Individuals with a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) are some of the most experienced and trusted nursing practitioners (NPs) in the US and worldwide. A DNP is a nurse with supplemental education in the inner workings of healthcare provision. Typically, a DNP will need at least a master’s degree in nursing to reach this point.
While NPs alone positively impact community nursing in numerous ways, the role of a DNP holds a little more clout and experience. Therefore, in many cases, DNPs can help transform how underprivileged communities receive primary care and support.
With nursing staff in increasingly high demand and communities across the US suffering without easy access to primary care and medical resources, people need all the help they can get. This article will explore how DNPs can shape the future of primary care in these locations for the better.
What is a DNP?
Before getting deeper into the discussion surrounding DNPs and community health settings, it is worth asking the question, what is a DNP? Recognized colleges and educational institutions such as Spring Arbor University provide DNP courses to nurses who wish to pursue the highest echelons of healthcare.
At Spring Arbor, for example, nurses taking on DNP degrees will learn specifically about how complex healthcare systems work in practice, how different processes are connected, and ultimately, how care reaches patients across broad geographical areas.
DNPs are in the perfect position to look at the bigger picture regarding healthcare provision. Not only should they have extensive experience in nursing, but following a degree program they will have additional knowledge about the potential gaps arising in primary care and how to bridge them.
Studying for a DNP degree is an extensive and sometimes complex process. However, it is ideal for nurses who wish to make the broadest changes to healthcare and the systems they have years of experience progressing through.
Ways DNPs can help improve community care at a primary level
DNPs are in better positions than most to oversee how healthcare systems are running. They are also more likely to understand which solutions are will work best when there are clear shortages in underserved communities.
However, there are no quick fixes regarding community primary care gaps. DNPs must work carefully with people in their networks and those in administrative and governmental facilities to move funds and staffing to the right areas.
Here are a few specific ways in which DNPs can support primary care gaps in community nursing regardless of the location.
In some cases, a lack of primary care in community settings worsens when people are unsure of how to protect or care for themselves. For example, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, some communities suffered worse than others due to misinformation and a lack of protection supplies.
Given their breadth of expertise, DNPs are in a prime position to deliver the fruits of their research to communities who might otherwise be in the dark on several health concerns. For example, a DNP might have links to local government and outreach programs to ensure they can promote safe sex practices, drug safety, and even how to care for minor injuries and wounds.
In disparate communities where primary care may be lacking, DNPs can create educational programs so people may help themselves as a first resort. Prevention of health conditions will lessen the strain on local care facilities and help people avoid getting sick.
DNPs who support community education programs can also work with local schools and colleges to build initiatives and offer free advice to those in need. In cases where the community cannot reach out to a nurse or doctor, nurses and doctors should be able to reach out to the community.
Future hospital admissions could decrease through a more careful adoption of health management, and in many cases, people from disadvantaged communities are unable to protect themselves efficiently enough.
Nurses who have studied to the DNP level will typically have years of experience in healthcare and a strong core network of people they can work with when raising concerns. Working with a broader healthcare network means DNPs have more power than most in the industry to make changes through advocacy.
For example, DNPs can advocate on behalf of community programs that lack available nurses or other healthcare personnel. Their healthcare experience helps them understand which personnel is required at a community level and to what extent. From there, they can approach local administrators and government officials to advocate for more resources and strengthen the pipeline of nurses entering the community.
DNPs are also in strong positions to advocate for additional funding for underserved communities. Again, their experience working in various healthcare settings, alongside their education, will have helped them build impressive networks – they will know who to approach and how to approach them.
DNPs will have extensive experience in how funding affects healthcare provision and can therefore make reasoned, costed proposals to administrators and directors to better fund communities in need. Crucially, there are few better people on the side of disadvantaged communities than DNPs to seek for such financial support.
Improve working conditions
Beyond moving more people to the right places and ensuring enough funds to provide healthcare tools and services for underprivileged communities, DNPs can also assess and make recommendations regarding how healthcare systems are run and resourced.
These issues might not always relate to the competencies and actions of those working in community settings. DNPs will examine whether conditions are safe for personnel and patients and will make recommendations for safer practice, education, and funding to help prevent future patient admissions.
DNPs can also encourage the employment of NPs across underserved communities so more dedicated personnel are working temporarily to fill immediate needs. Working conditions as a term doesn’t just apply to the quality or the cleanliness of facilities, but also the availability of personnel.
DNPs can take on dual roles of inspectors, albeit not to criticize people on-site or to recommend shutting down facilities or resources. DNPs can take away their research and findings and then explore potential solutions with directors and administrators in their local networks.
Influence local policy
Influencing any kind of healthcare policy is a long and sometimes complex process. Unfortunately, not all healthcare staff have the luxury of voicing their concerns loud enough for changes to take effect. This is where DNPs can act.
DNPs typically have strong working knowledge of the legal framework supporting local healthcare systems and which systems and settings offer specific support. Therefore, they know how to approach potential bottlenecks in the supply chain, address equipment shortages, and identify which policies are likely to offer the most flexibility.
It is not always possible for nurses to make large changes to policy unless they work with a body such as the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, or the AANP. DNPs have the experience and research to lobby effectively for policy changes that could make positive differences for communities struggling without access to primary care.
Beyond this, DNPs with requisite experience and knowledge of broader healthcare and its pipelines may wish to run for public office. This would allow them to improve working standards, increase staffing levels, and funnel more funding into clinics that sorely need the support.
DNPs are not just knowledgeable and well-connected but also wield considerable power. Pursuing a DNP degree is a great idea for a nurse who wants to make more than small changes. Nurses with a DNP can work to change how healthcare operates in their local area and ensure people in underserved communities receive the help they desperately need.
Saviors of underserved community health programs
While there are many ways for community healthcare systems to recover from shortages in supplies, staffing, and funding, DNPs offer incredible expertise and knowledge in how to faster promote such changes and reach out to the right people.
Any individual who has developed the basic skills to become a nurse and has already spent some time in healthcare might be hungry to help promote sweeping changes in their local community.
While studying to become a DNP takes extensive work and passion, it is a route worth pursuing to keep people healthy, active, and well-informed. Whether a nurse chooses to run for public office, in the long run, it is their decision to make alone – but the access DNPs have to the right people to make the right changes across communities is far and wide.