need parity. I usually blink vacantly (in shock) when this comes up. I couldn't disagree more.
So what can we learn? Nurses must continue to articulate (to payors, to the general public, to governmental and health industry leaders) our singular identify and core values. Our niche is caring and healing. We embody a client-centered empowering evidence-based holistic ethic. Like nearly all the professions mentioned, we have grown up alongside another profession-medicine. (But not only medicine). We are a complementary, yet distinct, profession. We must find consensus and speak with one voice as much as possible. We must get behind the BSN in 10 and APRN Consensus Model for the future of our profession. We must eliminate archaic federal barriers to the care our patients need. We must protect patients' access to us, their primary care providers. Like other health professions, in our development, we must find consistent funding for NP/DNP residencies. I am grateful for an era with a united professional organization that is pushing forward in all these areas.
"History teaches us everything, including our future," said Alphonse de Lamartine, French philosopher and politician, whose work led to the abolition of slavery and the death penalty. It's a well-worn path, but it's worth it.
Brown-Benedict, D. (2008). The Doctor of Nursing Practice Degree: Lessons from the History of the Professional Doctorate in Other Health Disciplines. Journal of Nursing Education. Vol 47, No 10. 448-457.
Agocs, S. (2011). History of Medicine: Chiropractics fight for survival. Virtual Mentor. Vol 13, No 6, 384-388.
When I became a nurse practitioner, I was overwhelmed with the amount of information I had to retain from school. On top of that, keeping up with the most up-to-date research to support my clinical practice was hard, too. Now, as a Doctor of Nursing I am overtaken by the amount of research, policy updates, world news and continuing education I must maintain in order to sustain my credibility in this position. How do we as DNP graduates keep up with the best practice guidelines, politics and news, and still maintain our clinical and personal lives?
Balance has always been one of the most important factors for my life. I can often dive into something and get lost in what I am doing especially when it comes to my career. Because of this one of the most difficult things for me has been balancing my career and personal life and in this keeping up to date with all of the research to support my profession and place as a Doctor of Nursing. How do you all keep up with the policy and clinical practice research and updates?? For me, the best resources have been my daily email updates. I get multiple daily updates from AANP, the American Academy of Pediatrics because I work in pediatrics, and a news update called the Skimm. This way I am able to be in the know with the world happening around me while keeping up with my clinical practice, daily life, and day-to-day news because, as we know, the news certainly affects our clinical practice as I have seen directly with the recent Ebola and Enterovirus outbreaks. We as DNP-trained NPs need to be in the know with the world and our clinical practice and it is for this reason that I would love to know how you all keep up with life, clinical research, politics, and the daily news!
For many DNPs - and nurses in general - politics and policy making are important tasks best left to someone else. As clinical nurse leaders, however, who is better suited to shape help medical policy than the DNP? Nurses are already well placed in various government agencies and organizations, but the grass root effort is often lacking (Milstead, 2013). For the most part, DNPs are experienced clinicians with years of experience taking care of people. We have seen where policy and systems have failed and we have advocated for those left behind by those failures. Despite the perceived shadowy mysteries of politics and legislation, becoming involved in the making of policy requires no special training or elevated connections. It can be as simple as joining your professional organizations or as complicated as running for office.
The controversial struggle to revamp and modernize healthcare policy has been well publicized. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is thought by many to be the first great step in leveling the ground to allow everyone to have equal access to healthcare. That controversy continues and is likely that further work will need to be done. It is the duty of DNPs to be sure that nurses in general, and Advanced Practice Nurses (APNs) in particular, are not left out of the final versions of healthcare reform. The APN has major role to play in the provision of primary and specialized care. It is our responsibility to see that we are empaneled in those functions.
The DNP's first step in becoming involved is to join your professional organizations. Once the membership is established, the easiest way to have impact on decision making may be to become active in your local chapter. These groups often have the ear of local and state politicos and volume of membership alone may be influential.
The DNP can influence policy by being a well informed source for peers and layman. This doesn't mean that the DNP needs to preach to the masses. It is enough to be able to relay the facts accurately when needed and to be sure that the inquisitive are educated on the issues.
Healthcare is a concern to most people but, until recently, has received very little attention by lawmakers (Rozner, 2009). While it is assumed that the DNP will vote, it is equally important to know where the candidates stand on the healthcare issues and to relay to those candidates one's own view of the issues based on experience and expertise.
Of course, in an ideal world, each DNP would be a spokesman and lobbyist in the making of policy and, thankfully, there are DNPs in those roles. In reality though, it is just as important that we influence policy by knowledge, awareness, and communication. As long as the DNP remains knowledgeable and is able to communicate that knowledge when needed, the DNP is a part of the policy making process.
Milstead, J. A. (2013). Health policy and politics: a nurse's guide / [edited by] Jeri A. Milstead. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett.
Rovner, J. (2009). Health Care Policy and Politics A to Z. Washington, D.C.: CQ Press.
Sometimes being the first of your kind is exciting, and sometimes it can be daunting and confusing. When I received my DNP I felt empowered, but I did not know where I would find my niche in an organization where there were no other doctoral-prepared NPs or PAs. My niche became a satellite clinic where I am the sole provider for health services to clients between the ages of 2 and above. I have a supervising physician that does not work with me because we work opposite shifts. I run the clinic autonomously 5 days a week. I have increased the number of patients establishing at the clinic and the reputation of the clinic over the last year.
The fact that I am a DNP makes it even better, because it showcases the degree (which is still largely unknown in this area) and my ability as an NP to deliver high quality care without supervision or oversight. This may seem to some as not so big a deal, but in my organization this is an anomaly. None of the other NPs work and run an entire clinic independently. I am in charge of the day to day grind and manage a small group of staff that assists me in making sure I am able to deliver top-notch, high quality care. What makes it even better is that with the current legislative climate in Florida surrounding independent practice for NPs (legislation that did not pass) my clinic may also serve as a model for legislators to use as a means to get important health policy passed in the future.
In July, I was visited by a local representative with the Florida house to tour the facilities and to see what NPs actually do. We discussed the important role that NPs can play in increasing access to care for Floridians. We also discussed the doctoral degree and NP education and how I hoped that it would help boost lawmaker confidence in our educational preparation while moving towards independent practice in our state. I hope that this tour helped the legislator to see all the good work that NPs do in our communities, what really happens in the office, and how involved the supervising physician really is. The overly-exaggerated role of the supervising physician seemed to be heavily weighed when deliberating in legislative committee hearings this past session. What a reality check this could be.
It is important as a DNP to be engaged and visible in health policy by partnering with local and state representatives and educating them on the DNP to bring recognition and awareness to the title. We need to be able to clearly articulate the significance of our role, educational preparation, and potential to impact health care if utilized in a manner in which we were intended. This is vital to our existence and potentially could expand opportunities for us in the future.