What do DNP students and anthropologists have in common?

Dean's Blog |
Judith Karshmer

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that effective modern health care needs to support everyone, not just a fortunate few. This mindset forms the bedrock of Arizona State University, where we define ourselves by whom we include, not exclude. Whom do we include in our health care solutions? Do we listen to multiple stakeholders in our search for better delivery? This search for inclusion causes us to look not only to traditional providers but also to rural communities, underserved populations, and small, nonprofit organizations. Rather than simply paying lip service to inclusion, we see it as a call to action.  

Image removed.Edson College DNP Student Alyssa is pictured here going over content from SolarSPELL with community health workers in Vanuatu. Photo from 2019.

Nowhere is this drive more apparent than in our Doctor of Nursing Practice program’s fieldwork course. Through this class, students learn to think about community health needs in terms of problems, issues, and gaps. By framing their fieldwork in these terms, our DNP students dig deeper to discover the root challenges that exist in the community, and how they can be sustainably addressed to improve health outcomes.

This commitment to inclusion has led to nearly 80% of our students addressing issues and populations that might otherwise go unnoticed. From looking at teachers’ mental health awareness at the Boys and Girls Club to examining mindfulness and chronic pain management within the Crossroads substance abuse treatment program, our DNP students focus on real-world solutions. They’ve even collaborated with engineering and sustainability students to develop a solar-powered health education library that would fit into a backpack.

By framing our DNP projects this way, we’re asking students to approach health care questions a bit like an anthropologist. We know they have the experience and technical training in health care, but can they understand how people live? How can cultural norms and social institutions inform how individuals think about their own health?  What new perspectives can be included in a DNP project to effect real change? These are big questions with complex answers, but our DNP students are up to the challenge.