Moira Brophy, BSN, MA, RN – licensed Mental Health Counselor

Class of 2017
Berkshire Medical Center

“One thing you should realize right off the bat is that the DNP program is much more than clinical training in advance practice nursing; it encompasses healthcare policy, research methods, and informatics as well.”

If you have found my blog, you are probably researching Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) programs, perhaps as a potential student. I will soon be entering my second year at Elms College as a DNP student, and I would like to share with you my experiences in the program over the past year.

One thing you should realize right off the bat is that the DNP program is much more than clinical training in advance practice nursing; it encompasses healthcare policy, research methods, and informatics as well. You will become well-versed in the American Psychological Association (APA) writing format, which can seem daunting at first, but you will conquer it! Despite the abundance of rules and regulations, it actually does help formalize the writing process. The professors I have encountered so far have been insistent on proper format, but are also very approachable when it comes to questions or concerns about the feedback they have provided.

While I wanted to jump right into the clinical component of the program, I have already developed a true appreciation for health care policy and the use of evidence based practice or EBP. You will become very, very familiar with that term over your first year, I can promise that. Policy and EBP are elements of healthcare that I never really looked closely at prior to entering this program, and I can say without a doubt I feel have broadened my vision of what it takes to become a DNP.  I am a currently a critical care nurse in a local community hospital, and already feel more confident speaking about current legislation and policies that affect nursing practice to my coworkers and other professionals I deal with on a daily basis. I have even incorporated EBP findings into the intensive care unit (ICU) where I work. I recently attended a nursing conference with the Air National Guard in San Antonio and realized after a lecture that some of our hospital’s ventilator practices were out dated and potentially harmful to our patients. I gave our clinical educator the current literature, based on EBP, and we are in the process of changing one aspect of our ventilator management.

I have two goals when I complete the DNP program. The first is to become a provider working in a palliative care setting. I have found my focus shifting over the past few years from emergency and critical care, where I worked over 20 years, to providing support and guidance to those making end-of-life decisions. As a doctoral prepared nurse practitioner, I will have the knowledge and credentials to expand the palliative care program in our hospital and home care settings, and potentially make a difference for patients and families at the most difficult time in their lives.

My other aspiration is to become a DNP in the Air National Guard, where I am currently the Chief Nurse in Western Massachusetts. The most rewarding part of my nursing career has been in the Air Force. I have traveled all over the United States, and have deployed twice to both Iraq and Afghanistan. I cannot find the right words to describe how those experiences felt, except to say that caring for those who respect our country enough that they would, and sometimes do, give their life to protect it and its citizens, is the most humbling and rewarding feeling I have ever experienced. Above all else, it has been the main motivator in my desire to become a DNP. I am grateful for the opportunity to pursue these goals at Elms College, and feel it has been the perfect fit for me. The professors have very high standards, and at the same time, are committed to your success. I am confident when I complete this program I will have all the tools I need to accomplish my goal of being a Doctor of Nursing Practice.

Robin Lawrence, B.S.N., R.N., C.S.R.N.

Class of 2017
Baystate Medical Center

“Life has a way of providing chances and challenges we never anticipate, so here I am at the end of semester 3 of the Elm’s College Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program and I keep thinking, wow, there are so many options and opportunities for me as a future DNP. ”

