In honor of National Nurses Week, Grand Canyon University is celebrating the accomplishments our nurses have achieved and the commitment each one of you devote to your patients and to the profession. We hope you gain some inspiration from these stories as you lead the way in your own pursuits.
To Jennifer Adams, teaching is about touching lives, something she believes strongly in. This is what led her to become a nursing instructor after she earned her MSN from Grand Canyon University.
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“I am quite passionate about my work with students,” says Jennifer Adams, RN, MSN Ed. “I have always been a service-oriented person, and coming from an underprivileged background myself, I have perspective into what many of the students are dealing with on a day-to-day basis. But don't call me a push over! I am tough. I have high expectations. And my students know that.”
Jennifer is a Nursing Instructor at Fresno City College, where she teaches LVN-to-RN courses under a federally funded grant from the Department of Labor. The grant is designed to help adult students acquire the skills and credentials needed for high-wage, high-skill employment. Jennifer also works as part of a team developing Open Educational Resources (OER) for the C6 Consortium of regional colleges in California.
“Using web resources and modules written by faculty, our team was able to create our own LVN-to-RN textbook that can be used across many different colleges and provides several key advantages,” says Jennifer. “It can be customized to fit the needs of potential employers in the various districts. It can be easily updated. It can be downloaded by students to computers and mobile devices. And it is much less expensive than a traditional textbook.”
“Together, we have done some amazing things,” boasts Jennifer. “The book we created allowed us to discontinue the use of three separate textbooks that would have cost the students more than $100. Now we can offer them one e-book for $6.95. It also allowed us to tailor the book to our student’s needs, rather than just accept the one-size-fits-all model of textbooks.”
Jennifer is equally amazing in her role as teacher. “I expect my students to do well,” she says. “I provide intensive study sessions, sometimes four hours per week with struggling students. I use transformative technology such as Blackboard testing, Doceri, and smart phone apps in class. If they are falling behind, I reach out to them personally; talk to them, and encourage them with stories of people who have failed and failed, yet ultimately found success because of their failures. One of my favorites is James Dyson... his story is inspirational.”
“What I am most proud of is the fact that each of my students has gone on to accomplish their own great things. I know that by being an instructor I have the power to touch lots of lives; more than I ever would as a nurse alone. Perhaps that’s why I do what I do.”
Jennifer earned her ADN from Fresno City College in 2005, where she was awarded the Dean’s Medallion Award for Health Sciences. In 2006 she enrolled at Grand Canyon University, where she earned her BSN in 2009 and her MSN in Education in 2011. “GCU was fantastic and really prepared me for the role I have today as a Nursing Instructor at Fresno City College,” explains Jennifer. “I enjoyed the camaraderie that I shared with the other students, even though we were often thousands of miles from one another. The collaborative projects gave me perspective and a deeper understanding about how working with others, especially in a digital environment, can be accomplished. I thrived in the online atmosphere and really found myself challenged and rewarded through the experience.”
“I think there are wonderful and challenging opportunities ahead for the nursing field,” Jennifer predicts. “Nursing will always remain a caring profession with hands-on work to be done; but there are newer technologies at our fingertips that will allow for caregiving models that may have seemed like science fiction just ten years ago.”
When asked if she had any advice for people who are thinking about entering the nursing field, Jennifer enthusiastically says: “Do it!”
Jennifer Adams, RN, MSN is a Nursing Instructor at Fresno City College where she earned her ADN in 2005. She earned her BSN at Grand Canyon University in 2009 and her MSN in Education at Grand Canyon University in 2011.
Even though pediatric and hospice are two words that are not often used in the same sentence, Angela Berg’s proudest moments in her nursing career emerge from her role in developing a successful pediatric hospice program.
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“We provide lifesaving and life-improving treatments to children who might otherwise be denied for financial or availability reasons,” explains Angela Berg, RN, BSN. “Our mission is in my heart, and I am blessed to be part of a group that works so hard to bring specialty pediatric care to the children of Nevada.”
More than just a career, Angela’s work is a calling. She is a founding board member of Cure 4 the Kids Foundation, which operates Nevada’s only federally qualified, hemophilia treatment center and multispecialty pediatric clinic. She is also Compliance Officer for the Children’s Specialty Center of Nevada, a state-licensed facility providing care to children with diseases in hematology, oncology, rheumatology, genetics, and other rare diseases.
