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Nursing graduates embrace quest for health care excellence

May. 19, 2016, 8:47 AM

Justin Ellison, Erica May, Joanna Jhant, Rachael Sweeney and Mindy Johnson celebrate at the School of Nursing ceremony. (photo by Susan Urmy)
Justin Ellison, Erica May, Joanna Jhant, Rachael Sweeney and Mindy Johnson celebrate at the School of Nursing ceremony. (photo by Susan Urmy)

Linda Norman, DSN, R.N., Valere Potter Menefee Professor of Nursing and dean of Vanderbilt University School of Nursing (VUSN), gave a charge to graduates to “go be excellent” during the school’s Commencement and Investiture ceremonies last week.

Tiffany Gwartney takes a selfie with Dawn Vanderhoef, Ph.D., DNP, left, and Mavis Schorn, Ph.D., APRN, CNM, at the School of Nursing ceremony. (photo by Susan Urmy)
Tiffany Gwartney takes a selfie with Terri Allison, DNP, R.N., left, and Mavis Schorn, Ph.D., APRN, CNM, at the School of Nursing ceremony. (photo by Susan Urmy)

She exhorted them to be excellent as advanced practice nurses, nurse leaders and forever students seeking new knowledge. She also called on them to examine health care challenges and discover unique ways and new knowledge to transform health care and their profession.

The ceremony recognized 43 Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) graduates and 329 master’s-prepared graduates. Seven nurses who earned their Ph.D.s in Nursing Science were recognized during Graduate School activities.

School of Nursing graduate Mary Muchendu smiles as students line up for the main ceremony. (photo by Susan Urmy)
School of Nursing graduate Mary Muchendu smiles as students line up for the main ceremony. (photo by Susan Urmy)

Marilyn Dubree, MSN, R.N., Executive Chief Nursing Officer of Vanderbilt University Medical Center and herself an alumna of VUSN, welcomed the graduates and guests before providing background on the investiture of the academic hood.

School of Nursing Founder’s Medalist Jessica Walker, MSN, APRN, center, receives her hood from Dawn Vanderhoef, Ph.D., DNP, left, and Mavis Schorn, Ph.D., APRN, CNM. (photo by Susan Urmy)
School of Nursing Founder’s Medalist Jessica Walker, MSN, APRN, center, receives her hood from Dawn Vanderhoef, Ph.D., DNP, left, and Mavis Schorn, Ph.D., APRN, CNM. (photo by Susan Urmy)

The ceremony honored those who completed their educations in August 2015, December 2015 and May 2016.

One August 2015 graduate was the school’s Founder’s Medalist, Jessica Walker, MSN, APRN.

Now a psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner at VUMC, Walker said she can’t remember when she didn’t want to be a nurse. She credits the School of Nursing for preparing her and positioning her to obtain her dream job of working as a member of VUMC’s Complex Care Team — Homeless Health Services.

Deeply interested in mental health issues, Walker served as president of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (Vanderbilt) and volunteered at Renewal House, Room in the Inn and National Alliance on Mental Illness (Davidson County) while a student.

School of Nursing Dean Linda Norman, DSN, R.N., congratulates Will Carpenter at Friday’s ceremony. (photo by Susan Urmy)
School of Nursing Dean Linda Norman, DSN, R.N., congratulates Will Carpenter at Friday’s ceremony. (photo by Susan Urmy)

Lena McMillan, MSN, who pursued dual specialties as a woman’s health nurse practitioner and adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner, also wanted to be in the health field from childhood. McMillan became a respiratory therapist to gain health care experience before applying to nursing school.

“My first job was in the burn unit at VUMC, where I was exposed to advanced practice nursing,” she said.

She noted how nurses worked with patients holistically. Wanting to have more direct patient care, she applied to VUSN in 2012. After she’d been accepted to VUSN, family circumstances changed her plans. Her grandmother, to whom she was close, was dying and McMillan made the difficult decision to postpone school and forgo a scholarship so she could be with her family.

School of Nursing graduate Amy Nassar gets a little help before the ceremony from her daughter, Janis. (photo by Susan Urmy)
School of Nursing graduate Amy Nassar gets a little help before the ceremony from her daughter, Janis. (photo by Susan Urmy)

Starting a year later meant she had to reapply for admission and for financial aid. Fortunately, when she did reapply, she was readmitted and awarded one of VUSN’s few full-tuition scholarships.

McMillan said that her family experiences helped shape how she plans to treat patients.

“I want to provide the care that keeps people out of the hospital or even prevents the disease in the first place,” she said.

VUSN conferred its MSN degrees in the following advance practice specialties: 53 in the Adult-Gerontology Acute Care program; 34 Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner; 66 Family Nurse Practitioner; 11 Family Nurse Practitioner/Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner/Emergency Focus; two Health Care Leadership; 18 Neonatal Nurse Practitioner; 10 Nurse-Midwifery; eight Nurse-Midwifery/Family Nurse Practitioner; two Nursing Informatics; 20 Pediatric Nurse Practitioner/Acute Care; 44 Pediatric Nurse Practitioner/Primary Care; 34 Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (Lifespan); 21 Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner; and six Women’s Health/Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner.

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