Reflection on Doctoral Nursing Practice Essentials

Doctoral Nursing Practice (DNP) is a complex area of healthcare, and it involves many curricular elements and competencies that a DNP nursing practitioner should master to be effective in their work. The essentials suggested by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) outline those competencies, explaining what skills and knowledge a nurse should acquire before becoming a DNP practitioner. This paper reflects on my own attainment of each of those essentials, identifying how each essential was achieved, what barriers I faced, and what areas for further improvement I discovered.

The first essential defined by the AACN refers to the scientific underpinnings for practice. They represent the necessary academic preparation for doctoral nursing practice (American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 2006). The attainment of this essential made me realize both the complexity and importance of nursing academic knowledge. The examples include the principles governing the life process, the patterns of human behavior, and the required nursing action. These became the significant concepts, which had a big influence on my learning and helped me realize how important it is for nurses to advance their careers. Therefore, I can make quick improvements in maintaining my acquired knowledge, while long-term commitment can be achieved through seeking new areas to study, which will also help me improve my skills. I studied scientific and social sciences, as well as the philosophical, ethical, and historical backgrounds for those disciplines’ uses, to strengthen my qualification during my studies.

The following essential is organizational and systems leadership for quality improvement and systems thinking. The key takeaway was that I acknowledged that nursing goals include not only taking care of patients but also eliminating health disparities and promoting patient safety (American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 2006). During the course, a slight incertitude was felt because of the responsibility I take when becoming a nurse. However, I also realized the importance of the work I am about to do for other people and the entire community. This essential helped me understand the significance of leadership due to DNP’s focus on the population’s needs. I plan to develop my leadership skills and qualities and improve my understanding of practice management. I can study the leadership theory to understand its primary concepts and apply them to DNP, which will provide me with opportunities to support myself, my colleagues, and patients.

Clinical scholarship and the methods of analysis for evidence-based practice are the next essential described by the AACN. The experience associated with attaining this essential supported my thoughts on the scientific underpinnings of practice. The concepts of knowledge and research are the examples of strong correlation with nursing practice and must be applied to it all the time, which is why analytical skills are highly important. I should start enhancing them right now to ensure that I will be able to analyze a new phenomenon properly, should it be discovered during my professional activity. Furthermore, I should practice my skills with the existing literature, critically appraising it and understanding what clinical evidence is the best for nursing practice. My current problem in this area refers to my knowledge of information technology and various research methods, but I intend to develop in this field, as well.

Moreover, information technology is critical as per the next essential – information systems and patient care technology for the improvement and transformation of healthcare. The attainment of this essential helped me realize that nursing practice, in addition to patient care, involves many professional activities, such as the implementation of quality improvement initiatives and administrative decision-making. As mentioned previously, I have an issue with information technology, and this essential made me understand how critical it is for me to develop in this area and acquire more knowledge. My plan is to take additional time to improve my gaps in understanding of information technology to become proficient in this field. Now, I should apply my current skills to healthcare information systems to identify the areas in which my understanding is critically insufficient to focus on them in the nearest future. I will research additional literature to support my learning and growth to comprehend information systems and technology as they relate to DNP.

The following essential described by AACN refers to health care policy for advocacy in healthcare. This essential is validated by an example of a particular framework facilitating or impeding the healthcare services delivery and the provider’s ability to engage in practice, addressing healthcare needs. Various factors may affect this essential, including the government’s actions, institutional decision-making, and internal organizational standards. This essential helped me realize that, although the primary goal of healthcare – helping people – is fundamental, the process of delivering healthcare services is affected by different factors. Thereby, in terms of long-term commitment, I should contribute as much as possible to policy development, utilizing my vision of healthcare through political activism. It is not my strong side, which is why I should take time to understand how health policy impacts care delivery and what I can do personally to contribute to that process.

AACN describes the next essential as interprofessional collaboration for improving patient and population health outcomes. Attaining that essential helped me realize the importance of teamwork in the healthcare industry. The environment in which healthcare services are delivered is highly complex, and all healthcare professionals should act as a collaborative team to ensure safe, effective, and timely care. In terms of that particular essential, I feel like I am capable of doing what is required in DNP. I possess solid social and collaborative skills, which will help me during work as a part of a collaborative team, I can rely on other people to help me, and I can be reliable myself. However, I have room for improvement, even in this area. I can learn how to transfer my own collaboration skills to other people to help my colleagues and, possibly, guide them as a leader to increase teams’ efficiency.

The following essential represents clinical prevention and population health for improving the overall health status of the nation. While attaining this essential, I understood that helping a person who needs medical attention and treatment is not the only task of a nurse in DNP. As an example, nurses should look further and put efforts to help the healthcare community prevent various diseases from ever occurring and seek ways to improve the health of the entire population. When there is an opportunity, enhancing the health status should be done as quickly as possible, and I should contribute to that as much as I can. I feel that, as a DNP practitioner, I should commit to my profession more than just my working hours. I should be attentive in my work and life and develop various ideas on how I can help the nation achieve the described goal. Further, I can bring those ideas to my colleagues and seek their help to implement them, creating a collaboration team, as per the previous essential.

Finally, AACN describes the last essential as advanced nursing practice. This essential refers to the area of nursing specialization in DNP, stating that all nurses should apply various fields of scientific, social, and cultural knowledge according to their areas of specialization. Although DNP graduates should be proficient in many areas of nursing practice and possess a significant amount of knowledge, I realize that the attempts to master all advanced roles will most likely fail. A DNP nurse should focus on their area of specialization in a larger nursing domain. However, I believe that healthcare professionals should also have at least basic knowledge in other areas in order to understand how their specialization correlates with others. That element of DNP is important since nursing practitioners should know where they can seek assistance from other specialists and where they can offer their own help. I will be actively practicing in my particular area of specialization to master and understand how it may benefit other fields.

Overall, the attainment of the essentials outlined by the AACN helped me realize the complexity of DNP and the amount of knowledge and skills a nurse should acquire before mastering this field of nursing practice. The key takeaway from the essentials and the course helped me identify my strengths and weaknesses, areas for improvement, and insufficiencies in my knowledge. I have identified barriers, which needed to be overcome as well as facilitators of my progress. However, this reflection was also highly significant for me as I was able to outline everything I should do to become a proficient DNP practitioner. My short-term and long-term goals have become more apparent, and I have found the courage and inspiration to start filling my knowledge gaps and improving my skills.


American Association of Colleges of Nursing. (2006). The essentials of doctoral education for advanced nursing practice. 

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