“After I complete my DNP in the spring of 2015,” Angela says, “I will lead development of the state’s only outpatient-based comprehensive Pediatric Palliative Care program. We hope it will be a model for other programs across the U.S.”
“I think always being the patient advocate first has offered me many opportunities to contribute. I have created nursing, physician, and family education offerings throughout my career. But I am most proud of my role in developing a very successful pediatric hospice program in a time when the words pediatric and hospice are nearly taboo to be spoken together.”
Behind Angela’s success in bringing much-needed health care to children are two factors: experience and education. “I have the good fortune of having a terrific career as an RN with experience in hospital and outpatient care, case management, leadership, non-profit organizations, and hospice care for adults and children,” says Angela.
“I have also received an exceptional education, including my training from Grand Canyon University. I loved my experience at GCU! The BSN program refined my critical thinking skills and developed the leadership skills I have put to good use during my tenure as an RN. The lessons I learned there about putting projects together and demonstrating my professionalism have gone a long way in helping me create the professional I am today and gain credibility with peers.”
On the future of nursing and health care, Angela offers these words of insight and optimism: “We all have to learn to work smarter not harder. My favorite word is collaboration! Particularly in pediatric care, collaboration is critical if we are going to see success in meeting the healthcare needs of one of our most vulnerable populations. Nurses are natural born leaders and the bar is set high by us for ourselves to make sure we are leading the efforts to make sure patients always come first.”
“To anyone considering a career in nursing, I say, go for it! Determine the area you love and the possibilities are endless. This is one field that you can never be bored in. Each day holds new moments with patients to treasure in your heart and new challenges to make things better for the next patient. We only get one chance to leave this world better than we found it, so let’s go for it!”
Angela Berg, RN, BSN, is Secretary on the Cure 4 Kids Foundation and Compliance Officer for Children’s Specialty Center of Nevada. She earned her BSN from Grand Canyon University in 2000. She is currently working on her Doctor of Nurse Practice at University of Utah and is on track to graduate in 2015.
Persian Gulf War veteran Robert Carnahan got his first taste of trauma treatment on the front lines as a medic for the 82nd Airborne Division. With an MSN from GCU, Robert now serves as Chief Nursing Officer for a hospital in Fallon, NV.
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“Right out of high school, I knew I wanted to do something in health care. I just didn’t know what,” explains Robert Carnahan, RN, MS, PCCN. “I got started as a medic in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, on the front line of the Persian Gulf War. We took care of our soldiers and the Iraqi rebels. For the most part, all we could do was pull bullets out of people, patch them up, and stabilize them enough to ship them off to MASH units in rear operations.” That was Robert’s eye-opening first lesson in trauma treatment and coordinated patient movement.
After the Army, Robert went to Indiana University where he earned his AS in Nursing and worked on a hospital telemetry unit. He later moved to John C. Lincoln North Mountain Hospital in Phoenix, where he started as a charge nurse and was promoted to Director of Nurse Resources and a clinical decision unit. In that role, he was able to apply many of the theories and techniques he was learning in his Master of Science in Nursing program at Grand Canyon University. “Courses in research and evidence-based management really supported me in leading best practice and best outcomes in the projects and teams I worked with,” says Robert.
“During my time as director, I was instrumental in initiatives that significantly improved patient throughput; decreasing movement times from the emergency department to the clinical decision area, to inpatient rooms and finally an earlier discharge,” Robert says with pride. “I also managed the student nurse program that put soon-to-be-graduating nurses into hospital settings where they could get some hands-on experience, as cohorts with another nurse. Skills they had completed in their didactic training, they could now do in the hospital; for example they could start an IV or help with wound care.”
In addition, Robert was project sponsor for a network call center that enabled physicians to admit and triage patients into the hospital from their offices. “It was all a matter of getting the patients where they needed to go, and in less time,” he says.
In 2013, Robert moved to Banner Churchill Community Hospital in Fallon, Nevada, as Chief Nursing Officer serving a small county of about 24,000 residents. “Here you have to be a jack-of-all trades because the resources aren’t as plentiful. You work with what you have and that creates its own set of challenges,” says Robert. “But I’m very happy here. One of the great things about it is how we relate to the community. You have that sense of community pride. When you’re in a big city, the community knows you’re there, but they know less about you and you know less about them. Here, you run into patients all the time at the local restaurants, or the Safeway, or the one Walmart. They’re your friends, your neighbors, your family. It’s a big difference.”
