UTEP DNP Graduates Positively Impact Health in the Region

Last Updated on June 19, 2015 at 9:55 am

Originally published June 12, 2015

By Laura L. Acosta

UTEP News Service

Since 2013, 43 graduates from the UTEP School of Nursing’s Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program have shaped the future of health care by leading innovations in health care delivery in the Paso del Norte region.

Forty-one of those graduates have remained in El Paso and Las Cruces, New Mexico. Today they continue to serve the health care needs of the communities they live in by enhancing the safety and quality of patient care.

Twenty-one students graduated from the UTEP School of Nursing’s Doctor of Nursing Practice program in May 2015. Photo by Laura Trejo / UTEP News Service

Twenty-one students graduated from the UTEP School of Nursing’s Doctor of Nursing Practice program in May 2015. Photo by Laura Trejo / UTEP News Service

One of those recent graduates is Jeff Gainok, a major in the Army Nurse Corps. The DNP program has allowed nursing leaders like Gainok to develop valuable skills and learn how to implement quality improvement projects into their nursing practice that will have a lasting impact on the populations they serve.

Before earning his DNP from The University of Texas at El Paso in May 2015, Gainok designed and implemented a clinical project at William Beaumont Army Medical Center (WBAMC) that involved creating a five-minute educational video aimed at reducing the anxiety that parents feel when their children are about to undergo anesthesia.

“For those of us who provide anesthesia to children, we know the anxiety that parents can have when their child comes in for surgery,” Gainok, a certified registered nurse anesthetist at WBAMC since 2007, explained in the video. He is the first nurse anesthetist to earn his DNP from UTEP. “It can be scary to turn the care of one’s child over to a group of people who are largely strangers when they, as parents, are not allowed to remain nearby.”

With the help of the hospital’s film crew, Gainok produced a video that allowed parents to gain a better understanding of the anesthesia care their child was going to receive at WBAMC, including the role of the anesthesia provider during the surgery.

“I wanted to do it in a way that I could almost show them what is going to happen without actually taking them back to the operating room,”Gainok said. “The video would give them almost a tour of the step-by-step process from the time they show to their appointment and turn their child over to me, to what occurred in the operating room, to what happens when we’re done.”

For his project, Gainok surveyed 26 parents to measure their level of anxiety. He asked them questions like, “Are you worried about your child’s anesthetic?” Thirteen parents saw the video during their preoperative appointment and 13 did not. Gainok compared the results between both groups. According to his findings, parents who saw the video had a more satisfactory experience and a lower stress level.

The video is currently being shown on the education channel at WBAMC.

“When you’re in the Doctor of Nursing Practice program and you work on a project and see it make a difference, it’s a really good feeling,” said Gainok, who presented his project at the “Doctor of Nursing Practice Symposium Capstone Presentations: Clinical Scholars Translating Research into Practice” at UTEP in May. “It’s a real validation of what you learned.”

Students start working on their capstone projects during the first semester of the five-semester DNP program. They begin by identifying an area that could be improved in their practice setting, such as a clinic or hospital unit. They then research interventions that have worked to develop a quality improvement project that can be implemented into the practice setting, said Leslie Robbins, Ph.D., assistant dean of graduate education at the UTEP School of Nursing.

Robbins explained that a Ph.D. in nursing prepares nurses to conduct research. A Doctor of Nursing practice degree provides students with the skills they need to translate nursing research into practice.

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) has adopted a position that the educational preparation for advanced practice nurses be transitioned from the Master of Science in Nursing to the DNP by 2015.

“Many of the projects are small, pilot quality improvement projects, but they are very successful,” Robbins said. “Many of them are implemented into practice settings for ongoing delivery.”

Regina Godwin Udo was one of 21 students who graduated from the DNP program in May 2015 that implemented quality improvements projects into their practice settings.

Udo based the protocol for her clinical project on a parent-focused intervention to reduce childhood obesity on research that focused on teaching parents about healthy eating, exercise and healthy behaviors.

Udo, a family nurse practitioner with a private practice in Las Cruces, New Mexico, offered a 12-session, parent-focused healthy lifestyle education program to parents of children between 8 and 12 years old who were overweight or obese.

“What motivated me to pick this topic was when I would see my pediatric patients who are either overweight or obese, and when I would start a discussion with the parents, they would become defensive and blame the child for eating too much,” Udo said. “I wanted to do something differently to put them at ease when we would have this discussion and change the outcomes that I was getting at my practice.”

During the sessions, Udo gave each family member a food portion plate and placemat that listed information on healthy foods.

She also invited a registered dietitian to talk to the parents about nutrition and ways to cook healthier food by modifying the recipes to include less fatty ingredients and more fresh vegetables.

The majority of the children whose parents participated in the project decreased or maintained their baseline weight and Body Mass Index.

“I was looking for an opportunity to let the parents know that if they take this on as a champion for their families, it is going to benefit everybody,” said Udo, who plans to integrate the sessions into her practice. “I wanted them to learn and then go home and disseminate the information in the family and make it the family’s lifestyle.”

Other projects include a diabetes self-management education program developed by Jesus M. Hernandez at La Clínica de Familia in Chaparral, New Mexico. Video conferencing sessions were used to give access to diabetes patients living in the rural area to a certified diabetes educator.

The program is expected to expand to other sites in the near future.

Inaugurated in 2011, the DNP is the first doctoral degree offered by UTEP’s School of Nursing. The program welcomed its fourth cohort of seven students in the fall of 2014.

For more information about the DNP program, click here.

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