May 19, 2011

Graduation 2011: School of Nursing graduates urged to be leaders in health

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The School of Nursing’s Leona Stevens, left, and Breanna Jacobs were all smiles at commencement. (photo by Susan Urmy)

Graduation 2011: School of Nursing graduates urged to be leaders in health

Colleen Conway-Welch, Ph.D., dean of Vanderbilt University School of Nursing, told graduates during commencement ceremonies last week that, “advanced practice nurses, nurse scientists and nurse managers and leaders are crucial to health care and to our country.”

This year's ceremony recognized 27 Doctor of Nursing Practice graduates, 323 master's-prepared graduates and four who earned their Ph.D. degrees.

“We need your leadership. The future of medicine depends on all of you to constantly look for ways to change it and make it better,” said Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D., vice chancellor for Health Affairs and dean of the School of Medicine, who addressed the graduates, families and friends during the academic hooding ceremony on Branscomb Quadrangle.

Most of the school's master's students officially completed their advanced practice nursing education last August and are already working in health care in a variety of different areas. Even so, nearly 100 returned for the graduation and investiture of the academic hood ceremonies, including Morgan Stone, VUSN's 2011 Founder's Medalist.

Morgan Stone smiles after receiving this year’s School of Nursing Founder’s Medal. (photo by John Russell)

Morgan Stone smiles after receiving this year’s School of Nursing Founder’s Medal. (photo by John Russell)

After graduating Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Nursing degree from the University of Tennessee-Martin and working as a registered nurse in Nashville, Stone decided she wanted to do more in health care.

So, she joined the VUSN Family Nurse Practitioner Program with the goal of becoming a rural health care provider who could see patients ranging from babies to older adults.

“My husband and I fell in love with Martin when we were in college there, and I knew I wanted to be a provider in a place where people know each other's faces, names and run into one another in the local grocery store.”

While at Vanderbilt, Stone was named the Outstanding Student in the Family Nurse Practitioner Program for 2010. She is currently employed as a board certified family nurse practitioner at the Martin Specialty Clinic in Martin, Tenn.

Jeaninne Blackwell graduated from the VUSN/Divinity School dual degree program. She started her career in special education and social work in Connecticut, and re-located with her infant daughter to the South to pursue her master's degree in nursing.

She was attracted to the psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner specialty, and at the end of her nursing specialty year was also accepted into the Divinity School program.

“My interest is in how health-seeking behaviors are affected by religious and spiritual beliefs,” said Blackwell. “I look at nursing as a form of social justice because nursing has a real opportunity to overcome barriers on behalf of marginalized members of our society.”

She particularly enjoyed her joint clinical experiences between the two schools, including her rotation at the Next Door, an organization that helps formerly incarcerated women deal with various and often complex recovery issues.

Blackwell is working at Centerstone, provider of community-based behavioral health services, in Clarksville, Tenn., where she conducts psychiatric evaluations and medication management for school-aged children.

VUSN also awarded four Doctor of Philosophy degrees. Jie Deng, from Nashville, focused her work on the impact of secondary lymphedema after head and neck cancer treatment. Linda Fisher from Tacoma, Wash., studied organizational factors on officers intending to leave the U.S. Army Nurse Corps. Benjamin Smallheer, from Hartsville, Tenn., studied depressive symptoms in patients following acute myocardial infarction. And Cynthia Waller, from Nashville, focused on the relationship between gender, previous cardiac events and pre-hospital delay behavior in acute myocardial infarction.

The school awarded diplomas to: 63 students in the Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Program; 46 in the Adult Nurse Practitioner Specialty; one in Clinical Nurse Specialist; six in Clinical Research Management; 54 in the Family Nurse Practitioner Program; 17 in Health Systems Management; 20 in the Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Program; five in the Nurse-Midwifery/Family Nurse Practitioner Specialty; 13 in the Nurse-Midwifery Program; eight in Nursing Informatics; 44 in the Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Specialty; 22 in the Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Program 17 in the Women's Health Nurse Practitioner Program; and seven in the Women's Health/Adult Nurse Practitioner Specialty.