As a new graduate Registered Nurse I remember thinking, wow, there are so many options and opportunities for me as an RN, I never thought that would include a Doctorate. I remember thinking, a Masters maybe… What nurse hasn’t thought “oh man I can’t be standing on these cement floors for 12 hours a day when I’m 60 years old”, so a Masters was in the realm of possibilities, but a Doctorate??? Life has a way of providing chances and challenges we never anticipate, so here I am at the end of semester 3 of the Elm’s College Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program and I keep thinking, wow, there are so many options and opportunities for me as a future DNP. I’m so excited to be part of the inaugural DNP class at Elms College, on this amazing journey with so many exciting and dynamic RN’s as my classmates and Professors. People ask, why a Doctorate? This is a question I’ve asked myself, why pursue a Doctorate when a Masters is the requirement for Nurse Practitioners? First off the DNP is about scholarship, a platform for nurses to expand their education, to fuel their thirst for knowledge and further critical thinking and practice. Furthermore the DNP program is helping me develop the critical skills needed to translate evidence-based care into practice, to improve systems of care, and to measure outcomes of groups of patients, populations, and communities. Classes are designed so that each student is truly competent in the Essentials of DNP practice; you can review the Essentials at the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) site http://www.aacn.nche.edu/publications/position/DNPEssentials.pdf. All of this is great right? What does it actually mean to me as a practicing nurse? As the Coordinator for a busy procedural unit I see so many system failures that reach our patients, so many opportunities for improvement. As a DNP I will be poised with both the experience and the advanced education to be a leader and innovator for change. After so many years of working at the bedside I am ready to be a change agent at the system wide level without leaving my patients. The DNP is about leadership and advanced clinical practice, this is the most exciting for me. I’m a bedside gal, I will always be a passionate clinical provider and have felt that one of the barriers in healthcare is the disconnect between the clinical providers and leadership. As a DNP I will have the education, experience and respect needed to be heard at the leadership level.

Grace LaValley, ’06, ’11, M.S.N., R.N.C.

Class of 2017
Baystate Medical Center

“There is no doubt that the DNP is demanding, and it will challenge the way you think, write, and practice, however, it is rewarding, fulfilling, and achievable. For those of you questioning if all the hard work of a DNP is of value, I would say absolutely! ”

I’m a proud Elms College graduate, both with my undergraduate and MSN in nursing education. I decided to go back to school to obtain the DNP, as I want to take my practice to the next level. I want to be able to provide the absolute best care for the patients I serve and possibly have the option to educate DNP students in the future.   The main principle of the DNP for me is to deliver high quality care that is grounded in the latest evidence and I was lucky enough to find a program that I believed would take me where I needed to go in my practice. I selected Elms College due to the curriculum, program design, and faculty support. The explicit outline of program outcomes that arises from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) DNP Essentials (2004) provides clear objectives and how each objective will be met in each course. In addition, I was looking for a program that was hybrid, both online and face-to-face classes. Working full time and being a new Mom, I needed a program that was flexible that provided independent learning but also that is structured, personal, and one that would challenge my thinking and practice.

The AACN 2004 DNP position statement discussed a need for a transformational change in nursing education. The recommendation that nurses practicing at the highest level should receive doctoral level preparation emerged from multiple factors, including the expansion of scientific knowledge required for safe nursing practice and growing concerns regarding the quality of patient care delivery and outcomes, specifically from the Institute of Medicines (IOM) Quality Chasm report (2001). Educational needs are increasing due to the growing patient complexities and the ever-changing dynamics in our health care system, which is one of the major reasons I decided to go back to achieve the DNP.

I just started my DNP journey in 2015, and the program has already forced me to think about quality improvement and an evidence based capstone project to conclude the program. In addition, the program has polished my ability to critically appraise existing literature and other evidence to determine and implement the best evidence for practice. One of the essentials for doctoral education for advanced practice nursing is Scientific Underpinnings for Practice and another is Clinical Scholarship and Analytical Methods for Evidence-Based Practice (AACN, 2006). The capstone project addresses both of these essentials and is a major focus for the DNP student.

I currently work in cardiovascular rehabilitation, both in an outpatient and inpatient setting. I have already utilized the education obtained from this semester to my current clinical setting. We are currently working on creating and implementing a cardiac rehab information system. The graduate informatics course has helped me understand technology design and evaluate information systems. It has also allowed me to evaluate and communicate critical elements necessary for appropriate use of information systems. In this clinical setting, a DNP APRN is extremely beneficial, as this role could implement and evaluate therapeutic interventions based on scientific evidence in cardiovascular care such as; development of a smoking cessation protocol, implementation of a hypertensive management practice guidelines, or even creation of a walking program for the vascular patient experiencing claudication. The DNP APRN could collaborate with area cardiologists, vascular specialists, and the primary medical home to ensure appropriate management of patients in cardiovascular rehab and provide feedback regarding patient progress to close the communication loop.

