Empathy assessment in doctor of nursing practice curriculum

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Nursing


Nursing is a caring profession requiring empathetic care for positive patient outcomes. The doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree has recently become the standard of educational preparation for advanced prepared registered nurses (APRNs). It is unknown how DNP programs currently incorporate empathy as a therapeutic communication skill imperative for today's APRNs. Limited literature exists related to affective learning activities within the DNP curriculum, and even less research exists regarding empathy. The purpose of this scholarly project was to perform a baseline assessment of an existing DNP curriculum for empathetic learning activities and to establish an understanding of DNP student and nurse faculty perceptions related to the importance of empathy as a skill set for APRNs. Kristen Swanson's Theory of Caring was utilized to provide a robust framework for curriculum assessment. The measurement of DNP student and nurse faculty perceptions regarding empathy was accomplished through the use of student-developed online surveys. Course materials, including Master Resource Outlines, were evaluated for affective learning content as defined by Bloom's Taxonomy of Educational Objectives and Graber et al. (2012) well as current literature recommendations. Limited affective learning activities existed in the evaluated DNP curriculum, paralleling the lack of literature related to empathy in DNP curriculum. Both DNP students and nurse faculty place value on the development of empathy as an essential skill set for APRNs. Additional research is needed regarding empathy development in DNP curriculum to obtain a more complete understanding of this essential attribute of a DNP-prepared-APRN. In addition, valid and reliable curriculum survey tools are needed to perform comprehensive, evidence-based curriculum assessments.




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