The first five students in the SON’s Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree program will graduate on December 14. The students comprise the first class of DNP students to graduate since the SON began accepting applications to the DNP program in 2013.

Each student defended a DNP project in which they conducted quality improvement or a practice improvement project. The practice problems they chose to address reflect the diversity of experience and interests each student has brought to the program.

Heather Boykin, MSN, RN, ANP-BC, pursued her interest in improving patient education by developing a program to inform patients living with chronic kidney disease about their options for vascular access, i.e., how their blood is drawn and replaced, during hemodialysis. In a one-hour education session, an expert nurse practitioner explained various vascular access options. Out of the 10 patients who participated in the session, two had selected non-catheter placement prior to the class, four were ultimately referred for vascular access, and two patients chose a form of dialysis that did not require vascular access.

Valerie Idada-Parker, MSN, RN, PMHNP-BC, drew on her background as a psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner to examine how capable a community-based agency was at delivering integrated care. Agencies who serve individuals with mental health and substance abuse disorders often provide care to people who are diagnosed with both types of disorders. Ms. Idada-Parker used an evidence-based index to evaluate the agency’s capacity for serving people with dual diagnoses and identified potential solutions the agency staff could implement to improve their ability to serve these patients.


Carla Massengill Jones, MSN, RN, NE-BC, focused on an issue that many health care providers face on a daily basis–patient falls and how to prevent them. Ms. Jones developed a strategy to identify different factors that lead a patient to fall at an academic medical center. Her work revealed that patients who are prone to fall were unassisted, they often experienced a fall within the first 24 hours, and they were identified as a fall risk. Although most patients were uninjured from the fall, prevention of falls is crucial.

Catherine K. Madigan, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, chose a question related to her work as the Associate Chief Nursing Office and Vice President of UNC Health Care. She analyzed patient satisfactions surveys to determine what aspects of a patient’s stay in the hospital influenced their responses. Understanding a patient’s total experience could help her and her colleagues identify new ways to improve care delivery and the patient experience and enhance the hospital’s reputation.

Megan O’Connor, MSN, RN, put a well-known team-building exercise to the test. The board game “Friday Night at the ER” has been used by several groups as a tool to develop collaborative decision-making skills. The game aimed to impact organizational culture by focusing on trust, communication, and knowledge sharing through the use of an experiential learning game and debriefing. Prior to Ms. O’Connor’s project, there was no quantitative assessment to demonstrate that the game enhanced these skills. She concluded the game was an effective team-building exercise.