Assessing Relationships Among DNP and PhD Students: A Social Network Analysis Approach

Saturday, 28 October 2017: 2:35 PM

Jasmine Travers, PhD
NewCourtland Center for Transitions and Health, University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, Philadelphia, PA, USA
Marjorie Weis, DNP, MPH
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY, USA
Jacqueline Merrill, PhD, MPH
Columbia University, New York, NY, USA

Background: Doctorally prepared nurses are well-positioned to lead change in today’s healthcare environment and are expected to do so because of their advanced training, education, and practice experience. Partnerships between nurses with a doctor of nursing practice degree (DNP), a clinical practice doctorate, and nurses with a doctor of philosophy degree (PhD), a research doctorate, are important for identifying critical clinical questions necessitating research. These research questions may subsequently be translated into knowledge for practice, yet partnerships between DNP and PhD nurses are commonly missing. Early career contact, between clinically-focused DNP and research-focused PhD nursing students, may encourage desirable intra-disciplinary synergies.

Aim: To assess relationships among DNP and PhD nursing students after initiating a doctoral student organization (DSO).

Methods: An online survey assessed DNP and PhD student interaction (know the other’s work, met, worked with; satisfaction with communication; and open-text comments) pre- and post-DSO implementation at a research-intensive academic institution. Analysis consisted of descriptive statistics, social network analysis, paired t-test, and content analysis methods.

Results:Response rates were 72% (n=86) pre- and 60% (n=72) post- DSO implementation. More than half of respondents (56%) had participated in a DSO event (DNPs = 48% and PhDs = 80%, p = .014). Transitivity and cliques increased by 15% and 62%, respectively, suggesting that DNP and PhD students became a more cohesive group with a more organized communication structure post- DSO implementation. A decrease in diffusion by 15% suggests that students were expanding from current relationships and creating relationships with subsequent peers. Moreover, the average student had approximately two new relationships which may be attributed to participation in DSO events. Overall, participants reported an increase in satisfaction with communication between themselves and other DNP and PhD students over time. Narrative responses corroborated network measurements in which emerging themes included, “value in connecting with other disciplines,” and “improving mechanisms to associate with other students.”

Conclusions: We documented additional integration and organized communication among students after a strategy aimed to increase relationships (e.g., DSO implementation). Triangulation in our methods (i.e., descriptive statistics, network analysis, paired t-test, and qualitative data); was beneficial in validating our findings. Social network analysis has value for evaluating relationships between DNP and PhD nursing students and can capture change after a strategy to increase collaborative relationships. Academic institutions should implement and evaluate collaborative strategies as a means to increase the potential of doctorally-prepared nurses to improve health care delivery and outcomes. Educators preparing nurses to work across research and practice may consider network analysis to evaluate their efforts.