Grace LaValley


Grace LaValley, '06, '11, MSN, RNC

Baystate Medical Center

ACACNP track

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.