There is no doubt that the DNP is demanding, and it will challenge the way you think, write, and practice, however, it is rewarding, fulfilling, and achievable. For those of you questioning if all the hard work of a DNP is of value, I would say absolutely! It is essential to ensure the patients you serve receive high quality care that is grounded in contemporary evidence. Hopefully, my experience will help you select what you want your experience to be and if that experience is at Elms College.

Jennifer Vallone, B.S., R.N.

Class of 2017
Berkshire Medical Center

“The professors are not only knowledgeable about the content they are teaching, but passionate about nursing and education, which also engages the students. They are fair and open, accessible both in and out of class, non-judgmental, and most importantly, thoroughly vested in our success.”

My name is Jennifer Vallone, I work as a registered nurse in the Critical Care Unit @ Berkshire Medical Center and I am currently enrolled in the Doctor of Nursing Practice program (DNP) at The Elms College in Chicopee, MA.  My message is intended to provide information about the DNP, answer questions you may have about the program, and provide encouragement to fellow nurses who are considering enrolling in a DNP program.

WHAT IS A DNP?
A DNP is a “terminal” degree in nursing (No this does not mean it will be the death of you, although I will not deceive you, it is a rigorous and time-consuming endeavor). In this instance terminal means “final” or the highest degree attainable much like a PhD.

A PhD and DNP differ in their focus however. A PhD is research-focused and prepares nurses to become nurse scholars or scientists with an emphasis on scientific content and research methodology.  A DNP is a practice-focused doctoral program intended to create advanced practice nurses that are experts in incorporating evidence-based research into their practice.

WHY A DNP NOW?
As you well know, our health care system is ever changing and more complex than ever, especially since the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2010 (Mund, 2014). In this era of health care reform there is an aim on reducing the cost of healthcare, providing better quality healthcare, and improved patient outcomes.  The demand for primary care providers has increased significantly for several reasons; currently many primary care providers are retiring and new physicians are specializing, leaving a deficit, and the ACA has increased the number of Americans with insurance coverage looking for care providers. Doctoral prepared nurse practitioners, relieve much of the burden on the health care system, providing lower cost, high quality care with a nurse’s touch.

The DNP affords nursing parity with other disciplines such as audiology, dentistry, medicine, pharmacy, physical therapy, and psychology that have established a practice doctorate as the standard entry into practice (American Association of Colleges of Nursing [AACN], 2006).

MY STORY
On a more personal note, I will provide you with a little background information into why I personally chose to assume this undertaking.  As a young woman I aspired to become a part of the world of healthcare.  I knew that I wanted to help others and give back to my community.   I did not begin my nursing career until later in life, due to life circumstances, but I am very pleased I did. I have held various positions in assorted departments within Berkshire Health Systems including unit nurse on telemetry, respiratory care, and critical care, and triage nurse and clinical coordinator for the electrophysiology department within the cardiology practice.   All of these areas in nursing have helped me to become more knowledgeable and capable of meeting the nursing needs of my patients.  The close personal interaction between nurse and patient has helped me develop the interpersonal skills necessary to gain a patients confidence, put them at ease, and encourage them to become a willing and cooperative participant in mutually managing their care. I have a broadened view and better insight into the provider’s role in the management of a patient’s healthcare needs since collaborating with physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and all other essential office staff within the cardiology practice.  There is a growing emphasis on health promotion and disease prevention, which creates diverse areas for a nurse practitioner to practice just as there is great diversity in nursing.  While working as a triage nurse within the cardiology practice, a wonderful opportunity to become a doctor nurse practitioner presented itself and I just couldn’t pass up the chance.

