Appreciative Advising: An Innovative Approach to Advising Doctor of Nursing Practice Students

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Academic advising is broadly defined as an interactive process in which an adviser assists a student in developing and achieving goals.1 Historically, the dominant academic advising model was prescriptive advising. Communication within prescriptive academic advising is linear, with directives flowing from the adviser to an individual advisee. Appreciative advising (AA) has emerged as an alternative to prescriptive advising2 and allows faculty and students to develop shared goals. Appreciative advising includes both individual and group sessions to provide individual mentoring and a supportive community of peers. The AA model has been used successfully with undergraduate nursing students to improve student retention and performance.2 Doctor of nursing practice (DNP) students have unique needs when compared with undergraduate students but still require advice, scholarly support, and a peer community, congruent with the components of AA. In addition, group advising streamlines faculty effort while enhancing student engagement. The purpose of this article is to describe our adaption of the AA model for DNP students.The Need for an Advising Model in DNP EducationDoctor of nursing practice educational programs assist graduates in meeting the DNP essentials.3 To meet these competencies, students require instruction and guidance, especially when they develop and implement the DNP project.4 This guidance can take many forms because the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) does not stipulate or recommend a single model of advising.4 Doctoral students need advice to plan their curriculum, manage school-life-work balance, develop the DNP project, ensure completion of all essentials, and transition into the role of a nurse leader.5In 2015, the AACN encouraged DNP programs to be attentive to efficiency and advised the use of team learning and projects to streamline resource allocation while improving quality and equity.4 Learning and working in teams provide students with opportunities to practice skills needed to meet essential VI, which focuses on collaboration. As nurse leaders in application of evidence to practice, students need opportunities to work in groups, so they can observe and practice techniques for teamwork and leadership on a small scale before leading groups at an institutional level. Although the primary goal of teamwork and AA is to prepare students to meet the essentials, engagement in a supportive scholarly community can improve student learning and enhance formation of a long-term collegial network.5Traditional prescriptive models of academic advising may be poorly suited to meet DNP student needs.6 In previous models of doctoral education, a student studies with a scholar, engaging in didactic study and hands-on apprenticeship, first performing the senior scholar’s work and then completing their own projects. This model has been successful at producing strong researchers whose work focuses in 1 area of interest. However, the DNP degree is not designed to produce researchers but, instead, develop nurse leaders who can assess clinical settings for the need for change, synthesize current literature, and implement evidence into practice.4 There is a large demand for doctorally prepared nurses,7,8 and the traditional senior-junior scholar mentorship system is inadequate for students in DNP programs.6The disconnection between the established advising and the needs of DNP students and programs has contributed to dissatisfaction among faculty and program directors. A recent national survey of DNP program directors found high rates of faculty dissatisfaction with the process related to the project and to student advising. Eighty-seven percent of faculty was dissatisfied or somewhat dissatisfied with the final project; only 2% were satisfied.6 As part of our ongoing quality improvement efforts, we conducted an internal DNP faculty survey.

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