August 28, 2014

Incoming VUSN students driven to make a difference

This year, Vanderbilt University School of Nursing welcomed 463 new students pursuing Master of Science in Nursing, Doctor of Nursing Practice or Ph.D. degrees.

Vanderbilt’s Mr. Commodore made an appearance at the School of Nursing’s recent pre-specialty student picnic. (photo by Diana Vasquez)

This year, Vanderbilt University School of Nursing welcomed 463 new students pursuing Master of Science in Nursing, Doctor of Nursing Practice or Ph.D. degrees.

VUSN is the largest professional school at Vanderbilt, and offers a variety of entry options to students. This year there are 140 new students who have degrees in fields other than nursing who are beginning their pursuit of an MSN degree to become an advanced practice nurse. The school admitted 18 nurses who have an associate degree in nursing to participate in the ASN to MSN program.

From left, Marshay James, Maria Hurt and Caleb Bernhardt are among the new School of Nursing students pursuing Master of Science in Nursing, Doctor of Nursing Practice or Ph.D. degrees. (photo by Steve Green)

In addition 180 students who have a BSN degree joined the ranks of Master of Science in Nursing students, along with 36 who already have an MSN degree who are starting post-master’s studies to add a new specialty credential. The Doctor of Nursing Program welcomed 85 new students, of whom 31 are combining their DNP studies with a post-master’s certificate.

The Ph.D. program has four new incoming students.

“This is the most exciting time to pursue advanced practice nursing,” said Linda Norman, DSN, R.N., Valere Potter Menefee Professor of Nursing and dean of VUSN. “The need for advanced practice nurses has grown exponentially. The need in health care for advanced practice nurses who can generate new knowledge and for nurses who are experts in translating evidence into practice and making systems changes is greater than ever before.”

Mary Piereson, Nurse-Midwifery/Family Nurse Practitioner student, and Fernando Mediano, Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner student, get ready to participate in breakout groups during VUSN’s orientation last week. (photo by Steve Green)

Each of the incoming students brings a unique background that will enrich the learning environment for all students, such as Jacklyn Munn, who is pursuing her MSN to become a Family Nurse Practitioner.

Munn is a former U.S. Army Captain who graduated from West Point and, soon after, deployed with special operations forces to Afghanistan as part of the cultural support team reaching out to Afghani communities.

“I saw how local doctors, nurses and midwives were working in the community, and it was amazing to see on a cultural level how important and what a stabilizing presence that nurses were to the community at large,” said Munn.

Following that tour, Munn served as part of the Wounded Warrior Transition Brigade at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, D.C., which relocated to Bethesda, Maryland.

“The doctors were wonderful, but there was something about being a nurse practitioner and the holistic approach that really opened up people,” said Munn.

Munn and her husband, a captain in the U.S. Army now stationed at Fort Campbell, relocated to Nashville from North Carolina. For Munn, Family Nurse Practitioner is the ideal specialty because she wants to provide care to “everyone.”

She remains committed to those who serve and would like to eventually treat veterans.

Susan Grant, M.S., R.N., chief nurse executive for the six-hospital Emory Healthcare system in Atlanta, is pursuing her Doctor of Nursing Practice degree.

“I’m excited to be going back to school because our changing health care environment demands all of us to create new models of care that are more efficient and more value-driven,” Grant said.

Dylan Van Lith and Janet Usher are both Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner students. (photo by Steve Green)

A chance opportunity working as a nursing assistant at a nursing home during her sophomore summer of college helped Grant realize that nursing was the right fit for her. She earned a BSN from the Medical College of Georgia and a Master of Psychiatric/Community Mental Health Nursing from the University of South Carolina. In practice, she found herself drawn to helping people and families dealing with catastrophic illness.

Grant has served in nursing administration roles for more than 20 years at various health systems throughout the country, including as chief of Nursing and Patient Care Services at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, where she developed her passion for patient- and family- centered care.

“I want to learn more about using data to drive evidence-based decisions, and as the nurse executive of a health system, if I want to motivate and inspire our nurses to pursue their education — whether it be baccalaureate, masters or doctoral — I need to walk the talk too,” Grant said.

Nicole Beckmann is a pediatric nurse practitioner in Pediatric Bone Marrow Transplant at the University of Minnesota Children’s Hospital, and teaches undergraduate nurses at St. Olaf College.

She is pursuing her Ph.D. at Vanderbilt to contribute to pediatric palliative care in meaningful ways that impact patients.

“Ever since I was an undergraduate nursing student, I have been drawn to research questions; the ‘whys’ of what we do and understanding how that impacts the care of patients,” she said.

Early in her career in bone marrow transplant, Beckmann noticed that there was a broad spectrum of ways that children and families coped with the stressors during transplants.
In particular, she observed two children with similar diagnoses and similar treatment courses, but with dramatically different recoveries and attitudes about their progress.

“I want to study this issue in greater detail with the goal of providing better support and assistance to families through the transplant process,” she said.

Beckmann started her career as an intensive care unit nurse and completed her Master of the Science of Nursing as a pediatric nurse practitioner at Duke University. She has practiced in pediatric urology as well as pediatric bone marrow transplant.