(Back, L-R): Jamie Messing, Amy Hodes, Tanya O’Brien, Lydia Peavy, Rena Zody, Nick Montgomery, Peiwen Distler (Front, L-R): Karen Wirshcal, Lacey Ehrenfeuchter, Kelly Snyder, Anna Gale, Leighann Ebenezer, Tracy Young, and Gloria Schaeffer
In August 2020, Messiah College will graduate the first cohort of students in the College’s first doctoral program, the Doctor of Nursing Practice/Family Nurse Practitioner! The DNP degree is a terminal degree in the field of nursing, which focuses on clinical practice expertise and translating research findings into practice. Through the DNP/FNP program, students will develop both clinical expertise and a comprehensive understanding of interprofessional collaboration, health promotion, leadership, and the application of theory to research in evidenced-based practice that applied in the form of a DNP project. Unlike the dissertation requirement common to Ph.D. programs, DNP students will apply their newfound clinical and classroom expertise in a rigorous translation project dedicated to improving quality care and health outcomes for an identified patient population.
The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health, the 2010 Institute of Medicine report, recommended improving the education and training of nurses at all levels of practice and expanding their roles to more effectively meet the rapidly changing needs of today’s patients. Educating more nurses at the DNP level is key to reducing the current research to practice gap of 15-17 years and bringing evidenced-based changes to the bedside in a timelier manner. Furthermore, the education of more family nurse practitioners will also improve America’s primary care shortage, according to American Enterprise Institute.
Students in the Messiah College DNP program will take four courses to prepare for and implement their evidence-translating projects. Concurrently, students will continue to learn clinical skills in a variety of settings related to the family practice specialty: adult health, pediatrics, women’s health, diagnostics, and older adult care. Our DNP students and faculty will collaborate with outpatient clinics, telehealth organizations, community centers for underserved, primary care, and specialty clinics to identify populations and practice settings that would benefit from quality improvement projects. Some of the projects currently underway include clinical improvements in pre-travel health preparation, diabetic education, screening compliance for colorectal cancer, and technology-based strategies for improving health outcomes for patients with asthma, congestive heart failure, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Clinical projects are identified based on the students’ specialty area and clinical or scholarly interests. The students serve as the leaders of the DNP projects, supported by a faculty team and on-site clinician mentors during all phases of their projects. Currently, students are working on DNP project proposals, conducting needs assessments, and reviewing the existing literature. During the Spring 2020 semester, students will implement their projects in a variety of clinical settings and collect data to analyze outcomes. In their final semester, students will evaluate and analyze their data to determine if change was sufficient and sustainable. Ultimately, the goal of each student’s project is to improve the quality of patient care and lead healthcare to the critical change it so desperately needs.
by Gloria Schaeffer, BSN, RN; DNP Cohort ‘20
When I decided to get my BSN I remember telling my husband and daughter that it would just be two quick years and then I would be done with school forever. That was before I met the change factor in my life, also known as Dr. Louann Zinsmeister. When I first met Dr. Zinsmeister, she was in charge of my BSN cohort at Eastern University and although at first, we did not always share many of the same opinions on nursing, she assured me my opinions would change as I continued my education, but I was skeptical. With perseverance, positivity, and a compassion for nursing theory that I may never understand she managed to do just that. I grew to have a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for this woman. Thus, when she suggested that I apply to the Messiah DNP program I took her advice to heart. What Dr. Zinsmeister did not know was that I had wanted to be a doctor since I was ten years old, but never believed I was smart enough to do it. The fact that she suggested the DNP program to me made me believe that if someone I respected so much thought I was capable, maybe I am. So here I am, Thank You Dr. Zinsmeister!
I feel truly blessed to be at a school learning from such excellent faculty. And, although most of my classes are online, I always feel supported and know that I can contact any of my instructors at any time and they will be there for me. I have never been part of a school that exudes such excellence and I am proud to be a Messiah College student.
