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Diverse opportunities, degrees draw School of Nursing students

Sep. 1, 2016, 9:01 AM

From left, VUSN PreSpecialty students Sarah Vaillancourt, Rebecca Daniels, Jerald Westendorf, Brooke DeLaney Collins, Todd Styles and Angie Larson suit up in their new scrubs for the first full week of classes. (photo by Sara Putnam)
From left, VUSN PreSpecialty students Sarah Vaillancourt, Rebecca Daniels, Jerald Westendorf, Brooke DeLaney Collins, Todd Styles and Angie Larson suit up in their new scrubs for the first full week of classes. (photo by Sara Putnam)

Vanderbilt University School of Nursing (VUSN) has welcomed 478 new students from 45 states and three countries into its Master of Nursing Science (MSN), Doctor of Nurse Practice (DNP) and Ph.D. degree programs.

Of those, 150 students have degrees in fields other than nursing; these PreSpecialty students spend three semesters in intense, full-time foundational pre-licensure studies before continuing to the additional three-semester specialty component and the completion of their MSN degrees.

VUSN Dean Linda Norman talks to students during a welcoming picnic that was moved indoors due to inclement weather. (photo by Dina Bahan)
VUSN Dean Linda Norman talks to students during a welcoming picnic that was moved indoors due to inclement weather. (photo by Dina Bahan)

An additional 16 students who are already registered nurses and have associate degrees in nursing have joined the school’s ASN to MSN program.

The school welcomed 202 students who have Bachelor of Science in Nursing degrees to begin the specialty component of the MSN. These master’s students are concentrating on specific health care specialties ranging from adult-gerontology acute care to women’s health nurse practitioner.

Also concentrating on specific specialties are 27 students who have already earned MSNs and are pursuing an additional specialty in post-master’s studies.

VUSN’s DNP program admitted 77 new students, 22 of whom are also earning post-master’s certificates in addition to the DNP. Six new scholars were admitted to the Ph.D. in Nursing Science program.

Linda Norman, DSN, R.N., Dean of VUSN and Valere Potter Menefee Professor of Nursing, welcomed each group on their first morning.

“I enjoy meeting students at orientation, then watching and talking to them as they progress in their studies,” Norman said. “Their initial excitement is contagious — and I hope it never goes away — but it’s seeing them grow in knowledge and confidence that reinforces why we teach, research and mentor.”

Incoming students, from left, Jade Carboy, Celine Rivers, Candace Shipp, Tiffany Chance and Cerrissa Hugie meet Mr. Commodore. (photo by Dina Bahan)
Incoming students, from left, Jade Carboy, Celine Rivers, Candace Shipp, Tiffany Chance and Cerrissa Hugie meet Mr. Commodore. (photo by Dina Bahan)

Orientation activities began Aug. 15 for PreSpecialty students and continued through the month on a rolling basis, ending with orientation and the start of intensive on-campus sessions for DNP and Ph.D. students on Aug. 29.

PreSpecialty student Tristan Strong returned to Vanderbilt after earning a bachelor’s degree in human and organizational development at Peabody College of Education and Human Development in 2012. The former Commodore football linebacker intends to be a family nurse practitioner (FNP).

“I want to be able to provide care to individuals throughout all stages of life,” he said. “I love promoting a healthy lifestyle. Becoming a family nurse practitioner gives me a platform to turn my true passions into a career.”

Strong said his family, friends, former teammates and coaches have been supportive and excited about his decision to obtain his MSN.

“My wife is my biggest supporter and is always encouraging me to pursue my dreams,” he said. “I come from a large family of advanced practice nurses and RNs, so they are very happy that I chose a career in patient care.”

Shannon Storey, BSN, MSN, NP-C, currently works as an FNP at the Greensville Correctional Center, the largest corrections facility in the Virginia prison system.

She chose VUSN for her DNP work because of its curriculum and faculty as well as for the opportunity to incorporate advanced practice palliative and hospice care into her studies.

“That is unique to the degree program at Vanderbilt,” Storey said. “Terminal illness is very common in the world of corrections, but due to many factors, equal opportunity for, and access to, end-of-life care is harder to provide.

“Many offenders experience terminal illness and death without loved ones by their side. Fear, anxiety, and often, intolerable pain, need to be managed to provide a comfortable and dignified death,” she said. “I love the idea that I have the opportunity to discover or develop new methodology to improve quality of care for the incarcerated population.”

Dominique Stratton, BSN, BS, MSN, is currently a nursing instructor at Aquinas College School of Nursing in Nashville and is beginning her Ph.D. studies in VUSN’s Health Services Research track.

“The science behind why we do what we do as nurses is a passion of mine and a major drive behind everything I do as a nurse at the bedside and in the classroom,” she said. “I’m concentrating my research efforts on competency tools used to measure the manner in which nurses use clinical research for effective resource allocation in daily practice.

“With all that is required of nurses in the hospital or clinical setting, it’s easy to get caught up in practicing based on what has always been done,” Stratton said. “Hospital administration and unit management have a responsibility to ensure staff nurses know how to find evidence and use it specific to their patient population, incorporating consistent and effective evaluative measures for quality improvement.”

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