Hello! My name is Seth Wagner and I would like to share with you why I pursued my doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree from the University at Buffalo School of Nursing!
I’ve been a registered nurse since 2012 and immediately started working at Jericho Road Community Health Center (JRCHC) in Buffalo. JRCHC is a federally qualified health center with a focus on providing primary care to low-income families, refugees and underserved individuals in Buffalo. I started working as a triage nurse, evaluating patients who walked into the clinic or called by phone with a wide variety of health concerns. I gathered the information, communicated with the primary care provider and determined the level of care they needed. This role was both rewarding and challenging, but after a couple of years, I felt like I needed a change.
But what to do next? Finding new practice environments is a valid option that many nurses pursue, but I had grown connected to JRCHC. In my experience, advancement paths for RNs in community health trend toward nursing management, case management or care coordination. I didn’t feel particularly drawn to any of these roles. But if I didn’t want to leave JRCHC, then what did I want to do and what did I need to do it?
Here’s why I got my DNP.
I pursued my DNP so that I could expand my practice and take a more central part in developing medical care plans for my patients. I was always running into the edge of my license as an RN. I wanted to create a differential diagnosis, or order medications, labs or imaging. For that piece, I was reliant on someone else (a physician, physician assistant or nurse practitioner).
Although consultation and collaboration with other health care professionals is still a vital part of my job as a DNP, I can complete the process that I initiated. Before my advanced degree, it felt like I was running the race and stopping just shy of the finish line.
Another reason why I pursued my DNP was so that I could teach the next generation of nurses and nurse practitioners! Now that I have a few years of experience, I enjoy acting as a preceptor. We learn from each other! I bring my experience and students bring up-to-date changes in advanced practice.
There is always a wide variety of patients to see in the community health setting. We are never limited to one problem or one body system and we must take care of patients holistically. Community health and the methods of nursing have a synergy that is difficult to match. In the future, I may consider teaching in an undergraduate or graduate nursing program with a local university.
In addition to expanded practice and teaching opportunities, my DNP has increased my earning potential. Nurses are generally perceived as altruistic and self-sacrificing. While these ideals are definitely worth striving for, recent events have highlighted for me the importance of financial stability. With the COVID-19 pandemic many people are suffering from significant financial burdens and loss of employment.
I am very grateful that I still have the opportunity to work and that my advanced degree is as competitive now as it ever was. It is appropriate to be advocates for ourselves while providing compassion and support to the patients in our care.
My DNP degree provides me with challenges every day. I was feeling too comfortable and I needed a new challenge! Being in my comfort zone wasn’t wrong, but staying there would have caused my personal growth to falter. Others may find their own challenges in a different area of practice, different population or different research opportunities. Others may choose to change careers completely. Pursuing my DNP degree happened to be the change that was right for me and I haven’t regretted it!
Published October 9, 2020