Berkshire Health Systems (BHS) collaborated with The Elms College in the recruitment of nurses to advance practice, from BSN or MSN to DNP.  BHS believes that if their nurses are well educated their knowledge will improve quality outcome measures, reflecting agreeably upon the hospital through patient satisfaction and awards recognition. Through these collaborative efforts, the nurses at BMC were encouraged to apply for a grant, which covered full tuition and supplies for the entire 3-year program. I applied and was fortunate enough to be accepted for the grant by both my employer and the college.

OBTAINING MY DNP DEGREE THROUGH THE ELMS COLLEGE
I am currently working to complete my first year as a DNP student transitioning from BSN to DNP. The masters level students have joined us this session (which began in March and runs through June). The curriculum to bring us to the equivalent of the Master’s level students included classes that introduced us to the DNP (what it is and why it’s important), nursing theory, healthcare policy and advocacy, and clinical scholarship and research methods for evidence-based practice. The professors are not only knowledgeable about the content they are teaching, but passionate about nursing and education, which also engages the students. They are fair and open, accessible both in and out of class, non-judgmental, and most importantly, thoroughly vested in our success. We have almost completed our first stepping stone on our journey to becoming the nurse leaders of tomorrow.

Historically, this is a fantastic opportunity because not only am I going to be one of the first nurses at BMC to receive a DNP degree, but I will also be among the first graduating class from The Elms College DNP program.

I encourage you to strive to do whatever it is you wish to do, the road is not an easy one, but the end result will be well worth it.

Jeanne Betournay-Gamelli, ’13, M.S.N., R.N., C.C.R.N.

Class of 2017
Baystate Noble Hospital

“I have been practicing at the bedside for 35 years and have been teaching nursing students at Elms College for 8 years. I love both the bedside practice and the teaching aspect of nursing. So, the DNP program at Elms College was a great match for my future goal of teaching more while continuing to practice at the bedside.”

Although it has only been two years since I finished my master’s degree education, I had apparently forgotten the time consuming nature of working full-time (plus) and going to school. I thought a lot about going back to school for my doctorate but knew I did not want a PhD. I have been practicing at the bedside for 35 years and have been teaching nursing students at Elms College for 8 years. I love both the bedside practice and the teaching aspect of nursing. So, the DNP program at Elms College was a great match for my future goal of teaching more while continuing to practice at the bedside. Now I find myself struggling to balance work, students, school, and family.

Working in an acute care setting, I have noticed several issues with patient care and nursing education that concern me. I realized recently that the community hospital I work in (Noble Hospital) lacks a clinical educator. Several ‘skills fairs’ have been held for critical care nurses and staff nurses. I was asked to ‘man a station’ at each fair held and the future ones planned over the rest of the year. As a DNP Advance Practice Nurse (APN), teaching nurses, as well as patients, falls into my expanded role. Teaching in this setting also gives me the opportunity to move the nursing staff (and management) toward evidence-based practice and getting all the nurses to follow standards of care aimed at obtaining the best patient outcomes.

The team approach to patient care is very evident at Noble Hospital. All members of the health care team work collaboratively to care for our patients. A team meeting is held daily with physicians, nurses, case managers, respiratory therapists, nutritionists, physical therapists, and pharmacists to review each patient’s status and plan of care. In this environment, an APN has the opportunity to promote evidence-based practice and best practice guidelines for all aspects of patient care. The APN will bring knowledge based in nursing practice and medicine and can facilitate a stronger connection between the two in order to provide the best care possible to each patient.

Since entering the program in March, I am still acclimating to the pace and demands of the program. I have only been out of school for two years and completed my Master’s education at Elms College. I am familiar with the philosophy of graduate education at Elms and the expectations of the faculty. However, I still find it difficult to complete assignments with directions that are more abstract than concrete. I am learning to think ‘outside the box’ and challenge myself to step out of my comfort zone. I continue to learn how to use more tools on my computer, participate in group assignments, search the internet, and submit assignments in Moodle.

