Jackie Ward

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?

When I reflect on the future of health care and how our nurses will be leading transformational change in the health care arena, the need for advanced nursing education becomes more important than ever. As my career has advanced, and I have reached that point where I can make decisions around health care models and influence care at the executive level, I wanted to have that expertise and knowledge that is highly respected in the community. I felt it was necessary for me to pursue my DNP so I can apply this knowledge and expertise that will benefit our organization and the patients and families we serve.

How will this degree benefit you in your current role at Texas Children’s?

The knowledge that I have gained as a doctoral prepared nurse will benefit me tremendously in my role as a nurse executive. This degree focuses on the implementation of evidence from a quality and safety perspective in the clinical setting and that is a top priority for Texas Children’s. The knowledge I have gained will be of benefit as I partner with the front line staff, physicians, and leadership to make decisions to support exceptional patient care.

How would you describe your DNP journey?

My DNP journey was most certainly insightful. Although I was there to learn from an academic perspective, I learned so much from my peers. I learned about other organizations and their nursing challenges/frameworks and outcomes. The journey was not easy but certainly worth every amount of effort I expended. It required resilience and a significant amount of sacrifice.

How challenging was juggling work, family and school? How did you make it work?

Trying to balance work and going back to school – on top of family and person life – was challenging but the support and commitment I received from my leaders and from our CNO Mary Jo Andre made going back to school possible. We knew we still had a responsibility here even though we were in class just across the street at UTHSC. We partnered with each other when it came to meetings – “you stay here while I head back to the hospital to attend the meeting. I’ll represent the group.” Not everyone in the program who worked at other hospitals had that much support, so I am very thankful for that.

Describe what it was like embarking on this journey with your Texas Children’s colleagues.

When I found out that my colleagues were enrolled in the same DNP program, we all realized this was going to be a huge advantage for us. We were a support network for each other – we bounced ideas off of each other, we helped each other with our projects, and we held each other accountable. The first year was probably the most overwhelming for me. To have your peers say, “Don’t forget, we have this assignment to do…or I found this great article for your project for unit huddles,” was really beneficial. We helped each other out and shared in this experience together. It was team collaboration all the way.

Describe the emotions on graduation day when you officially received your DNP.

I was elated. My husband, Darrin, has been very supportive throughout my DNP journey, and he said it was just something about the day I presented my project to the DNP faculty panel that he could tell a huge weight had been lifted. Graduation day was amazing and filled with lots of emotion. My husband, my parents, my children, extended family, friends, and co-workers were all there to cheer us on. I was so grateful to share this unforgettable day with my Texas Children’s family. I am so proud that we were able to accomplish this milestone and graduate together – We definitely are One Amazing Team!

Texas Children’s has many educational and professional development opportunities for nurses. How did Texas Children’s support you?

Texas Children’s has supported me throughout my career here. The hospital’s tuition reimbursement program has been very helpful in offsetting my education costs, and the overall support from my leaders and my colleagues across the organization has just been phenomenal. I am so grateful for the support. My goal is to be the example for those nurses who are thinking about going back to school – and to let them know – that it is possible. I want them to know they have nine other nurses who embarked on this same challenging, yet rewarding journey, and we are here to support them every step of the way.