Online DNP: Innovation in Nursing, Health Care

It’s hard to match the determination and drive of nurse practitioners as they work to improve patient outcomes and access to care. Those who want to go a step further, shaping outcomes across healthcare systems and impacting population health or changing healthcare policy, apply to the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Doctor of Nursing Practice online program.

Vector image of person holding a tablet. UL Lafayette's DNP program gives advanced practice registered nurses and nurse executives the knowledge to implement evidence-based best practices and/or national recommendations into care to improve patient outcomes.

“If you’re a nurse executive and you enter our program, we prepare you to lead health care systems by incorporating evidence-based practices, translational research, health policy, and informatics,” explains Dr. Jennifer Lemoine, graduate coordinator and associate professor.

“To be able to sit at the table with the changing environment of medicine and healthcare delivery, nurse practitioners have to have that higher level of education,” Dr. Lemoine says. “The complexity of health care changes every day, and it’s not getting easier.”

Most candidates pursuing their online-DNP degree work full-time or, in some cases, more than full-time.

Dr. Jeanne Cartier, associate professor, says returning to school as a professional is extremely challenging and students have to carefully plan for the addition. But as UL Lafayette DNP students, they’ll find support that’s second to none.

“The level of support that students get from our faculty exists in only a very few places,” she says. “We’ve had students transfer in from other programs into our DNP program. They say they cannot believe how supportive faculty are, how quick they are to respond, and how easily available they are.
“We also provide stipends for qualified students.”

Synthesis Project Impact

The DNP program culminates with a rigorous DNP Synthesis Project, in which students make lasting impacts on the health of the community and beyond.

“The DNP synthesis project is a quality improvement project that incorporates evidence-based practice,” says Dr. Lemoine. “The goal is a sustainable implementation of a best practice over time to improve patient outcomes either individually or across a health system.”

These quality improvement projects have yielded significant results by changing statewide health policy, identifying patients at risk for chronic diseases, and providing greater access to resources for faculty, students, and staff at UL Lafayette.

DNP graduate Samona Drexler was working in an area hospital system and observed surgery patients were not screened for cardiac risk factors during the pre-op process.

During her project, she used an evidence-based tool to detect possible unknown cardiac risk factors prior to surgery.

More than 1,920 patients were screened, and 57 were referred to a cardiologist for evaluation. Of the 47 patients who went to the cardiologist, five surgical procedures were canceled, eight were postponed, and one of the canceled procedures resulted in a triple coronary artery bypass grafting. Two additional procedures led to artery stent placements.

Without the initial screening, these patients would not have been identified.

“In the medical world, this is huge,” Dr. Lemoine says, “if we are able to identify patients with unknown cardiac issues prior to surgery, negative outcomes can be minimized and potentially, lives can be saved.”

As a result of this project, the tool to assess cardiac risk is now used system-wide.

In her synthesis project LeShawn Alexander  addresseda problem she had experienced first-hand as a student at UL Lafayette — the lack of availability of clean, private lactation rooms.

Three rooms for nursing mothers to pump to breastfeed were created through the project along with a formal, University-wide lactation policy. The University of Louisiana at Lafayette was also designated as a Breastfeeding Friendly Workplace Champion by the Louisiana Breastfeeding Coalition through Alexander’s work.

Grant funding from the March of Dimes was used to equip the lactation rooms with educational materials on breastfeeding, postpartum depression, March of Dimes services, as well as health before and between pregnancies.

Following the completion of the project, an additional lactation room was added in the Edith Garland Dupre Library.

New Nurse Practitioner Standards

While many nurse practitioners are pursuing their DNP to practice at the highest possible level, by 2025, the doctoral degree will be the recommended entry level to advanced practice nursing.

“As the health environment has become more complex, as our patients become more complex, the education that is needed to be a leader and a good provider of care goes beyond the  diagnostic and treatment aspect,” says Dr. Cartier.

“Future practitioners need to have a strong understanding of systems-level organization and of policy because advanced practice nurses, such as nurse practitioners, are going to be the primary care workforce of the future, as more and more physicians do not stay in primary care and go into specialties, especially in rural and underserved areas. Those competencies are expanded at a doctoral level.”

If you’re ready to create lasting and widespread impacts on healthcare outcomes in your area, request more information on the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Doctor of Nursing Practice online program.

About this Author
Hope has worked with online students for more than five years, telling their stories and sharing tips for succeeding as an online student.

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