May 18, 2017

Nursing graduates ready to begin health care journeys

Linda Norman, DSN, R.N., Dean of Vanderbilt University School of Nursing (VUSN) and Valere Potter Menefee Professor of Nursing, told the Class of 2017 during Investiture ceremonies last week that they have chosen to become nurses at the best point in history.

School of Nursing student LaToya Hopkins holds her niece, Stella Moore, before the start of the main Commencement ceremony in Memorial Gym. (photo by Susan Urmy)

Linda Norman, DSN, R.N., Dean of Vanderbilt University School of Nursing (VUSN) and Valere Potter Menefee Professor of Nursing, told the Class of 2017 during Investiture ceremonies last week that they have chosen to become nurses at the best point in history.

“There is no better time than now to be a nurse. You are in a profession that is highly respected, challenging, fulfilling and innovating,” Norman said, referencing public opinion polls that rank nursing as the most respected profession in the country. “We look forward to what comes next in your professional journey.”

Analuisa Cabrera smiles after receiving her hood at the School of Nursing ceremony. (photo by Susan Urmy)

VUSN recognized 327 Master of Nursing Science graduates and 47 Doctor of Nursing Practice graduates in ceremonies on Branscomb Quadrangle May 12. An additional four nursing students received their Ph.D. degrees in Nursing Science in separate ceremonies held by the Graduate School.

Some of the school’s graduates finished their education according to the traditional academic calendar, ending this spring.

However, many of VUSN’s master’s graduates officially completed their advanced practice nursing education last August or December, and are already working in health care all over the country.

School of Nursing graduate Jason Williams receives his academic hood from Courtney Pitts, DNP, left, and Mavis Schorn, Ph.D. (photo by Susan Urmy)

One such graduate is Caroline Leithner, who earned a dual MSN/Master of Divinity degree, and is now a family nurse practitioner in an impoverished area of Washington state.

“Studying religion and nursing are not different from each other at all: they are both ways that we as human beings make sense of who we are, from different perspectives,” she said. “Looking at the entire person, not simply the disease process, is not only part of the nursing model of care, but also the work of pastoral theology and care.”

Leithner attended both the Divinity School and the School of Nursing ceremonies, receiving different hoods at each and wearing both an apricot VUSN and a red Divinity tassel.
Abisola “Abi” Ibrahim chose to do dual specialties, graduating as a Women’s Health and Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner.

The Indiana native said that adult-gerontology primary care was what she always knew she wanted to do, but decided she wanted additional specialization after becoming interested in women’s health in college.

Rebecca Soderland Rice gets pumped up to hear her name called during the School of Nursing ceremony. (photo by Susan Urmy)

“I think primary care is where we have to start if we really want to make some solid, lasting changes in patients’ health,” she said. “Then I became aware of the unique needs of the woman in the health care setting and decided I wanted more than the general base.”

Beverly Michelle “Shelly” Padgett was VUSN’s 2017 Founder’s Medalist, graduating with an MSN in Health Care Leadership. Padgett returned to school for her master’s after more than 15 years as a registered nurse and nurse educator at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC). Her decision to focus on health care leadership has already borne fruit. During her practica, she researched and developed nurse retention plans and patient post-discharge models that the Medical Center has since implemented.

She also developed a quality improvement research project for VUMC’s nurse residency program that improved participation and reduced the program’s cost.

“It’s hard for me to put into words what this program has done for me,” Padgett said. “Through it, I’ve found myself in nursing.” She currently works in VUMC’s Nursing Education and

Professional Development office, where she leads Nurse Residency and Preceptor programs.
Two VUSN faculty were honored as emeriti during Vanderbilt’s main ceremonies earlier in the day. Bonita “Bonnie” Pilon, Ph.D., was named professor of Nursing, Emerita, and Kenneth Wallston, Ph.D., was named professor of Nursing, Emeritus.

School of Nursing Dean Linda Norman, DSN, R.N., left, with Founder’s Medalist Beverly Michelle “Shelly” Padgett. (photo by Joe Howell)

The school’s 326 MSN degrees included: 55 in the Adult-Gerontology Acute Care program; 26 Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner; 58 Family Nurse Practitioner; seven Family Nurse Practitioner/Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner/Emergency Focus; seven Health Care Leadership; 20 Neonatal Nurse Practitioner; 10 Nurse-Midwifery; 12 Nurse-Midwifery/Family Nurse Practitioner; one Nursing Informatics; 14 Pediatric Nurse Practitioner/Acute Care; 42 Pediatric Nurse Practitioner/Primary Care; 47 Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (Lifespan); 19 Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner; and nine Women’s Health/Adult Nurse Practitioner.