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First leadership-track DNP students among VUSN incoming class

Aug. 31, 2017, 8:25 AM

New PreSpecialty students Kevin Baer (left) and Todd Baer collect their white coats on the first day of orientation. (photo by Joe Howell)

Vanderbilt University School of Nursing (VUSN) welcomed 474 new Master of Nursing Science, Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) and Ph.D. students in a series of orientation events Aug. 16-28. The new class included the school’s first cohort of eight executive leadership-track DNP students.

The incoming Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) class of 402 included 187 students who hold Bachelor of Science in Nursing degrees and are beginning their master’s studies. These students concentrate on specific health care specialties such as adult-gerontology acute care, neonatal and women’s health. Also pursuing specialties are 32 students who have already earned MSNs, but wish to add further specialization with Post-Master’s Certificates.

An additional 171 students entered the MSN program with degrees in fields other than nursing; these PreSpecialty students spend three semesters in intense, full-time foundational prelicensure studies before continuing to the three-semester specialty component and the completion of their MSN degrees. The incoming class also includes 12 students in the school’s ASN to MSN program for registered nurses who already have associate degrees in nursing.

Among those students are 25-year-old Todd Baer and 27-year-old Kevin Baer, who may be the first pair of brothers in the VUSN program at the same time. They entered the PreSpecialty program together, with Todd choosing to become a family nurse practitioner and Kevin selecting the psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner program.

“We have two older brothers who are nurses, one an R.N. and the other an FNP,” Kevin Baer said. “Our older brother, who is an FNP, came to this program a couple of years ago. He loved his experience here.”

From left, Jill Seys, Norine Watson and Jane Mericle are three of eight students in the inaugural Executive Leadership DNP program. (photo by Theresa Montgomery)

The two say they see definite advantages to be going through Vanderbilt together.

“It’ll be nice to have a study partner right from the start. We can help each other remember assignments and tests, and we can work through difficult concepts,” Kevin Baer said.

Todd Baer agreed, saying, “I know I’ll get to know some wonderful people in the program, but I’ll never feel as open with them as I am with my own brother in saying, ‘Hey, I’m struggling with this.’ We can encourage one another when it starts to get hard.”

Seven new scholars were admitted to the Ph.D. in Nursing Science program administered through Vanderbilt’s graduate school. One of them, Kendra Osborn, is earning her third Vanderbilt degree. After graduating from the College of Arts and Science in 2015, she completed her MSN in psychiatric-mental health in August. Her doctoral work will investigate the impact of socioeconomic status on adolescent mental health.

The DNP program admitted 65 new students, eight of whom are enrolled in VUSN’s new executive leadership DNP. The executive leadership track was established for nurses in top organizational roles. Doctoral work includes studies in lean methodology, advanced health care economics and evidence-based management, as well as the development of a comprehensive DNP research and implementation project.

Jane Mericle, MHS-CL, R.N., operational vice president and chief nurse executive for Nemours/AI duPont Hospital for Children in Delaware, says conversations with VUSN Dean Linda Norman, DSN, R.N., the Valere Potter Menefee Professor in Nursing, helped her determine that the Executive Leadership DNP was a perfect fit for her needs and experience.

“As an executive leader and a chief nurse, I am responsible for translating research to practice, leading a journey of continuous improvement in quality and patient safety, implementing innovative models of care that drive value in our systems, and building programs that lead us into the future,” Mericle said. “I know that this scholarly program in leadership will make me a better professional partner, mentor and role model,” Mericle said.

Incoming DNP student Thomasena Moore, MSN, MHA, R.N., is a surgical quality management nurse consultant with the Durham Veterans Affairs Healthcare System. She believes the Executive Leadership DNP will give her research knowledge and skills that she can use to improve the VA system. Her DNP work will seek to discover if the quest for benchmarked metrics has an adverse effect on patient care.

“I think it is important to validate the efficacy of national benchmarked metrics and the effects that these metrics may sometimes have on overall patient safety and quality of care,” Moore said.

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