Throughout my Master’s education and so far in my Doctorate education, I have been struck by the vast amount of knowledge and experience of my fellow classmates. I am awed by the passion, struggles, and triumphs of other nurses working in various areas of nursing and I have gained a better understanding of what nursing contributes to the healthcare system. Nurses considering continuing their education at the Doctorate level need to be committed to the challenge of learning and open minded to the possibilities that exist in the future to move nursing forward as a discipline and a profession. Also, future students will need to remember their nursing roots, because we are all nurses first.

Kelly Streit, B.S., R.N.

Class of 2017
Berkshire Medical Center

“The Elms College curriculum is well developed and based on the essentials of the DNP. Each class has been carefully developed and geared to prepare each student for licensure, credentialing, and most importantly practice.”

Hello, my name is Kelly and I’m a Registered Nurse (RN) at Berkshire Medical Center (BMC) in Pittsfield, MA. I obtained my associate degree from Berkshire Community College and worked as a trauma nurse for four years before deciding that I wanted more and knew that I really needed to further my education.

During the time period that I decided that I wanted to continue on with my education, BMC and the Elms College came together and collaboratively developed an RN-BSN course of study. I was one of the fortunate applicants to receive a full scholarship towards my BSN degree. My educational experience through the Elms was amazing. The professors were professional, supportive, and always available for any questions or concerns.

After graduation I took a position in nursing management and a few years later once again found myself wanting more. It had always been a dream of mine to become an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) but the timing never seemed to correlate with a busy work and family life. When I learned that Elms College would be offering a Doctorate of Nursing (DNP) program of study I was overwhelmed with joy. Because my first experience at the Elms was so amazing I knew I couldn’t go wrong in pursuing my educational dreams at Elms College. Once again I was blessed with an amazing gift, another opportunity to attend the Elms College to earn my DNP, the terminal degree of nursing.

I remember the day I received my acceptance letter and the millions of thoughts that were suddenly going through my mind like…how am I going to do this with a family and work full time and find time to study? Once the initial shock wore off I was thrilled at the thought that I was going to become an elite member of the first inaugural DNP program at the Elms College. It was time to meet my advisor, as I walked out the door, I stated to my husband, “I’m going to meet my guardian angel today.” It was then I met with my advisor Teresa Kuta Reske who was very welcoming and reassured me that I would be just fine.

So, my fellow nurse friends, if you are looking to pursue a career in Advanced Practice Nursing it is with great regards that I recommend you look no further and get your application into the Elms for the DNP program of study. I’m not going to tell you that it’s been a breeze, because it is not. I will not tell you that it has been easy, because it has not been. But what I will tell you is… if you’re looking for a challenging, yet rewarding, well developed, organized program of study, you need not to search any further. The professors are very professional, knowledgeable, and supportive and are there to see you through each and every step of the way. The curriculum is well developed and based on the essentials of the DNP. Each class has been carefully developed and geared to prepare each student for licensure, credentialing, and most importantly practice.

I can truly say that it is has been an honor and a privilege to be a student in the first DNP class at the Elms College. So my friends from the class of 2017, I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors and hope that you will seriously consider the Elms College DNP program of study.

Lisa Brosnan, J.D., B.S.N., R.N.

Class of 2017
Baystate Medical Center

“The face of healthcare is changing, and by taking that leap and becoming a doctoral-prepared nurse, I hope to be at the forefront of this change.”

