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Health Systems Overview

What is the University of Iowa’s Health Systems DNP (HS DNP)?
The University of Iowa’s Health Systems Doctor of Nursing Practice (HS DNP) program prepares nurses for leadership roles and executive leadership in health care. This program provides doctoral-level content and experience in the knowledge and skills needed for nurses to assume a wide variety of roles as indirect care providers. Examples are micro (unit) level nurse leaders and managers, meso- or macro-system roles such as program or clinic directors, organizational or systems administrators; educators; quality and safety leaders; care coordinators; and service line directors. According to the American Nurses Association (ANA) and American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), these roles are a nursing specialty and require proficient and competent practitioners. The HS DNP leader impacts the practice of nursing, the health care delivery system, and the shaping of health policy by providing the environment, resources, and knowledge needed for nurses to provide high quality, patient and family-centered, accountable nursing care and to practice as a professional with a business mindset and within multidisciplinary teams.

A key feature of the HS DNP is its focus on evidence-based practice and, especially, evidence-based management practice, as emphasized by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) in Keeping Patients Safe (2004). The HS DNP degree is not a research-focused degree, as is the PhD. It is a health systems practice-focused degree with an emphasis on the rigor of evidence-based management practice founded on research knowledge, the development of innovations, and the analysis of clinical and systems data.

The American Organization of Nurse Executives’ (AONE) Nurse Executive Competencies and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing’s (AACN) DNP Essentials provide the foundation for Iowa’s HS DNP program. The curriculum is built around the American Organization of Nurse Executives’ (AONE) five core competencies of: leadership, communication and relationship building, knowledge of the health care environment, business skills, and professionalism, which are applied based on scope of practice.

Excellent nursing leadership and administration is essential to ensure excellent patient care and delivery of services within health care systems. Nurse leaders are employed in creating environments that foster high quality, effective, and safe care and in educating nurses and patients. Iowa’s HS DNP program aims to produce nurse leaders who are equipped to meet the challenges of a complex health care system and a rapidly changing environment that demands highly skilled nurse problem solvers armed with evidence-based management ability.

Definitions

Nurse Executive
The nurse executive delivers executive practice in an organization, facility, program, or health system. The focus is on strategic planning and visionary leadership. The person in this role functions at the meso- or macro-system level, generally at the departmental, service line, program, organization, or system level.

Nurse Manager
The nurse manager delivers administrative practice (leadership and management) for a micro-system, generally at the unit level. The focus is on execution and implementation.

DNP Students with an Interest in Education
UI's Health Systems DNP program is designed to prepare nurses for leadership roles and executive leadership in all aspects of health care delivery systems other than as direct care providers (e.g., NPs, ARNPs).

Nurses with an interest in Nursing Education (e.g., director of education programs, program development, teaching roles in nursing) will find that the HS DNP program provides them an opportunity to obtain additional preparation in the nurse educator role and to develop an area of expertise that will help them more fully realize their potential within the health care system. For example, practicum experiences are customized and individualized to meet the students’ identified learning objectives.

Excellent nursing leadership, education, and administration is essential to ensure excellent patient care and the delivery of excellent services within health care systems. The knowledge, skills, and abilities of DNP prepared nurse leaders are employed in creating an environment that fosters high quality, effective and safe care. Iowa’s HS DNP program aims to produce nurse leaders who are equipped to meet the challenges of a complex health care system and a rapidly changing environment that demands highly skilled nurse problem solvers armed with evidence-based management ability. Preparing nurse educators who will prepare the nurse workforce is a key aspect of leadership in the health system.