We’ve all heard the saying, “Hard work pays off.”
That old adage certainly rings true for nine Texas Children’s nurses who recently graduated last month with their Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), the highest level of clinical training for nursing practice.
“It was a pleasant surprise to find out that so many of us had applied and been accepted into this program,” said Texas Children’s Pediatrics Assistant Director Joy Harrison. “We were able to complete group projects and preceptorships together and we finished the program together. We encouraged and supported each other throughout this journey. We truly demonstrated the spirit of “no man left behind.”
On May 22, Harrison and eight other graduates received their DNP degrees from the University of Texas Health Science Center’s Cizik School of Nursing including: Mary Jo Andre, Chief Nursing Officer; Jackie Ward, Associate Chief Nursing Officer; Tarra Christopher, Director of Nursing, Emergency Center; Kimberly Clark, Patient Care Manager – Cancer Center; Sara Dean, Nurse Practitioner – Pavilion for Women; Shannon Holland, Director of Nursing – Critical Care; Vanessa Kastner, Nurse Practitioner – NICU and Jennifer Sanders, Assistant Vice President, Nursing.
Three years ago, their journey began when they enrolled in the DNP program, a clinical doctoral program that provides advanced education in several key areas that impact patient care and outcomes including evidence-based practice, quality improvement and systems leadership. Since Texas Children’s already provided a strong foundation in these areas, the program built on the great work our nurses do every day.
“The program challenged me to be a bigger system thinker,” said Critical Care Nursing Director Shannon Holland. “Besides focusing on my area of responsibility, the program challenged me to think about what impact I can make on our patient population across the system. The program also encouraged us to get involved with advocacy and legislation in our professional organizations and offered ways we can partner with our colleagues to give nursing, our patients and their families a bigger voice in health care.”
Like the DNP program, Texas Children’s Hospital invests heavily in our nurses through various professional advancement and education opportunities. Besides benefitting from the hospital’s tuition reimbursement program, our nurses were able to complete their DNP thanks to the support and encouragement from the organization, their leaders, families and friends, and from each other.
“It is a privilege to work in an organization that values people,” said Emergency Center Nursing Director Tarra Christopher. “Partnering together and enduring the challenges, assignments, along with balancing work, school and home, created a bond with our group that is incredibly special. We are family more than ever before. I couldn’t be more proud of them or more humbled and honored to stand beside them.”
As a Magnet-designated organization committed to nursing excellence, cultivating a highly educated team of nurses has always been a huge priority. Chief Nursing Officer Mary Jo Andre, who began her career at Texas Children’s as a staff nurse in the Emergency Center 34 years ago, says no matter where a nurse is in his or her career, it is never too late to return to school to expand one’s knowledge and skills.
“At Texas Children’s, it is important that we continue to invest in higher education for our nurses at all levels because evidence shows that advanced education leads to better patient outcomes,” Andre said. “We are the ones who will lead health care transformation in the future. With more nurses obtaining their DNPs and other certifications, we can enhance patient care, provide more evidence-based practice, and become like we’ve always said we wanted to be – the number one destination for nurses everywhere.”
While this academic journey towards obtaining a DNP degree was both challenging and rewarding, these new graduates have already inspired other nurses at Texas Children’s to enroll in the program, which speaks volumes about our organization’s culture for learning and the incredible support system here.
“I am so grateful that we have inspired other nurses at Texas Children’s to get their DNPs,” said Associate Chief Nursing Officer Jackie Ward. “I want them to know they have nine other nurses who embarked on this same journey, and all of us will be here to support each of our nurses every step of the way.”
Q&A: Nurses reflect on DNP journey
Click the names below to learn more about our nurses’ DNP journey, the lessons they learned along the way, and how the support from Texas Children’s made it possible for them to reach this milestone.
Mary Jo Andre