Time management advice for students in a DNP program

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A cascade of reports documenting the extent of human error and poorly allocated health care resources, combined with the desire for better patient-centered care all contributed to the creation of the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree in 2004. One of these reports from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) in 1999, “To err is human: Building a safer health system,” shared that somewhere between 44,000 and 98,000 Americans die each year as the result of health care errors.

An additional IOM position statement in 2001, “Crossing the Quality Chasm,” revealed that in the past, the health care industry did not make proper use of its staff, technology, and other resources. Another IOM report in 2003, “Health Professions Education: A Bridge to Quality,” emphasized the need for patient-centered care and evidence-based practice. These reports, along with the changing and complex demands of the health care environment, led to the need for and popularity of the DNP degree.

Why are DNP graduates so important in the nursing community?

DNP graduates are assets in the nursing industry. From the nursing shortage to the increasing complexity of patient care, the health care field needs to employ nurses who have benefited from the intensive coursework of DNP programs and who understand the need for an evidence-based approach to patient care.

Students value DNP programs because their studies increase their skills and knowledge base to deliver high-quality care, while hospitals and long-term care facilities frequently hire DNP graduates because of their leadership and extensive health care acumen. Essentially, DNP graduates are not just making the nursing industry safer, they’re revolutionizing the health care industry as a whole.

What is one of the biggest challenges facing online DNP students today?

One of the most difficult challenges facing DNP students today is time management. The National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women’s Health (NPWH) conducted a study of 34 DNP students across 12 states. The researchers discovered that “The greatest challenge for participants was balancing the demands of school, work, and personal life, and establishing time and commitment priorities.”

As many DNP students work full-time in the health care industry, they may have to be careful as they account for the heavy course load and try to stick to a strict schedule. Time management is difficult enough for many graduate students, especially with the intensive curriculum offered at DNP programs. The NPWH report discussed how many students emphasized the necessity to be self-disciplined and proactive. This fact is why it is important for students to attend a program, like Bradley’s, that is transparent with the time they will need to dedicate toward their studies.

“Bradley does a really good job at making sure that they are very transparent as to how much time it’s going to take,” Nicole Delinski, a Bradley DNP Leadership student, explained. “They give a full curriculum, so you know when assignments are [going to] be due throughout that entire eight-week schedule.”

Man checks watch for time

What steps can students take to effectively manage their time?

Like with any doctorate program, DNP students must leverage effective time management techniques and technology to succeed and get the most out of their education. As mentioned previously, many DNP students must balance their personal and work lives with their education.

For example, on any given day, students may have a few assignments, papers and studying to do, while still working full-time and spending time with their loved ones. Here are three tips for how students can best manage their time while they’re enrolled in a DNP program:

  1. Start with a plan.

    Proper time management techniques start with a well-laid plan. At the beginning of every semester, students should diligently go through their syllabus. Then, they should mark down key dates, projects, assignments and more on a digital or traditional calendar or planner. This step will remove any risk for surprises or last-minute due dates. After all, no student really wants to stay up all night the day before a due date because he or she put off work or forgot to jot it down.Additionally, students should create a weekly or daily schedule and stick to it. Once key deadlines are written down, students should create a plan of attack for how they will tackle each assignment. For example, they may devote a few hours each week to research for an upcoming essay so that they do not feel stressed to rush through it in the few days before it is due.

  2. Establish solid communication channels between instructors and peers.

    A frequently overlooked aspect of effective time management is being willing to speak up. Students should voice their concerns with their instructors if they fear they are falling behind due to mounting work or familial pressures. It’s important to establish a solid communication channel early on each semester, so students can feel free to seek out help or advice when they need it. For example, they may be able to gain valuable feedback or direction for their assignments by collaborating with their peers or instructors.“We really want our students to be successful,” Dr. Francesca Armmer, associate professor of nursing at Bradley University, explained. “We have a two-fold commitment: We have a commitment to the profession, and we have a commitment to our students.”

  3. Develop strong routines.

    Instead of making loose plans, students should create strict, comprehensive routines for getting their work done. They may spend a certain amount of time for each course and then further develop this routine by allotting a specific amount of time for each facet of the class. For example, students in a Legal and Ethical Issues in Health Care course may spend two hours a day reading the material, one-hour taking notes or writing and another hour devoting time to research for an upcoming project or essay.While students shouldn’t be afraid to mix up the routine and have fun occasionally, they also need to be willing to work ahead to avoid falling behind. Effective time management is a discipline that takes hard work and flexibility to master but will ultimately pay off in the end.

People interested in working toward a doctorate degree in nursing should consider Bradley University’s online DNP program. Whether they enter with a bachelor’s degree in nursing or are already masters-prepared RN hoping to further advance their career prospects, a DNP degree may be the right fit for them. The DNP degree will prepare them to develop, evaluate and improve existing clinical practices in order to deliver the highest quality of advanced care. Contact a program representative today to learn more.