The DNP: Developing New Policy Advocates


The DNP has the power to change healthcare. We have an obligation, as nurses and as patient advocates, to use our knowledge, skills and abilities to gain a seat at the table.

As the largest healthcare workforce, with over 3.1 million registered nurses, we should be the go-to profession for issues about healthcare. However, we still lag far behind our physician colleagues in positions as elected officials, at national healthcare conferences and in the boardroom.

As a nurse practitioner, individuals in my profession are still frequently referred to as mid-level providers. As the saying goes, “if I am a mid-level, who is the low-level?” I believe our collective lack of advocacy for our profession of nursing over many generations has kept us beholden to others’ direction and vision for healthcare.

As a recent DNP graduate (May 2015, Old Dominion University), I try to embrace as many of the DNP Essentials1 as I can every day. I have the skills and confidence to be a healthcare leader, a patient/profession/healthcare advocate, a scholar, an organizational innovator and a more effective advanced practice nurse.

I have learned to integrate new technologies into my patient care to improve outcomes and into my organizations to improve efficiency and delivery of care and education. Over all of these essentials, I have realized the importance of interprofessional collaboration as we all seek to improve patient outcomes. As an NP, I am educated and trained to provide high-quality, cost-effective healthcare resulting in improved patient outcomes. As a DNP, I can be a leader in interprofessional collaboration by gathering together those who seek to improve patient outcomes through cost-effective innovation.

As an experienced RN and FNP, I have been a preceptor for students from many different universities over the years. I have realized many of these students do not recognize the power of advocacy. They shy away from anything that has the work “policy” or “lobbying.”  Thinking about my education as a nurse, my only health policy in my BSN program was the nurses’ legislative day at the capitol. In my MSN/Educator program, we had a few more health policy interaction requirements, but still no dedicated course for health policy.

Yet the American Association of Colleges of Nursing has included Health Policy as an Essential component of the BSN, MSN and DNP education.2 During my DNP program, I had an entire semester course in health policy and completed a health policy Fellowship. These experiences have committed me to being more involved in health policy in my state as well as at the federal level.

I believe we all have an obligation as members of the largest health profession in country to be advocates for our patients, professions and practice. We need to ensure the knowledge, skills and abilities are integrated throughout the nursing curriculum beginning at the BSN level and continuing through the doctoral level. How else can nurses truly be able to “practice to the fullest extent of their education and training” as advocated by the Institute of Medicine?3


1. American Association of Colleges of Nursing. The essentials of doctoral education for advanced nursing practice.

2. American Association of Colleges of Nursing. Essentials series.

3. Institute of Medicine. The future of nursing: Leading change, advancing health.


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About Author

Rebecca Bates, DNP

Rebecca Bates, who has been a nurse since 2000, is passionate about providing healthcare for vulnerable populations. She earned her DNP at Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Va., and has been a family nurse practitioner in primary care since 2009. Her DNP research explored NP assessment of adolescent psychosocial risk factors. During her doctoral program, she completed a health policy fellowship and remains active in state and federal health policy advocacy. She has also engaged in global health advocacy and medical missions. She recently left private practice and currently works at a Free Clinic where she continues to precept NP students. She is an assistant professor for graduate and undergraduate nursing students. Rebecca believes nurses must have a seat at the table to improve the health of individuals and communities throughout the world.

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