1. Doherty, Dennis P. MSN, RN, NPD-BC

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Area of Expertise: Leadership and Professional Development

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Dennis is a Senior Professional Development Specialist at Boston Children's Hospital's Department of Clinical Education, Informatics, Practice, and Quality. He manages the hospital's nursing orientation, oversees the nursing department's healthy work environment program, coordinates the evidence-based practice mentorship program, and facilitates leadership development across the career life span. Dennis' passions are role development and staff empowerment. Dennis has published and presented nationally on learner engagement strategies, healthy work environment, and leadership development. He is a PhD candidate at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, where he is studying the direct patient care to charge nurse role transition. Dennis is board certified in Nursing Professional Development (NPD).




1. What are the significant professional milestones thus far in your career journey?



DD: There are several milestones that stand out to me. First was becoming board certified in NPD. It was one of the proudest days of my nursing career. Knowing I passed the exam validated that I knew what I was doing and made me feel more confident in my daily work. The other milestones that come to mind involve the ANPD Annual Convention, which has been significant in my journey. In 2018, I presented a concurrent session about social media and NPD. Although I was nervous to present on a national stage, it was a great experience, and it helped me to connect with colleagues at the convention in a new way. Another milestone was joining the 2019 and 2020 Convention Content Planning Committees. I was able to connect with so many people who share the passion for our specialty. It was rewarding to collaborate with them in the planning process and see the convention come together each year. Finally, a significant milestone happened this past September when I participated in the 2020 convention opening session. It was such an honor to plan this program with my co-presenters, which ended up being a remote session because of the pandemic. It was awesome getting to know these amazing leaders, learn from them, and see how they approach NPD.


2. How have you seen the specialty of NPD grow/evolve/change during your career?



DD: Considering that I did not really appreciate what it means to be an NPD practitioner prior to transitioning into the role, my perspective is limited to the last 6 years. That being said, I think the publication of the NPD Scope and Standards, Third Edition in 2016 was big for me. I know we have had a scope and standards publication prior, but 2016 was when I really started hitting my stride, so this edition came at the right time for me. I think it helps NPD practitioners to be organized, make sense of our work, and advocate for ourselves.


Since 2016, I have seen the scope and standards become very prevalent in my daily work. For example, many individuals outside NPD think they know our role, but they really do not, and that can translate into getting involved in things that might not be right for us. It really helps to have the standards to support decisions. I check in with myself all of the time to make sure what I am being asked to do is within the scope. I did not have a true orientation when I came into this role. I get the sense that this is true for many of us. When our department recently hired a new colleague, we created an orientation program, and it was based on the scope and standards. Even my performance evaluation is grounded in the scope and standards. I know that work on the next edition is underway, and I am excited to see how this evolves in the future.


3. From your perspective, what do you see as significant trends or gaps in nursing practice that nursing professional development could address?



DD: There are definitely conversations that I see as important for NPD to be leading. We have opportunities to influence equality, diversity, and inclusion discussions, not only within our organizations but across the profession. NPD practitioners have such a unique perspective because we touch so many people within our organizations. We work with direct care staff, managers, senior leaders, and interprofessional colleagues. Our reach is so wide that we need to leverage it to positively impact change that will ultimately improve patient outcomes.


I see an opening for NPD practitioners to play a big part in optimizing the health of work environments. Whether we are creating programs that promote the resilience of direct care staff, teaching communication skills, or facilitating leadership development, these all impact organizational culture. I find myself teaching a fair amount of soft skills for nurses and other interprofessional staff. This includes topics like engaging each other in professional conversations, and I am struck with the amount of participants who are like, "oh wow, I never thought to approach a colleague in that way." It is not that they had not thought to-in reality, most were never formally taught how to engage their peers.


4. What insights can you share related to the value of NPD in healthcare organizations now and in the future?



DD: It is important for NPD practitioners to understand the goals of their organizations and the priorities of leaders. What do leaders in your healthcare organization value? Doing work that aligns with those priorities is important, but this is only half of the battle. NPD practitioners need to be strategic in showing leaders how our work contributes to achieving these goals. As NPD practitioners, we need to become fluent in the universal leadership language of data. We need to capitalize on opportunities to promote our work, focusing on the data and our outcomes. NPD practitioners should always be asking, "How do I showcase my work on the largest scale?" and "At what meetings, forums, and conferences can I share my outcomes?" If you are presenting or being published, do not be shy about making sure that leaders are aware of your accomplishments. Invite them to hear your presentations, tell them about the poster that got accepted to a conference, or share your published article.


5. What advice do you have for NPD practitioners in the context of today's health care and learning environments?



DD: When I was in college, I played drums in a moderately successful local rock band. I probably spent too much time promoting the band. Whether I was trying to get booked on the right gigs, handing out flyers for shows, or trying to get our demo to disc jockeys, I was always attempting to get more people to know about the band. It may seem like a weird analogy, but I think we need to approach NPD in a similar way. "Oh, you liked that program? There are two others coming up that I think you should check out. Want me to sign you up?" We need to be engaged with our stakeholders. Do not assume that when you work on something, staff will be lined up to participate. Instead, be like an aspiring rock star trying to build a fan base. There are a lot of competing demands for our learners, and unless we are out there making connections and letting stakeholders know what we are working on, we are not likely to have the level of engagement that we desire.