This fall you earned the Mary Opal Wolanin Award for your DNP project. Can you tell us about that?
My project was about hypertension guidelines. The Eighth Joint National Committee (JNC 8) is the governing body that determines how this country treats hypertension. In their latest guidelines, they stated that in the African American population, first line medications should be thiazide diuretics or calcium channel blockers, but I was not seeing that in my nursing experience. I saw African Americans being treated with (angiotensin converting enzymes) ACEs and (angiotensin II receptor blockers) ARBs and not thiazide diuretics or calcium channel blockers, so when I realized that was wrong I decided to implement my study to see if prescribers were writing prescriptions correctly. I looked at MDs, DOs, NPs and PAs; the general consensus is they are either prescribing ACEs and ARBs or they are prescribing beta blockers, which are much further in the guidelines for treating hypertension. Long story short, the African American population is not being managed correctly. That’s concerning, because over half of African Americans have hypertension. So if they are not being treated correctly, then they have higher mortality and co-morbidity risks for strokes, heart attacks, kidney disease and things of that nature.
Is your project ongoing?
I have concluded it, but Dr. Sheila Gephart has encouraged me to continue my research once I actually get a nurse practitioner job. Eventually, yes, I do want to do another study with a larger sample size. My sample size was 231 patients and I would like to do a more robust investigation.
Why did you pursue a career in nursing?
My answer has three parts. When I was a senior in high school, my great-grandmother passed. We were at the hospice and I saw how caring the nurses were with her. It really touched me to see how they interacted with my family. That sparked my interest. Around the same time, Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, which is where I am from. I was really inspired by the good that health care professionals, specifically nurses, were doing to help people who did not have their insulin or needed dialysis. Also, I come from a line of teachers, so I love being able to explain complex information in layman’s to someone who is non-medical. Teaching is my favorite part of nursing.
What are your hopes for your nursing career now that you have your DNP?
It is actually kind of funny. I said I would never do research, but now thanks to Dr. Gephart and Dr. Brian Buchner, I am very interested in research. I would like to help address the health disparities that are happening in the African American population. With my research, I can make a difference in someone’s life by helping to control their hypertension. Research is important to me, but I also do want to teach. I am trying to touch everyone: The new nurses, the established ones, the patients and everybody in between.
What drew you to the UA program?
My dad always told me, ‘If you’re going to do something, do it to the best of your ability and get to the top.’ A lot of my peers that were going to get their masters, but I thought, ‘Why get a masters when I can get a doctorate?’ The UA’s DNP program was a big draw. Another thing I really liked about the university is the opportunity for mentorship. When I was considering applying in 2013, I came across Dr. Buchner and saw that he had worked as a nurse in Dallas. Although I am from New Orleans, I live in Dallas, so I felt like we were connected in a weird way, so I went ahead and reached out to him. He responded immediately. He was super-supportive from the beginning, when I was not even in the program. So I thought, if the faculty is this caring and I am not even there yet, that’s the school I want to be a part of.
What features of the program were particularly valuable to you?
Number one, the faculty are very caring. Every professor that I had was genuinely interested in me, gave me great feedback, cared about me as a person. That mattered to me, especially with it being a distance program. Somebody in particular that I would not have graduated without her is Christina Norman, Clinical Placement Coordinator. She worked so hard to find me placement, because in Texas I could not get placement until the last semester. She helped place me in Arizona for one semester and Albuquerque for another semester, so I would not even be here without her.
Can you share a favorite memory or story from your time at the College?
I would have to say the first RISE. It was August 2014 when I came to campus, and I was nervous. Dr. Ted Rigney was fantastic. One thing he did that I loved was break down what Doctor of Nursing Practice is: He was the one that made me respect and understand that Doctorate is a level of education, not a job. He said, ‘Pharmacists have doctorate degrees, physical therapists have doctorate degrees. A doctorate means you are an expert and teacher in your field and that is it.’ He gave us the history and the philosophy behind it. He really inspired me to stand up for my degree when people say, ‘Well, you are not a physician.’ That’s true, but I still have a doctorate just as a physician has a doctorate.
How do you intend to build better futures?
By being open. My current job is as a nurse educator, so I deal with new graduate nurses all the time who are super green. They are nervous and they do not know what to do, but I tell them, ‘Keep things very simple.’ They laugh, but it is true. I tell them all the time, ‘As long as no one dies, we can fix it.’ They put so much pressure on themselves, but let’s be very basic and simple in the beginning. Did anybody die or did anybody get hurt? If this answer is no to both of those questions, then we can fix whatever you did. I feel confidence with simplicity. And I like to do that with patients too. I say ‘I do not expect you to be perfect. I understand you like cake. I like cake, too, but maybe have two slices of cake instead of five. I am not asking you to be perfect, I am just asking you to be better.’ That was my approach with my patients, trying to compromise with people and meet them in the middle with what is realistic for them. I am not trying to get patients, nurses or myself to be perfect, I am just trying to do better. If I can do better every day, I will get what I need and everyone else will, too.