Department: Guest Editorial
The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree prepares APRNs to deliver high-quality, evidence-based care and lead the healthcare system with innovative practices and outcomes evaluation.1 To prepare graduates for these responsibilities, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing established eight competency outcomes for DNP program graduates.1 Expected outcomes can be achieved through experiential learning. Although traditional clinical sites are the mainstay for doctoral education, NP organizations can provide mentoring opportunities to help students achieve DNP competencies.
The Virginia Council of Nurse Practitioners-Tidewater (VCNP-TW) region provides leadership opportunities and mentorship for DNP students by inviting students to serve on its board. This regional organization is affiliated with the state NP organization whose mission is to foster professional growth for NPs and to advocate for improving the health of Virginians. Regional councils throughout Virginia are self-governing to better address the needs of local NPs. With over 200 members, the VCNP-TW board is comprised of the president, president-elect, past president, secretary, treasurer, and committee chairs. Several board members are DNP-prepared NPs who have taught in DNP programs.
Mentoring DNP students was a natural fit for this organization. Its goals are to promote policy, advocacy, and education for APRNs. Last year, four DNP students joined the VCNP-TW board, serving as committee chairs for education, government relations, nominations and awards, and student representation. Under the mentorship of DNP-prepared board members, students embraced the opportunity to lead their committees and try new initiatives.
As active board members, the students established goals and budgets while contributing to organizational leadership and planning for activities that would advance advocacy, education, and policy. They presented new ideas with fearless energy, creativity, and passion. The government relations chair became actively involved in government relations at local and state levels to advocate for legislation to advance NP practice within the state. The education chair, with the chapter president, organized a successful inaugural pharmacology conference that will be repeated with the addition of a student-developed clinical skills workshop.
The students assisted in reorganizing monthly membership meetings that encouraged member engagement and resulted in increased membership for our region. These experiences ignited the students' desires for increased leadership responsibilities; one student is now president-elect of our regional organization, and another student has joined the state NP organization's leadership board. VCNP-TW provided funds for three students to attend a national NP policy conference to broaden their advocacy and policy knowledge and skills in preparation to influence policy at local, state, and national levels. The exposure to national policy leaders who advocate for NPs and improving the health of individuals, families, and communities was invaluable to the students.
This experience enriched our profession by supporting DNP students with mentors and providing opportunities for them to grow as leaders and change agents. We will continue to encourage students to join our board and committees. Mentorship empowers students by providing opportunities to learn with and from professional colleagues. The organization is empowered with future leaders and equipped to advocate for NPs to impact the healthcare system and improve health outcomes.