Life is Short
by Daniel Zepp ‘95, BSN, MA; DNP Cohort ‘22
It was September of 1987 and I had just graduated from Messiah College four months earlier, ready to find my place in the world. As I was preparing to work at Philhaven Hospital and move away from home, I heard some tragic news. A classmate of mine had been killed in an accident. Though we were not friends, we all knew each other at Messiah. How could this happen? Life was just starting for us, and my classmate’s life had ended. I vividly remember the awareness, this was the first acquaintance my own age to die. Suddenly sayings such as “life is short” took on a literal meaning. I was a procrastinator, and putting things off until “later” was a bad habit. Thessalonians 5:2 tells us “For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.”
I worked for a year as a psychiatric technician but realized that while the job was fun, I was not being challenged enough. I moved back home, and completed a master’s in psychology. After a few years, I realized that I loved the medical side of my work more than the counseling side. I returned to Messiah College, this time for a BSN degree. I was self-conscious that I was over 30 years old and back in school, but I was surprised to see that I was not the oldest in my class; several others were making life changes after 30 also. After graduation I worked in pediatrics, psychiatry, and geriatrics and taught practical nursing and medical assisting. I slowly realized that while I love teaching, I again was not being challenged enough. After much thought, I decided that at the age of 53, I would head back to school. Messiah had a doctorate of nursing practice program, and so I enrolled.
It is never too late to continue education, and Messiah’s new online programs make it easier for “non-traditional” students. My hope is that anyone hesitant about returning to school because they are “too old” will remember that life is short, and the biggest regrets tend to be the things that we wish we had done, but never found the time.
View from the Chair
by Kim Fenstermacher, Ph.D., CRNP
“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17
This scripture has been my guiding verse throughout my journey of Christian faith. But this fall, as I transitioned into my new role as the Chair of the Department of Nursing at Messiah College, this verse has been my daily prayer. My fervent desire is that I will honor God in all that I do in life, and this past year, that meant following the call to join the Community of Educators at Messiah College. It’s not all that easy to change jobs after you reach a certain age! But I had a peace that was guiding my heart, and so without hesitation, I arrived on campus on August 1, 2018 to begin this new chapter in my life. I was quickly immersed in the onboarding process of meeting my new colleagues and finding my way around campus. From the moment I arrived, I have felt warmly welcomed by the Messiah community.
There is truly something special here at Messiah College. It’s almost palpable! As a qualitative researcher, I tend to see big picture “themes” in my experiences, and my transition to the role of Chair is no exception. Here are the themes that I have noted in my first six months as Chair that describe Messiah Nursing: a spirit of caring hospitality, a commitment to academic excellence, a focus on evidence-based practice, an appreciation for global perspective, and a spirit of innovation and improvement. As any good qualitative researcher knows, we must back up our assertions with data. Here’s the evidence!
A spirit of caring hospitality: First, there is a palpable spirit of caring hospitality at Messiah College, beautifully modeled by our college president, Dr. Kim Phipps. This caring is lived out through action as evidenced by the way our student nurses and faculty rally in prayerful support of one another. For example, this fall, right before mid-term exams, senior nursing students wrote words of encouragement and scripture all over the blackboard in the classroom where the juniors would be taking their exam. Later, during finals week in December, students wrote words of affirmation on cards that were placed in the student lounge to uplift and support each other. Recently, sophomore students were “matched” to senior students in a mentoring program to offer support as the sophomore nursing students transition into their first clinical courses. It is truly wonderful to behold this caring spirit in these future nurses!