My decision to further my education in nursing in the Elms DNP Program, and to pursue a career as a family nurse practitioner, was not made lightly. Last summer, when I was deciding whether or not to enroll at Elms, my two sons were only 2 and 4 years old, and I was a very busy wife and mother, as well as a nurse at Baystate Medical Center. I was worried about how my decision would affect my family, and as a true “Type A” perfectionist, I wondered whether I could successfully juggle school, work and family responsibilities and live up to my own, sometimes impossibly high, expectations. However, I reminded myself that I had taken leaps of faith before when it came to decisions about my life and career.

Back in 1999, I made a huge decision to leave nursing altogether and enter law school, hoping to advocate for patients on a broader scale.  While I did well in law school, my actual legal career was short-lived because, in all honesty, my heart was not in it.  I did not feel the same sense of purpose and joy from doing legal work that I always felt when providing hands-on nursing care. Admitting this to myself, and my family, was difficult after investing so much time and energy towards a career in law.  Equally difficult was the process of easing my way back into the nursing world after such a long absence, but with the help of some very talented and patient preceptors at Baystate, I successfully made the transition.  The leap of faith that brought me back to nursing is one I have never regretted. I followed my heart and my gut, and they did not steer me wrong.  After reentering the profession in 2004, my passion for nursing grew, as did my confidence in my clinical skills and judgment.  By 2014, I was feeling ready to advance my nursing career.  With all of this in mind, I ultimately decided it was time for my next big leap, so I enrolled at Elms.

Now, nearly one year later, I can honestly say that I am happy with my decision.  Exhausted – but happy.  It has not been an easy year by any means, and the juggling act that I worried about before enrolling in the program, has been tough. I ended up going per diem at work to make more time for family and school.  As it turns out, going to school with small children is definitely a challenge. I have a lot of “mommy guilt,” especially when my three year old looks up at me and says, “Aww mommy, do you have to go to the library again?”  Also, I have learned that kids have an uncanny ability to get sick right before an assignment is due – it’s like they have a sixth sense! However, having children has also made me a more efficient student.  I have learned to fit schoolwork in while my boys are watching a cartoon or napping.  And my husband (who is also in school) and I have really pulled together as a team to make sure that our family comes first, no matter what.

Some of my biggest supporters this year have been my Elms classmates.  Because of Elms’ hybrid mixture of face-to-face and online classes, I feel that I have gotten to know my classmates (and professors) much better than I would have in an online-only program.  I have enjoyed and benefitted highly from our classroom time together, and am so proud and inspired to be surrounded by such bright and energetic colleagues. Their words of encouragement have, at times, made all the difference and have kept me pushing forward. What has also inspired me are classes such as Healthcare Policy and Advocacy, which have shown me that nurses do not have to be voiceless, powerless cogs in the healthcare wheel. In fact, nurses, especially those who are doctorally-prepared, can be strong advocates for patients and fellow providers on a local, state and even national level.  The potential to have an impact on issues that are near and dear to my heart (e.g.- safe staffing and maternal/child health issues) is exciting to say the least, and an excellent reason to keep working towards graduation in 2017!

What I would say to those considering the Elms DNP Program is to be brave and take that leap of faith. No, it will not be easy. You will be exhausted and sometimes frustrated, you may well drive your friends and family crazy, and your house may start to look like it was hit by a tornado.  However, it will be worth it.  If I have learned anything in my forty-two years on this earth, it is that without pushing yourself to change, to grow, to question, and to move beyond your comfort zone, you can never discover your true passions and full potential in life.  The face of healthcare is changing, and by taking that leap and becoming a doctorally-prepared nurse, I hope to be at the forefront of this change, helping to ensure that patients receive the safest, most compassionate, and highest quality care.

Lindsay Bubar, B.S., R.N.

Class of 2017
Holyoke Medical Center

“Through my journey at Elms I learned that I could be more. I chose to pursue the DNP Degree to teach the next generation of nurses, to provide the best care possible, to help move nursing in the right direction by obtaining a degree that would allow me to be that leader.”

What did you want to be when you grew up? A major league baseball player? A lawyer? A teacher?

