(BPT) - When open enrollment for the Health Insurance Marketplaces closed earlier this year, more than 7.1 million Americans had signed up for health insurance coverage. As millions of new patients continue to gain access to insurance under the Affordable Care Act, industry leaders are facing the challenge of providing quality care while meeting the needs of an aging population and patients with more chronic health issues. One emerging solution is the concept of 'care teams' that more closely engage health care professionals from all disciplines.
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends health care delivery through such multidisciplinary teams, among other tools, to help health care systems lower costs while continuing to provide the best possible care for each patient. Care teams that include nurse practitioners and physician assistants are proven to alleviate demand for physicians without increasing their supply, according to 2013 research from RAND Corporation, a nonprofit research and analytics institution.
Doctoral education in nursing practice prepares nurses with enhanced leadership skills to strengthen practice and health care delivery, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN). For this reason, nurses with doctoral education are being emphasized as an option for future leadership of care teams, as noted in the IOM's report, The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health. Nursing educators are taking note, with more institutions offering advanced nursing degree programs that prepare nurses through specific curriculum focused on implementing efficiencies in health care delivery and enhancing nurses' leadership skills.
Nurses are responding to meet this need and leading the care team charge through continued education. The AACN reports nearly 15,000 students were enrolled in Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree programs in 2013, a 21.6 percent jump from 2012.
Chamberlain College of Nursing is one education provider that is responding to the industry call to action to prepare nurses to develop and drive care teams. Chamberlain offers a DNP Healthcare Systems Leadership specialty track designed for master's-prepared nurses who want to pursue advanced leadership roles within their chosen specialty. Students learn about leadership in the context of nursing informatics, health policy, higher education administration and executive health care practice.
'The DNP graduate should be equipped with the tools to address modern health care delivery issues and improve the health care setting through more integrated, streamlined care,' says Mary Brann, DNP, MSN, RN, Chamberlain instructor and executive director for clinical excellence and regulatory compliance at a 540-bed university medical center. 'Chamberlain's DNP Healthcare Systems Leadership specialty track prepares advanced practice nurses to lead and manage complex health care systems. In my clinical role, I seek doctoral nurses to fill leadership roles and help lower health care costs by establishing more effective, patient-centric models of health care delivery.'
As Brann points out, industry advancement requires more nurses be prepared to facilitate the transition from practice that occurs in silos to practice that includes comprehensive input from all disciplines and the patient to ultimately elevate patient care and improve system efficiencies. Under these models, patient satisfaction increases because they are receiving more coordinated care and have more access to the resources and services they need.
'Nursing students today are developing skills to lead nurse units in providing comprehensive, cohesive, contiguous patient care; partner with health care educators to increase the pipeline of future nurses; and provide a heightened level of patient engagement,' Brann says.
As health care continues to evolve and progress, so will the responsibilities and contributions of nurses. Nurses today are integral to responding to issues facing the health care industry. Those with doctorate degrees will be essential to incorporating new approaches and solutions, such as care teams, within the future health care setting.