December 21, 2006

Innovative VUSN degree program marks milestone

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Melissa Bogle is the first graduate of an innovative VUSN dual-degree program that focuses on family issues in emergency care.
Photo by Susan Urmy

Innovative VUSN degree program marks milestone

Melissa Bogle doesn't think of herself as a pioneer, but that's exactly what she is. Bogle is the first student to successfully complete Vanderbilt University School of Nursing's new dual Family Nurse Practitioner/Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Program with a focus in Emergency Care, the first such program of its kind in the nation.

“In the last decade, there has been a significant increase in the number of emergency room visits, with some estimates suggesting an increase of over 20 percent,” said Jennifer Wilbeck, M.S.N., the catalyst behind creating the joint program.

“We identified that the need in the Emergency Department is to have dually prepared nurse practitioners who can handle a variety of types of patients with multiple types of problems.”

Joan King, Ph.D., Acute Care Nurse Practitioner program director, and Randolph Rasch, Ph.D., Family Nurse Practitioner program director, worked closely with Wilbeck to develop the comprehensive five-semester program that prepares nurses at the advanced practice level to provide care across the lifespan to individuals who come to the emergency room with urgent primary care needs, acute or critical illnesses or as a result of an accident or trauma.

“We couldn't have had a better person initiate our program than Melissa, who is truly amazing,” said Wilbeck. “She is bright, dedicated and has completed her degree in four semesters while continuing to work full time.”

Bogle came to Vanderbilt from the Midwest. During her last semester at the University of Illinois, she fell in love with emergency care. Like her older sisters, she worked as a registered nurse for four years before deciding to continue her education.

She was struggling to choose between an acute care and family nurse practitioner education when she learned about Vanderbilt's new offering while surfing the web.

“I had never heard of a program like this, and it didn't take me long to realize that I could come to Vanderbilt and get a full preparation for whatever I wanted to do,” said Bogle.

According to Bogle, her family nurse practitioner education prepared her to work with all types of primary care patients, from infants to elderly adults, and is great preparation for the varied patient load of emergency departments. She believes her acute care education provided an in-depth capability to care for seriously and critically ill patients and has equipped her to handle an emergency department's intense atmosphere.

She thinks the hardest part of her education is something that all nurse practitioner students address — becoming a complex decision maker.

“It's difficult when it's you making the decisions and you have to decide exactly what to do for a patient. It can be a hard transition to make,” said Bogle. “Our professors stress that the most important part of growing in this program is getting comfortable with decision making.”

Bogle finished her last rotation to complete 1,200 clinical hours, twice the requirement for individual nurse practitioner programs. She participated in the December pinning ceremony.

The school's ACNP/FNP program enrolled five students this fall. With the success of students such as Bogle and those who follow, Wilbeck looks forward to the program expanding.