May 21, 2004

Nursing graduates already making their marks

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Susan Hobbs, a graduate in the acute care specialty at VUSN, stops for a photo with her husband Merle, and their daughter Madeline. Photo by Donn Jones

Nursing graduates already making their marks

Graduates in the School of Nursing returned to Vanderbilt for commencement ceremonies last Friday, held outside on the lawn near Branscomb Quadrangle.

VUSN’s program runs through the summer, so many of the graduates completed their academic requirements by fall of last year and returned for Commencement ceremonies last week from all over the country, where they are already living and working in a variety of health care settings as nurse practitioners.

Colleen Conway-Welch, Ph.D., Nancy and Hilliard Travis Professor and dean of the School of Nursing, told graduates she was proud of their accomplishments.

“We have educated you to give direct patient care and to direct the giving of care to complex patients with complex needs,” Conway-Welch said. “You will fill a variety of advanced practice roles and practice in a variety of settings.”

Conway-Welch told the graduates that they belong to an elite group, stating that fewer than 10 percent of nurses in the United States are master’s degree-prepared.

“As my father said, ‘shoot for the top, there is more room there,’ and you did,” Conway-Welch said.

Susan Hobbs, an acute care nurse practitioner graduate from the School of Nursing, took time away from work to return for Commencement, but she didn’t have to travel far.

Hobbs has been working as a nurse practitioner in Cardiothoracic Surgery at VUMC since she completed the program at VUSN in August 2003.

“VUSN did a great job of preparing me for success in my current position,” Hobbs said. “I truly enjoy what I do and look forward to going to work every day.”

Hobbs overcame personal hurdles during her studies at VUSN to be able to celebrate last week. Her husband, Merle Hobbs, was a Blackhawk pilot with the 101st Airborne Division and led his battalion over the border into Iraq at the start of the war. Hobbs remained at home to care for their young daughter while attending the School of Nursing.

Joan King, Ph.D., director of the Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Program, said Hobbs never missed a class during that difficult time.

“With each news report of helicopters being downed, Susan shared her concerns, but she never stopped contributing, she never asked for an extension on any assignment,” King praised.

Hobbs’ husband returned from Iraq in September 2003, not long after she officially completed the program at VUSN. “Seeing him get off that plane was the happiest moment of my life.”

Meredith Dunham, a graduate in the Family Nurse Practitioner specialty, also returned for the nursing school ceremony.

She has been working in a family practice clinic in Goodlettsville since she completed the program. Her family joined her May 14, including her sister, Allison Simon. Simon is currently a second-year, family nurse practitioner student at VUSN.

Simon said she and her sister always knew they wanted to come to Vanderbilt.

“We both just loved nursing and decided it was something we wanted to do, and the FNP program here is world renowned,” Simon said.

The sisters have carried on a family legacy at Vanderbilt, following their great-grandfather, who was a member of one of the first classes of medical students to graduate from Vanderbilt.

During the main Commencement ceremony, nursing graduate Tanya R. Sorrell was awarded the school’s Founders Medal. (See page 5 for story).

The nursing school awarded diplomas to 29 psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioners, 52 family nurse practitioners, 36 acute care nurse practitioners, 15 neonatal, 11 nurse-midwifery, three dual nurse-midwifery & family nurse practitioners, 19 pediatric nurse practitioners, nine adult and cardiology specialty nurse practitioners, four adult and correctional health nurse practitioners, six adult and gerontological nurse practitioners, two nursing informatics, 11 women’s health, four dual women’s health and adult nurse practitioners, 16 health systems management nurse practitioners, and six Ph.D. students.