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School of Nursing students drawn to culture of mentoring

Sep. 6, 2018, 9:13 AM

Incoming Vanderbilt University School of Nursing PreSpecialty students recently filled Nursing Annex room 155 while waiting for orientation to begin. (photo by Susan Urmy)

by Nancy Wise

It was unanimous. Incoming master’s, doctor of nursing practice and PhD students each named the school’s faculty as one of the reasons they chose to attend Vanderbilt University School of Nursing.

“I looked at PhD programs across the country and was drawn to Vanderbilt’s program because of its small class size and the intensive mentoring the faculty provide,” said PhD student Kathryn Hansen, MSN, ANP-BC.

Erin Wood is entering as a pre-specialty Master of Science in Nursing student. “I love that the faculty takes the input of previous students to heart and are always striving to improve the program,” Wood said. New DNP student Jason Cardillo, MSN, FNP-BC, said that he liked how Vanderbilt faculty were engaged with potential students during an open house event he attended. “I applied and selected Vanderbilt after visiting the campus and falling in love with the campus culture,” Cardillo said.

The three are among the 421 new nursing students who recently entered VUSN. This fall’s incoming class included 153 PreSpecialty (bachelor’s in a field other than nursing), 164 Direct Entry (BSN-prepared), 11 ASN-to-MSN, 29 Post-Master’s Certificate (those with MSNs seeking additional specialization), 56 Doctor of Nursing Practice and eight PhD students. The semester’s start also saw 306 MSN, 10 Post-Master’s, 88 DNP and seven PhD students continuing their studies.

Personal recommendations from program alumni also weighed in the students’ decisions to apply to Vanderbilt. “I spoke to a number of graduates from around the country and Vanderbilt’s alumni seemed to be the happiest with their program,” Hansen said. Wood has a close friend who graduated from VUSN as a family nurse practitioner in 2015. “She told me all about the program. She had valuable insight on why Vanderbilt’s program would be a better option for me,” Wood said. “I also talked to several other students who were in the program or had previously graduated from it. I felt like it was such a long shot that I would actually get in! When I did, I was so ecstatic and knew it was the right choice for me.”

Wood and her twin sister, Samantha Carlile, are both part of the 2018 cohort. Raised in North Pole, Alaska, the two were living in separate states — Wood in Alaska, Carlile in Hawaii — when they applied to Vanderbilt. “Samm was a health science major in college. She always thought about going on to pursue nursing,” Wood said. “She actually heard about this program before I did. When I told her I was going to apply, she decided to apply as well. When we found out we both got in and would be moving to Nashville together, it was such a dream come true.”

Cardillo is a family nurse practitioner in a primary care practice in Florida.

“I decided to return to school for my DNP because I am a lifelong learner and want to expand on my current knowledge set,” he said. “I want to teach someday.”

Cardillo’s DNP project will explore methods of providing health care to group home residents with special needs. “They sometimes get lost in the mix of patients,” he said. “It’s hard to get providers to go to group homes and even harder to get specialists. My project will work on bridging the gap. Methods include telehealth or other offsite forms of communication and assessment.”

Hansen is currently the director of clinical operations for the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at Vanderbilt. The center provides integrated, non-opioid care to patients with complex chronic pain and trauma. Hansen is pursuing her PhD for the knowledge, language and framework needed in studying clinical outcomes so she can better determine the best integrative medicine methods for care of patients with chronic pain.

“I am also interested in the implementation science of emerging integrative therapies including mindfulness, yoga and health coaching,” she said.

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