How a Doctor of Nursing Practice Degree Can Lead to Better Patient Outcomes

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A report authored by Dr. Christian M. Rochefort, et al entitled “Improving patient safety by optimizing the use of nursing human resources” reveals that the quantity and quality of nursing staff influences patient treatment outcomes. [1] During the study, Rochefort unearthed information designed to aid mid-level health care executives in using available resources effectively and discovering staffing levels that reduce the occurrence of patient injuries not related to an existing condition, a manifestation called an adverse event (AE).

Nurse practitioners play a critical role in the prevention of adverse events. Their actions directly contribute to positive treatment outcomes. However, care provider organizations must maintain sufficient staffing levels so that nurse practitioners can perform their duties well. In the absence of sufficient staffing, care provider organizations find that more adverse events occur.

Rochefort’s report reveals that nearly 3 to 17 percent of all adverse events are preventable. Of these events, 20 to 25 percent lead to permanent disability or mortality events. However, a nursing talent pool that consists of sufficient, and sufficiently educated, staff members minimizes the risks of AEs. This is especially important, as the current nursing shortage may worsen in the future.

Promoting Positive Treatment Outcomes

In a service environment with precious, limited resources, maintaining the ideal staffing level is not always viable. [2] As a result, organizational leaders may institute procedures that increase the risk of adverse events, such as mandatory overtime and hiring underqualified nursing talent. Such policies are appearing more frequently in organizations, as the pressure to deliver improved services at lower cost increases. As a solution, Rochefort’s report recommends the training and hiring of nursing professionals with sufficient training.

Nurse leaders establish evidence-based safe staffing levels as well as track and monitor the relationship between patient volume, available talent, and adverse event occurrences. For accurate and actionable reporting, leaders must conduct these studies over time.

Only recently have these types of metrics become readily available. Electronic health records (EHRs), digital payroll, and staffing data-capture capabilities has marked the present as a stimulating time for care provider organizations to find opportunities for improvement. Information-rich datasets now allow nurse leaders to establish optimal nurse staffing levels.

Determining Practitioner Qualifications

In the United States, the deans and directors of nursing schools have developed the current field accreditation system. They develop and regularly monitor metrics, such as how many nursing students apply, register, or advance through classes, to aid in tracking the performance outcomes of current health care policies and treatments. The deans and directors of nursing schools also track student GPAs, examination scores, and state board testing results.

The oversight committee also monitors the performance of nurse educators, as well as academic resources such as technology, laboratory spaces, and clinical opportunities. Finally, the committee monitors curriculums, lesson organization, and teaching strategies. For nurse practitioner (NP) programs, the committee conducts special reviews.

Accreditation among Advance Practitioners

Advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) are subject to tracking and monitoring by independent oversight committees. State boards regulate licensure and practice within their respective jurisdictions. If an APRN wishes to transfer their practice to another state, they must first confer with that state’s nursing board to learn whether they have met educational requirements and have expertise within the scope of practice outlined by regulations.

For advanced practice registered nurses, there is no singular method of performance evaluation. Each care provider organization determines their steps in the career ladder and how to measure progress toward advancement. This process provides a structured system for practitioners and employers to measure performance and avoid career stagnation.

The committees that oversee APRNs accredit them on an individual basis. Some committees authenticate accreditation as practitioners assume new work roles, while others perform regular reviews. Assessments may include observation, testing, and resume appraisals.

Recently, peer evaluation has grown in popularity among care provider organizations. Employers also consider how well practitioners fit in with the organizational talent pool.

In the United States, practitioners can decrease the occurrence of adverse events by practicing to the full extent of their capabilities. This benefit might be tempered by the complexity of patient conditions, especially as America’s aging population contracts multiple ailments. However, special individuals who desire to answer the call to practice to help United States care provider organizations fight the good fight to maintain population heath can help to meet the increased demand presented by growing service needs.

Learn More

Health care is seeing an industry-wide demand for advanced practice nurses trained at the doctoral level due to the changing landscape, drive for improved patient outcomes, and a shortage of qualified nurses. If you’re an RN with a bachelor’s degree in nursing and ready to take your career to a higher level, the Regis College’s BSN to Doctor of Nursing Practice online program can prepare you for advanced nursing practice.


[1] BioMed Central
[2] Science Direct