Brandy Wells

Q&A: My journey towards achieving my Doctor of Nursing Practice

What prompted you to go back to school for your Doctor of Nursing Practice?
The decision to go back to school to earn my DNP degree was one I did not take lightly. I knew it would be very hard with three young children at home, however I knew my husband would help and it was something very important to me. When asked why I pursued my DNP – I tell everyone that when you are in nursing school they teach you how to be a nurse, however the business and leadership of health care is often discussed minimally. I was promoted to Assistant Director of Advanced Practice Provider in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) in 2017 and felt I needed to enhance my leadership and business attributes so I applied at the University of Texas Health Science’s Cizik School of Nursing in the DNP program under the Nurse Executive option to enhance this aspect of my role.

How will this degree benefit you in your current role at Texas Children’s?
Obtaining a DNP degree has significantly enhanced my leadership skills as I gained insight into the business and political aspect of health care. Through this experience, I feel more prepared to sit among the executives within the organization to speak widely on the utmost important aspects of health care. I completed preceptorships and fellowships which positioned me to be immersed within numerous valuable experiences alongside a Chief Financial Officer, an Associate Chief Nursing Officer, and the Texas Board of Nursing executive board. Each experience prepared me to become a well-rounded leader within Texas Children’s.

How would you describe your DNP journey?
I would describe my DNP journey as a roller coaster ride. It began with excitement to “start school” and begin my courses. The anticipation grew as Hurricane Harvey delayed the start of the program. Once we got into the swing of things there were many ups and downs along the way with assignments, implementation of my DNP project and fellowship experiences. The end was non eventful with social distancing while Covid 19 precautions were in full effect. The program was very hard. While it was advertised as a part-time program, it required a full-time commitment. Completing the program was one of the most rewarding accomplishments of my career.

What was it like embarking on this journey?
Embarking on this journey brought forth so many emotions. I was so excited to start, happy to further my education, yet sad because throughout the program I had to miss out on many things due to homework. I met many great friends in the program who are as passionate as me about become better leaders within health care, one of which was Pat Wills-Bagnoto, a director for Baylor College of Medicine. Pat and I were peers in the program and worked on a few projects together as well throughout the program.

Describe the emotions when you received your DNP.
I was elated when the calendar struck midnight on the morning of May 1, 2020. I was awake and able to watch my countdown turn to 0 days, 0 hours, 0 minutes and 0 seconds. I was even able to capture a screen shot at that precise moment that I can reflect on each year when time hop reminds me of that memory. I began my career in nursing as a Licensed Vocation Nurse (LVN) in 1999. I obtained my associate’s degree in nursing in 2001, bachelor’s degree in 2005, and masters in 2007. I never imagined I would go back and obtain my terminal degree in Nursing. I envisioned the pomp and circumstance that would ensue as I was hooded with this degree, however due to Covid 19 this has been taken away from our class. We had a virtual graduation which was special, yet uneventful on Tuesday, May 12. I am grateful to my family who made the entire week of graduation extremely special amidst the social distancing with sweet gifts, texts and phone calls.

Texas Children’s offers educational and professional development opportunities for nurses. How did Texas Children’s support you?
Throughout the DNP program, I utilized the tuition reimbursement opportunities which eased the financial burden of going back to school. I was initially involved with the Doctorate group that met monthly in 2017 and 2018 where doctorate-prepared nurses met alongside doctoral students to provide advice etc. Those meetings stopped, however, I hope the meetings are restarted soon.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I am grateful to the Texas Children’s leadership team and my peers who completed the program before me. They were very supportive as I followed in their footsteps. I would like to commend all who are now in the program, as this journey is not easy. I can say with 100 percent certainty, once you accomplish this goal, you will feel like you can accomplish anything.