Jennifer Vallone, BSN, RN
Jennifer Vallone, B.S., R.N.
Class of 2017
Berkshire Medical Center
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).
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.