December 1, 2023

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How Can Higher Education Help Nursing Leaders Turn Research into Practical Methods of Care?

Nursing forms the backbone of the health sector globally and remains a hugely popular choice in terms of healthcare careers. This is not a surprise when you consider the considerable job satisfaction it offers and the range of interesting roles there are within nursing. As you might expect, higher education is required to become a nurse and allows you to pick up the core skills needed to work in this industry.

Once you’ve qualified as a nurse, however, your journey in higher education doesn’t stop, and you may choose to continue your studies to advance your career. Higher education therefore plays a crucial role in the nursing sector overall. One of the most important facets of courses such as this for nurses is the ability they have to turn academic research into real-world practical care methods.

But how does this happen for those at more senior levels in the sector particularly?

Focus on higher education for nurse leaders is key

There is no doubt that continued professional development through higher education is crucial for nurses looking to further their careers. This is true for everyone who works in this sector, but is especially important for those looking to move into more advanced positions or make their mark as nurse leaders.

For nurses such as this, the most common way to gain the in-depth knowledge required to progress their career is through a higher-level academic course of study. This broadly comes down to either enrolling on a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program or a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) course. But when it comes to DNP vs PhD courses, what is the difference between them?

A good way to get to grips with this is looking at the online DNP in Strategic Leadership program run by Spring Arbor University. Not only does the online nature of the course enable working students to complete it, but it also contains a focus on research, which can then be turned into practice in the real world. A terminal qualification, the course at Spring Arbor also offers access to a dedicated support coach and has small class sizes.

The importance that a DNP course places on applying academic research/learning in the real world to improve patient outcomes is what sets it apart from a PhD. PhD courses do not have the same focus on applying what is learned in practice and so are not always as suitable for working nurse leaders.

How can DNP research impact on nursing practice?

Any aspiring nurse leader who chooses to study a DNP course can look forward to conducting plenty of research as part of their studies. This is important as it helps you to pick up new ideas, new concepts and new approaches to patient care along the way. It can also arm you with extra knowledge around the subject of nursing leadership and core models for leading organizations and people.

As noted above, it is the focus that DNP courses have on putting research into practice and improving patient outcomes that makes them stand out for nurse leaders. But just how does this kind of higher education allow students to turn research into practical methods of patient care in the real world?  

Helps students shape policy in various areas

This is one of the best examples of how DNP-based research and its practical application can drive positive changes in the nursing leadership sphere. Students on DNP programs will naturally come across the newest innovations in terms of patient care and the newest policy ideas on how to improve patient outcomes.

Students will also be exposed to best practices in the nursing sector around patient care policies and pick up the latest trends in nursing leadership/practice when studying. This enables them to put the knowledge gained from DNP-based research into practice when they have graduated. This sees them able to formulate policies that their own organization can bring on board to deliver new or better patient care.

DNP programs require extensive practice hours

One feature of any decent DNP program for nursing professionals is the requirement for a good amount of practice hours. This allows students to become proficient in the foundations of DNP-based learning and any specific competencies that their course is designed to arm them with. Extensive practice hours are also key for delivering a meaningful engagement experience that offers beneficial feedback to students.

The amount of practice hours that students complete on any good DNP program is also hugely important for helping students apply what they have learned in a practical setting. As a result, it allows this kind of advanced nursing qualification to turn research into practical methods of care. This is not only in terms of implementing procedures or knowledge picked up via research for real-world patient care, but also in using it to improve patient care processes that do not seem to work efficiently.

A DNP is vital for specialized nursing

Although new nurses will typically move into a broad-ranging registered nurse role to begin with, many will begin looking to move into an advanced career in a more specialized part of the sector over time. This could be anything from working with children to working with older people or moving into mental health nursing. Aspiring leaders may begin looking at more advanced specialist roles such as chief nursing officer in terms of career progression.

Higher education DNP programs can be a great help with this. This is because students can pick up expert, in-depth knowledge related directly to the specialism that the course is geared toward and that they plan to move into after graduating. The knowledge picked up through research on a DNP program can then be applied in the real world to make a positive impact on patient outcomes for people with certain conditions.

It can also be used in practical healthcare settings to develop new methods of care for certain conditions or patient demographics. For leaders interested in caring for an aging population, for example, research into the recent Longevity Medication Day meeting in Copenhagen can provide detailed knowledge to implement practically in their own role.

Without the extra advanced learning in that specialty picked up through DNP research, leaders in specific nursing fields would not have this knowledge to implement practically or may not know how best to use it to improve patient care methods in their niche.

Higher education builds up your professional nursing network

When it comes to courses such as DNPs helping to turn research into practical care methods, networking is a key factor to consider. When studying on a higher education nursing course, you will naturally engage with other people on the program. As courses such as DNPs involve practice hours, you will also come across nursing professionals to engage with as part of this.

All of this is a great way to develop your professional network as a nurse leader or make connections that can help as you move into more advanced roles. Having a strong professional network is also great for taking research and applying it in a practical setting around patient care.

You may, for example, be unsure about how to apply your learning to boost patient care levels in your own organization. By asking people in your higher education professional network for help, you are able to turn this research into practical outcomes.

Alternatively, you may pick up on discussions that classmates have on a certain patient care issue and take this knowledge into a future role post-graduation to make positive changes in this area. Although these are just two examples, it shows how professional networks built up through higher education can impact on patient care methods through research.

Higher education gives you time to think

Busy working nurses at any level rarely have time to simply sit back and think about patient care in theoretical terms in their daily role – they are much too busy actually providing it or managing patient care service levels! This can be especially true for nursing leaders who have busy working days full of meetings, video calls, patient liaison groups and much more to get through.

Higher education can be vital for turning research into practical care methods because it gives students much-needed time to think away from their busy role. This means that they not only have time to read the latest research around patient care or patient care policies, but also have the chance to plan how they could implement them in practical terms for their own facility.

Higher education is key for turning research into practical care methods

Research is undoubtedly important across all of healthcare and for nursing in particular. It allows people within the sector to not only make key breakthroughs in terms of patient care but also to share it with the world.

Research is also a vital part of any higher education program because it allows students to learn about the latest patient care developments in the industry and also find a way to put them into practice.

This is valuable for nurse leaders and helps them give the best care to patients, find ways to put new care ideas from research into practice, and also test if theories around patient care in research work in practice. Turning research into practical care methods is not something that all higher education courses place their focus on though. With this in mind, following a DNP program is the best option for current/aspiring nurse leaders who wish to achieve this.