Date of Conferral



Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)




Eileen R. Fowles


The complex nature of healthcare requires nurse leaders to be skilled in professional practice, communication, teamwork, and problem solving to improve staff satisfaction and patient outcomes. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing and Institute of Medicine promotes graduate education for nurse leaders to enhance the delivery of quality care to the nation's diverse patient populations. Guided by the diffusion of innovation theory, this project explored the differences in nursing care hours, staff turnover, nurse quality indicators, as well as leadership characteristics on units lead by masters-prepared and non-masters-prepared nurses. Forty-eight nurse leaders completed the impact of graduate education among nurse leaders (IGENL) survey addressing perceptions of their ability to change practice, teamwork, communication, and problem-solving skills. Staffing reports, Nurse Quality Indicators (NQI), and Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) data were collected from 34 hospital units. Data were summarized and t tests were conducted to examine the differences in NQI and HCAHPS data from units lead by nurses with and without a graduate degree. No significant differences were noted in these measures. In the IGENL survey data, the nurse leaders with a graduate degree had significantly higher scores on the leadership characteristic subscales of professional practice, communication and teamwork, and problem solving than did those without. The outcome of this project can contribute to positive social change within healthcare organizations by supporting the pursuit of graduate education for nurse leaders, which could enhance leadership attributes and subsequently improve staff satisfaction and patient outcomes.