I didn’t know either. Sometimes you hear about those people, the ones who grew up with a concrete vision of who they wanted to be and where they wanted their life to go. I wasn’t one of those people. I went to college the first time for a degree I really didn’t want, but one that would make me rich! I quickly learned that money couldn’t by my happiness and I would need to find something that would be fulfilling in order to achieve that joy.

That’s when I took the long road to the Elms DNP Program. Starting off in a certificate program to become a Licensed Practical Nurse, going back to school for my Associates Degree and taking five years off to work as a Registered Nurse. Knowing multiple nurses who went through the Elms RN to BSN Program, I was coaxed into going back to school, AGAIN! After graduating in 2014, and after 12 drawn out years, you’d think I’d had enough, right?

Wrong! After the education I received at Elms, I knew I wanted to continue.  That this wouldn’t be the end of my journey and there was more in store for me. I secured a spot in a Masters level NP Program and registered for fall classes.

And then I got the news- Elms was beginning the DNP journey. Yay! I applied, crossed my fingers and toes, and waited for that letter.

You see- Through my journey at Elms I learned that I could be more. So while a Master’s Degree would suffice, I had learned to set the bar higher. To reach for the stars, if you will.  With the evolution of healthcare shifting to recognize the importance of the Advanced Practice Registered Nurse, I had gained the confidence that I could be that leader in nursing.  I chose to pursue the DNP Degree to teach the next generation of nurses, to provide the best care possible, to help move nursing in the right direction by obtaining a degree that would allow me to be that leader.

Plus- who wants to pay more if they don’t have to? Realistically, if I got a Master’s and the DNP was eventually required I would be going back to school twice, and paying for both.  Skip a step and save some cash!

I miss my life but I am learning a lot, and that is an understatement. Understanding through DNP Immersion 1 why this terminal degree in nursing is so important really helped to solidify why I chose this program.  I will not claim to be an expert, but the research courses are well preparing us to complete our capstone project. There is a method to the madness! And through it all the culture of Elms shines through. Living up to the motto- Viam Veritatis Elegi- or I have chosen the way of truth. Elms is an environment that provides the highest level of education with caring, compassionate, and competent faculty.

I want you to know when you chose this program you will be entering the adventure of a lifetime. You will meet your cohort during orientation, you will become friends during the first semester, and eventually grow to family.  It is a lot like nursing- your team will get you through your best and worst days. You will have unlimited faculty support, and an unprecedented education, and maybe a professor that bakes once in a while.  Who doesn’t like cookies during class?

Maybe most importantly, you will find who you are as an APRN. You may think you know who you are, in and out of the nursing environment.  You will question this. You will question everything.  And along the way you will learn who you really are, and the kind of care you want- will- provide as an APRN.

I have learned that I am stronger than I gave myself credit for. That organization will absolutely keep your head above water, even though you may feel like you are drowning.  And that I am blessed to be in a classroom with some of the smartest, strongest, and most amazing nurses I have ever met.  All of the education received in the lectures and assignments is complimented by what I am learning from those around me, and it’s amazing.

So you see, the DNP Program at Elms is a lot like what you are already experiencing as a nurse.  Friends and co-workers become family, you learn from your peers every day, and in the end- you will have a deeper understanding of who you are, and who you want to be as a practitioner. The DNP Degree will provide you with the education, leadership, and clinical expertise to not only safely practice, but to make the changes that are necessary for the evolution of nursing to continue.

Mahatma Gandhi said it best- “Be the change you wish to see in the world”

No matter how long it took you to get here, a day or a decade, what matters is that you’re here now.

Melissa Moulton, B.S.N., R.N.

Class of 2017
Baystate Medical Center

“Working in emergency nursing while pursuing education on evidence-based practice, problem identification, project implementation, and technology use has opened my mind to the possibility of practice change.”