A commitment to academic excellence: Secondly, there is a commitment to produce excellence in academic quality and rigor. I see this excellence lived out daily by the faculty and staff across the undergraduate and graduate levels, as they pour out their talent and time in service to our students. I also see excellence in the performance of our most recent 2018 baccalaureate graduates who made us so proud with their 97.4% first time NCLEX pass rate! Congratulations to the Class of 2018! Kudos are also due to Dr. Megan Gross who finished her PhD in 2018 and was named a Jonas Scholar by the National League for Nursing. Dr. Gross will present her dissertation findings at the 2019 Eastern Nursing Research Society conference in April 2019 in Providence, Rhode Island. Dr. Kristen Slabaugh, Coordinator of the BS to DNP/FNP program published results of her DNP project, titled “Initiation of Standardized Depression Screening in College Health: A Quality Improvement Project” in the Journal of Doctoral Nursing Practice.
A focus on evidence-based practice: Thirdly, Messiah nursing students are participating in evidence-based practice projects with nurses from both Geisinger Holy Spirit and UPMC Pinnacle Hospitals as part of their senior level Nursing Research course. This partnership between our students and area Magnet-designated hospitals has been a win-win as our students learn the knowledge and skill of evidence appraisal and begin to appreciate the value of improving patient outcomes with the best evidence to guide their practice. The intentional focus on evidence-based practice is preparing our graduates with the knowledge and skills to engage in the important work of delivering nursing care that is safe, efficient and effective. Additionally, the opportunity to work with practicing nurses to answer a clinical question and synthesize the evidence culminates in a poster and podium presentation at the annual Nursing Research and Evidence-based Practice conferences for both Geisinger Holy Spirit (Fall conference) and UPMC Pinnacle (Spring conference).
An appreciation for global perspective: Our students are gaining global perspective and honing their clinical judgment and critical thinking in real life as they engage in study abroad either in the fall of sophomore year or during Senior Practicum. There is a rich appreciation for cultural diversity and a new found realization of the limitations of healthcare resources among the students who studied abroad in Thailand and Zambia. They saw first-hand the challenges that face nurses in the small African villages and under-served communities in Thailand.
A spirit of innovation and improvement: I am excited about the innovative teaching strategies and interprofessional opportunities that we are infusing across our curriculum. For example, senior nursing students will participate in an interprofessional ethics case study simulation as part of their senior seminar In April. They will also join students from the health-related graduate degree programs at Messiah College to participate in an interprofessional simulation at our Winding Hill location. Also in April, students from the Community Health course will lead the annual college-wide Disaster Drill, engaging the participation of multiple disciplines across campus. We continue to strive for continual improvement of our program and to that end, we hope to introduce the ELNEC modules across our junior and senior level courses in Fall semester 2019. This state of the art curriculum will prepare our students with competencies in the delivery of nursing care for patients at end of life or those receiving palliative care. In another continuous quality improvement project, we have been evaluating and improving how we measure the outcomes of the summative simulation that our students do at the end of every clinical course. We were pleased to welcome Dr. Melody Seitz as the new Simulation Coordinator and Rachel Lippert, Sim Lab Coordinator. Both are doing an excellent job keeping our simulation center running smoothly and efficiently.
In closing, it is a privilege for me to follow in the footsteps of former department chair and longtime friend and colleague, Dr. Nancy Woods who retired last summer. Under the astute leadership of the past chairs of nursing, including the most recent leadership of Dr. Woods and Dr. Carolyn Kreamer, as well as the leadership of Dr. Louann Zinsmeister and Dr. Kristen Slabaugh in the Graduate programs, the Messiah College Department of Nursing has become known for its academic excellence, pursuit of evidence-based practice, and commitment to service. These qualities are what drew me to Messiah. At our first department meeting of the 2018-2019 academic year, I challenged the faculty and staff to join me in this prayer from Colossians chapter 3, and to also do as Paul admonishes us: “Put on then as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness and patience (Col. 3:12; ESV).” I want Messiah Nursing to be known for nursing excellence, but above all, my desire is that we are a nursing program that honors the Lord in all we do. My commitment is to honor the legacy of excellence that I inherited and to do my best to honor the Lord in word and in deed, giving thanks to the Lord for leading me to Messiah College.
Blessings, Kim Fenstermacher, PhD, CRNP