August 29, 2013

VUSN students pursue varied paths

Vanderbilt University School of Nursing is welcoming 452 new students who are pursuing either a Master of Science in Nursing, Doctor of Nurse Practice or Ph.D. in Nursing Science degree.

From left, Evelyn Doak, Brynn Atchley and Erin Beaty take part in last week’s orientation at Vanderbilt University School of Nursing. (photo by Susan Urmy)

Vanderbilt University School of Nursing is welcoming 452 new students who are pursuing either a Master of Science in Nursing, Doctor of Nurse Practice or Ph.D. in Nursing Science degree.

The incoming class of master’s students have a varied type of entry into the program. There were 147 students who have a degree in a field other than nursing, 25 associate degree nurses who are participating in VUSN’s ASN-MSN program, 184 students who have a BSN degree who are pursuing their Master of Science in Nursing degrees and 18 who are starting post-master’s studies. The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program has 68 new students and the Ph.D. program has seven new incoming students.

“There has never been a better time to pursue nursing education and we are delighted to welcome all of our incoming and returning students. These are the people that are going to shape the future of health care,” said Linda Norman, DSN, R.N., Valere Potter Menefee Professor of Nursing and dean of VUSN.

Robert Imada is a registered nurse and recent BSN graduate who is pursuing his Master of Nursing in the Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) specialty.

Imada is originally from the San Francisco Bay area and moved to Baltmore in 2010 for his nursing education at Johns Hopkins University. He has a wide variety of experience that includes working in HIV prevention services for a nonprofit community health organization in Pleasant Hill, Calif., and serving as a multicultural student services program coordinator at the University of California-Santa Cruz.

While earning his BSN, Imada worked in acute care psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital and interned with the school’s Community Outreach Program, conducting geriatric home health visits in Baltimore. The biggest impact on him to pursue psychiatric nursing was volunteering as a patient support aide at a geriatric behavioral outpatient services program.

“One of my lifelong mentors, who is a psychiatric nurse, helped me see there are really great opportunities as a nurse practitioner to play a role in preventive health,” said Imada. “I am excited to learn from the Vanderbilt PMHNP faculty and be of service within the community mental health field.”

He has also seen, firsthand, how physical health and mental health interrelate. When Imada was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in his 20s, he entered a medical weight loss program and dropped 70 pounds. His diabetes is in remission.

“We students have to ask ‘how do I want to practice? How can I best serve?’ For me, that’s mental health,” said Imada. “We all want to thrive, and anyone can get stuck in a cycle — physically and/or mentally — and need support from a health care team and outside network. Nursing and nurse practitioners are at the heart of helping individuals holistically to reach their fullest potential.”

Women’s Health/Family Nurse Practitioner Tiffany Gibson is pursuing her Doctor of Nursing Practice degree.

Based in Winston-Salem, N.C., Gibson is the medical director for Quality Improvement projects, working with hospitals and Carolina ACCESS populations in a three-county area. Carolina ACCESS is North Carolina’s Medicaid managed care program.

“I’m choosing the DNP because I believe you need to be at the top of your educational ladder in any career,” said Gibson. “I want to be able to apply research to improve practice, but I also love bedside care and want to be the best clinician I can be.”

Her Carolina ACCESS work has helped her view health care delivery in a different way.

“We have all this data and can geo-map down to identify a disease process in a specific zip code,” said Gibson. “This information is so valuable for how we care for people. We can determine this zip code has more children with asthma, so maybe we need to put a pulminologist there. The residents from that neighborhood have a lot of emergency department visits, so maybe we need to get them access to a walk-in clinic.”

She earned her Master of Science in Nursing from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in 2006, her bachelor’s in Nursing from UNC-Greensboro in 2001, and is delighted to be starting her doctoral education at Vanderbilt. She will continue to work and live in North Carolina with her husband and two children while taking part in this distance learning program.

Gibson, who became a certified HIV/AIDs instructor traveling the state while still in high school, wants to put her DNP education to work in the community.

“I can’t wait to take what I learn at Vanderbilt and really work on these projects, really get it out there,” said Gibson.

Kasey Jordan is pursuing her Ph.D. to also make a research difference when it comes to public health, specifically working in the area of health outcomes.

She decided on a nursing career as a high school student in Georgia assigned to a health occupations track. After a year or so and with an internship at a local family practice clinic, she knew nursing was for her.

She earned her baccalaureate in Nursing from the Medical College of Georgia in Athens in 2006, but found her true passion in public health nursing. She worked for the Durham County Health Department in North Carolina while earning her master’s in health administration and leadership from Duke University. As part of her master’s, she also developed a student training program for Family Health Ministries’ pilot Haitian community health worker project.

“In the hospital, it was always hard to get through 12 hours and get everything done for my patients,” said Jordan. “In public health, the needs of the community are so overwhelming, but it stirred up my interest in using the administration and leadership aspect to influence the delivery of care.”

She and her husband, who is finishing his Ph.D. in Education from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, have relocated to Georgia. Jordan was a nursing instructor in the associate degree nursing program at Durham Technical Community College. She will teach clinicals at Georgia Regents University while pursuing her Ph.D.

Though she applied to other programs, she chose Vanderbilt because of the fit.

“Vanderbilt feels like a really good launching point for my interests. I get a strong sense the school and faculty are invested in their students, and it is the best place for me to develop as a researcher.”