As the first year of the DNP program comes to an end, I am able to reflect back on who I was before starting this adventure and how a transformation has begun to take place. In contrast to before starting the program, I now struggle to write this message in any other format than APA. It pains me to say the word “I”. I can note a time when I used to relax at home and not question when my next paper was due or wonder if I was missing something. I often try to think about the exact moment when this all changed, and I can’t seem to recollect that time. I can’t seem to point out when it was that I became a “DNP student”.

While working full time during school, it has become evident that there are more problems and systems within healthcare that need to be focused on and researched than I had ever imagined. I have grown immensely in my ability to identify these problems and to plan for change. Working in emergency nursing while pursuing education on evidence-based practice, problem identification, project implementation, and technology use has opened my mind to the possibility of practice change. I never expected to enjoy my advanced research class and appreciate all of the work required to implement a practice change. Since starting the class, I have taken note of the great number of practice problems that I hope to be part of changing in the future.

Aside from the daily struggles and worries of being a DNP student, I have begun on my journey to being a competent and effective advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). As I learn more about the roles, responsibilities, and barriers to practice for APRNs, I become more intrigued by the struggle for full practice authority, which many other states now embrace, as well as the struggle to educate others on “why a DNP?” and “so, you’ll be a doctor”? As I continue to grow, my “elevator speech” to answering these questions will become a true reflection of the APRN I will become. Until then, I will continue to embrace the world of APA format and the stressful nights of paper writing.

Dominic Kimatu, B.S., R.N.

Class of 2017
Medical Resources Home Health Corp.

“Going into the first year in the Elms College DNP Program was challenging yet very rewarding. It was a wakeup call to leave my comfort zone, professionally and personally, and to explore my full potential.”

Going into the first year in the Elms College DNP Program was challenging yet very rewarding. It was a wakeup call to leave my comfort zone, professionally and personally, and to explore my full potential. The most significant course so far was the DNP I Immersion which challenged my thinking and really enhanced thoughts formulation. I understood the scope, standards, and responsibilities of an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN), and the higher level of thinking and writing that elevates one into a professional role.

I remember meeting with my faculty advisor in the summer of 2014 and the most memorable words were “It’s going to change your thinking…” Those words resonate and it’s an ongoing change process. Retrospectively, I was writing and thinking at an undergraduate level, but through this program I have been taught, challenged, and learned to write at a professional level. It creates a level of responsibility and accountability when critically formulating thoughts and writing information that meets professional standards which has the potential of impacting healthcare.

As a “real nurse” in a DNP Program, I have been exposed to lots of knowledge and information that I previously assumed was “the norm.” I have learned the intricacies of healthcare, barriers, and the role an APRN brings into practice. I have started questioning practice and learned the “status quo” is not the basis for practice, rather evidence based practice (EBP) is at the merit of my daily practice. I have started viewing complicated patient workloads as chances for me to contribute and collaboratively seek solutions rather than divert the cases. I have started viewing healthcare as a field that can highly benefit from the role of an APRN in areas of access, quality, and safe healthcare for vulnerable populations. My goal has been to enrich healthcare with ongoing professional growth and self-development.

Working as a visiting nurse in a community setting and utilizing the knowledge has been a rewarding experience. It is encouraging to be involved in interprofessional meetings and case conferences, with appreciation for individual and collaborative participation. I have learned how to be a better problem solver and critical thinker when problems arise, bringing into practice the “missing piece.” I have also learned to be an early adopter to change, understanding the process is hard. We recently had a change in our information and technology department and most nurses and staff members complained of the software changes. I viewed the changes as processes to elevate healthcare quality and safety, while other nurses viewed the changes as “Time consuming, increase in workload…” I participated in working with my supervisors and quality assurance nurse to incorporate changes and missing clinical tools that previous software had but were omitted in the new software. Eventually multiple software updates have been provided which cover areas of concern. I was able to navigate the change process and understand the system life development cycle, and the inevitable adaptation which has now become daily practice. The DNP program has been a rewarding change process.