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Filling the Void: DNPs of Color Bridges Professional Support Gap 

February 13, 2024


Filling the Void: DNPs of Color Bridges Professional Support Gap 

By Carisa Brewster

In 2015, Danielle McCamey embarked on the journey to pursue her doctorate in nursing practice. As she settled in and looked around her, she realized she was the only Black woman in her cohort. While this fact alone wasn’t a significant concern, the realization that her cohort mates had more access to specific opportunities—and getting more support—contributed to a growing sense of not belonging. Balancing a complex life outside school, she financially supported her single-parent mother and was a caregiver for her great-uncle. Juggling additional work hours to secure extra income, she was in survival mode, a stark contrast to most of her peers. Unable to find the support she needed from existing nursing organizations, McCamey took the initiative to establish her own: DNPs of Color is born. 

Informal Connections to Organizational Vision 

Before exploring the possibility of starting a new organization, McCamey began a Facebook group. Not surprisingly, she was flooded with requests to join. Members had similar stories and experiences, and the group flourished organically, offering support, encouragement, and inspiration. 

McCamey elaborates, “We began to share what I call ‘game secrets’—tips like, ‘apply for this funding because you don’t need to pay it back’ or ‘you need to check out this program because you get a mentor or a fellowship.’ We started sharing information and expanding our network so that we could have reach in different places and spaces.” 

Over time, it became evident that networking, connections, and tip-sharing should evolve into something more substantial—a dedicated organization addressing the unique needs of nurses of color pursuing a doctorate in nursing practice, a glaring gap in the landscape of nursing professional organizations. 

The Three Pillars of Impact 

The mission of DNPs of Color is to serve Doctor of Nursing faculty of color through three pillars—networking, mentorship, and advocacy—to increase diversity in doctoral studies, clinical practice, and leadership.  

“Your net worth is directly connected to your ability to network,” says McCamey. “Mentorship is literally the key to success in any endeavor. If you get yourself a good mentor, nothing can stop you. Advocacy is amplifying the voice of this growing body of nursing professionals with our unique needs, challenges, and contributions that we offer the nursing profession. It’s also looking at policies and creating ways to change some of the structure within nursing itself.” 


Attendance at each annual conference has experienced remarkable growth, doubling in numbers each year. The third annual conference, held last year, drew an impressive gathering of 300 professionals from diverse locations such as Maine, Hawaii, and as far as Canada.  

A standout moment was the privilege of hosting Virginia Allen, a 92-year-old nurse and member of the “Black Angels,” a group of Black nurses who played a major role in curing tuberculosis. Allen served patients at Sea View Hospital on Staten Island during the height of the pandemic in the early 1900s. Black Angels: The Untold Story of the Nurses Who Helped Cure Tuberculosis by Maria Smilios, chronicles this remarkable tale.  

“She was history personified,” says McCamey. “To have her at the conference was a transformative, empowering experience for our community.” 

DNPs of Color successfully initiated the second year of the My DNP Manuscript Program, aiming to enhance diversity in nursing research. The program pairs mentors with professionals whose dissertations are unpublished. DNPs of Color members have covered topics including advancing healthcare equity, addressing racism in healthcare, and generating actionable solutions to close these gaps.  

“No one is publishing our work because it’s not baked in the traditional scientific sense,” says McCamey. “It’s more in line with translational science, so it’s not as popular. But it still creates value because it helps to improve patient outcomes.” 

The Case for Professional Organizations That Center POC 

In the face of DEIB initiatives and departments facing attacks and dismantlement, McCamey makes a commonsense argument for the essential need for professionals of color to have access to organizations like DNPs of Color. The argument underscores the enduring consequences of decades of exclusion reverberating today.   

“When we have a space that’s focused and centered on those who have been historically marginalized and disenfranchised, it allows us to build community so that we can thrive through our shared experiences,” says McCamey. “We can be unapologetically ourselves without any judgment, othering, or exclusive practices that don’t allow us to meet our full potential to contribute and be productive.” 

Another benefit is the encouragement that motivates more nurses of color to pursue their doctorate in nursing. This credential not only grants them a seat at the table but empowers them to exert influence and participate in decision-making.  

“They can develop creative strategies to address the nursing shortage, burnout, and diversifying the profession,” says McCamey. “We bring a unique lens and expertise that provides a clear view of what policies need to be changed, what initiatives should be implemented to reach certain populations, and get them into the doors of nursing school. This brings a broader community of providers and nurses into healthcare settings and academia.” 

The Future of DNPs of Color 

McCamey sees the organization as setting the standard for what it means to be a doctoral-prepared nurse. The DNP is the largest growing doctorate within nursing; over the past decade, there have been over 50,000 nurses who have earned their DNP vs. 7,000 who have earned their Ph.D.  

“Because the DNP is structured differently from a Ph.D., it has allowed more people from communities of color to attain a doctorate level of education,” says McCamey. “We have an opportunity to leverage and change the culture of nursing so that it’s more inclusive and applicable to the clinical practice.” 

Danielle McCamey, DNP, ACNP-BC, FCCP is a mentor, leader, and educator. She has nearly 20 years of nursing experience and over a decade of experience as an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner. Her specialties range from peri-anesthesia to palliative and critical care. She serves as the Assistant Dean for Strategic Partnerships and Assistant Professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing. Currently, she practices in Surgical Critical Care at a Washington, D.C. area hospital.  


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