By Katie Seliga, a TCU Nursing DNP-FNP student.
I graduated with my Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from TCU in December 2019. However, before graduating with my BSN, I knew I would return to TCU for my Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)! I had such a great undergraduate experience with the undergraduate faculty and knew I would have the same experience in graduate school. I was drawn to TCU’s graduate program because of its high reputation at the local and national levels. I began the DNP Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) program in May 2021.
I selected the FNP program because I am passionate about providing comprehensive and preventative care to patients of all ages. In addition to becoming an FNP, my undergraduate and graduate instructors sparked my desire to become a nurse educator. TCU was the perfect match because its graduate nursing program also offers a Nurse Educator Certificate.
Thinking Like a Provider
The design structure of the FNP program’s curriculum has greatly benefited my learning. Before starting clinical, I completed “Advanced Pathophysiology,” “Advanced Pharmacology,” and “Advanced Health Assessment”. These three courses expanded upon my undergraduate pathophysiology, pharmacology and health assessment knowledge. Obtaining a deeper understanding of disease processes, pharmacological agents and health assessment findings and skills allowed me to begin thinking like a provider. In addition, courses allowed me to establish a strong foundation before taking “Primary Care Adult/Gerontology I” and “Primary Care Adult/Gerontology Practicum.” In addition, taking a didactic course with a concurrent practicum course has greatly enhanced my learning, as what I am learning in didactic is what I see each week in my clinical setting!
I have enjoyed all my didactic courses. Learning consists of textbook readings, reading articles provided by instructors and watching pre-recorded lecture videos. I appreciate that I can complete readings and lectures on my own time; this has been very valuable since I still practice as a registered nurse. Each semester, we have had various assignments such as case studies and video PowerPoint presentations; these assignments have gotten me into the mindset of “thinking like an NP.”
The DNP Project
Since I am completing a doctoral program, courses focusing on biostatistics, research methods and innovation are incorporated into the program. These courses have assisted me in developing my DNP project. The DNP project is similar to a doctoral thesis, although the main concept is practice focus and results in translating evidence into practice. I am excited about starting the DNP project-focused classes this summer. My DNP project partner and I completed our undergraduate degree together and based our project on our undergraduate public health clinical experience. We plan to implement Hands-Only Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (HOC) education in the primary care setting. My partner and I plan to have our clinic patients complete a pre-assessment questionnaire on their knowledge and confidence of HOC, watch a brief American Heart Association HOC video and then complete a post-assessment questionnaire assessing their knowledge and confidence in performing the skill. The patient will also be able to demonstrate HOC and receive in-time feedback from the provider.
OCIs & Interprofessional Collaboration
Before starting our practicum courses, all my classmates and I attended three days of On-Campus Intensives (OCI) at TCU. Since this program is entirely online, finally meeting my classmates in person was so nice. At OCI, we practice head-to-toe assessments with each other. We also learn skills such as suturing and incision and drainage of abscesses. On the second day of OCI, we spend the morning at the University of North Texas Health Science Center (UNTHSC) reviewing human anatomy on human cadavers. In the second half of the day, we perform well-woman and well-man exams on Male Urogenital Teaching Associates and Gynecological Teaching Associates. The teaching associates instruct students on the correct method of performing the exams. While performing the exams, students receive simultaneous feedback from the teaching associate. On the third and final day of OCI, we perform head-to-toe assessments and completed episodic (sick) visits on standardized patients. After completing the patient examinations, we receive feedback from our faculty and standardized patients. One of my favorite parts of OCI was running into classmates from undergrad who are also TCU graduate nursing students.
Throughout the program, I have completed various interprofessional collaboration assignments that included undergraduate and graduate TCU athletic training, speech pathology, social work and nutrition students. Another interprofessional assignment allowed us to complete a telehealth scenario with students from TCU’s DNP-FNP, nutrition programs, and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners and social work students from the University of Iowa. The experience was invaluable, and I learned so much about conducting a telehealth visit while collaborating with other professional specialties.
Day in the Life as a DNP Student
My typical day as a graduate student varies because I still work as a registered nurse. However, on days I am not working, I typically spend 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. reading, watching lectures, writing discussion posts and replying to my peer’s posts. In addition, I complete my clinical rotation at a primary care office one to two days a week. In clinical, I visit with patients independently, obtain a history and perform a physical exam. After, I consult with my preceptor and present my differential diagnosis and treatment plan. My preceptor and I then enter the patient’s room together, where the preceptor will ask follow-up questions and perform an assessment. An unexpected opportunity this semester was the ability to complete clinical days with a couple of TCU’s graduate faculty.
My favorite memory was the opportunity to attend the 2023 American Association of Colleges of Nursing Student Policy Summit in Washington, D.C. I spent the first day listening to various presenters discuss nurses’ advocacy, policy and legislative development roles. On the second day, attendees broke into groups based on state residency. We then attended Capitol Hill, where we met with members of Congress and their staff members to advocate for nursing research, education and funding.
My graduate studies have flown by, and I have genuinely enjoyed every semester! In addition to becoming a practicing family nurse practitioner, I plan to become a nurse educator and get involved in professional organizations after graduating. I am so thankful I chose to complete my doctoral degree at TCU!