Robert’s career advice for nurses? “I strongly encourage continuing education,” advises Robert. “I think education really matters. I regularly recruit our staff to take classes. Also, be prepared for change. Strive to find ways to improve the health care delivery process and patient care. Put all your heart and energy into it. Be proud.”
Robert Carnahan II, RN, BSN, MS, PCCN is the Chief Nursing Officer at Banner Churchill Community Hospital in Fallon, Nevada. Robert earned his AS in Nursing from Indiana University in 1998, his BSN from University of Phoenix in 2002, and his MSN with an emphasis in Leadership from Grand Canyon University in 2008.
After earning her BSN from Grand Canyon University, Dawna Cato fell in love with education and teaching the next generation of nurses. She clearly sees the impact education has on patient outcomes.
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“The biggest challenge will be preparing the next generation of nurses intellectually to provide nursing services across a variety of increasingly complex healthcare settings,” says Dawna Cato, RN, PhD. “I believe nursing will move from ‘How do we take care of the patient while they are in the hospital?’ to ‘What do I need to know and teach my patient to keep them out of the hospital?’ And this requires us to move from a task-oriented profession to a knowledge-based profession.”
To improve the quality of health care and patient outcomes, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) called for 80% of the U.S. nursing workforce to hold a bachelor’s degree or better by 2020, and a widespread implementation of nurse residency programs. Since 2011, achieving these goals for Arizona has been Dawna’s focus.
Dawna earned her BS in Nursing from Grand Canyon University (GCU) in 2006. From there, she taught clinical for a distance learning diploma program at a multihospital healthcare system in Phoenix. In Dawna’s words: “I fell in love with education and teaching our next generation of nurses. And I could clearly see the impact education has on patient outcomes.”
After earning her MS in Nursing Education (also from GCU) in 2009, she became the Regional Director of Nursing Education for a local healthcare system. In this role, she developed a nurse residency program (NRP) that integrated the mission, values, and the culture of the organization to meet the current and future demands of their nursing workforce.
“I developed the residency program with the conceptual framework of the Nurse of the Future Competencies,” Dawna explains. “My spirit of inquiry piqued as I watched the bachelor-level nurses from my NRP begin to change our organizational culture. They were influencing our incumbent nurses to integrate the advanced competencies such as patient-centered care, teamwork and collaboration, and evidence-based practice (EBP).”
Dawna’s interest in this area launched her PhD dissertation: “Is there a relationship between a BSN NRP and EBP of the incumbent nursing workforce across a multihospital health care system?” Her study, which did show a direct correlation between a BSN NRP and integration of EBP for incumbent nurses, also helped link patient care outcomes with the empowerment of newly licensed nurses through nurse residency programs.
In 2011, Dawna and other nurse leaders developed the AZ Action Coalition to achieve the IOM’s recommendations for nursing. Dawna’s primary focus is achieving the 80% bachelor-level nursing workforce and the implementation of nurse residency programs. “A pilot Nurse Residency Program at GCU will be launched in August 2014.” Dawna explains. “It will be one of the first NRPs in the country to provide a transition to practice model during academic preparation. Hospitals have expressed interest in the partnership because they know it can improve their onboarding of nurses and reduce the time and expense of training to their unique culture.”
In 2013, Dawna came to her alma mater to teach the Pre-licensure Bachelor of Science in Nursing program, as well as Therapeutic Communications and Informatics. She is also the Subject Matter Expert for the development of the Transition to Professional Practice courses. These courses are designed to identify the knowledge, skill and attitudes of nursing students as they relate to the Nurse of the Future competencies and decrease the “reality shock” of new nurses entering the practice setting.
“Being an alumnus,” said Dawna, “I have an emotional attachment to Grand Canyon University. I am also impressed with leadership embracing innovation and accepting the challenge of new modalities of teaching to prepare our future workforce to meet the demands of a highly complex healthcare system.”
“This is an exciting time for nurses,” Dawna observes. “We are gaining momentum to become ‘one voice’ for the health and welfare of our society. According to the American Nurses Association, nursing is the largest segment in healthcare with approximately 3.1 million registered nurses in the U.S. That is a lot of voices with a lot of power to effect change.”
Dawna Cato, RN, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Nursing at Grand Canyon University where she also earned her BS in Nursing in 2006 and her MS in Nursing Education in 2009. Dawna earned her PhD in Nursing Education from Capella University in 2013.