Dual-Degree Program Designed to Improve Patient Care

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Every day, nurse researchers conduct studies that could dramatically improve patient care. However, critical findings from these studies are not always implemented immediately. This is because nurse researchers, who often hold a doctorate of philosophy (PhD) degree, focus on the generation of new knowledge through studies, but may not have the opportunity to apply the knowledge with patients at the bedside. Increasingly, it is the role of a nurse with a doctorate in nursing practice (DNP) to implement scholarly findings into patient care. However, transferring knowledge can be challenging in the hospital setting.

Recognizing the need to close the gap between research and practice, Goldfarb School of Nursing at Barnes-Jewish College developed the nation’s first integrated dual DNP and PhD program, designed to produce a “practice scientist.” Thanks to this innovative degree, nurses can develop the dual competencies needed to conduct intensive scholarly research and implement their findings at the bedside.

Joanne Kern started her career in health care as a teenage candy striper. Today, she has 32 years in nursing under her belt and still wants to learn more. She is a student in the Goldfarb DNP/PhD program while she works full-time as a neurosurgical nurse. “The dual-degree program ties together the clinical side and the research side to hit the core of nursing and improve patient care,” Joanne says. “In the past, research was so abstract and often not feasible in practice. But the trend has changed with more clinical people who work closely with patients involved in research. This is helping to bring clinical- and research-based evidence to the bedside more easily.”

For example, one area of research with practical applications is health literacy. Health literacy essentially describes a patient’s ability to understand basic health information and services to make appropriate health care decisions. According to a study by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 77 million adults have basic or below basic health literacy. Even people with strong literacy skills can face health literacy challenges. Ensuring that patients understand their illness and treatments is a critical nursing competency, as nurses are often the last contact patients have before going home to manage their illness.

“The dual-degree program ties together the clinical side and the research side to hit the core of nursing and improve patient care.”
– Joanne Kern

Health literacy is a primary focus for Joanne. “Through my class project, I’m working on improving health literacy in patients over age 65 and I’m implementing these ideas in my clinical work with patients. I’ve always put patients and families first but what I’ve learned through this program has changed how I communicate with them. I’m also educating other nurses about health literacy. We need to truly engage patients in their care so they know what to expect and what questions to ask. This dual-degree program is a wonderful catalyst for this.”

Supporting Nursing Students Ensures Great Patient Care

As a patient at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, Ken Levy has firsthand experience with the care given by nurses who make sure their patients understand their disease and treatment. “When I was diagnosed with diabetes, my nurse educated me on how to give myself a shot, how to test my blood sugars and what dietary changes I needed to make,” Ken says. “This made me realize that if you get a good education about your disease when you are first diagnosed, you know what to expect and how to best manage your disease. After talking with my nurse, I felt terrific. I was equipped to keep my diabetes under control and my quality of life intact.”

Ken was so impressed with his care that he wanted to help make sure that other patients received the same level of quality. He and his wife, Barbara, chose to make annual gifts to The Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital to support scholarships for Goldfarb students pursuing advanced degrees.

“Nurses with advanced degrees ensure that patients receive the best possible care, that new nursing students have skilled teachers and that excellent health care continues to be available in our community,” Ken says. “I give support because many students have accumulated debt from pursuing their BSNs. I don’t want finances to be an obstacle in achieving an advanced degree that has such impact on so many.”

Ken and Barbara’s history of supporting Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Goldfarb School of Nursing spans generations, beginning with his grandparents. Barbara, a member of the Jewish Hospital College class of 1966, is happy to support her alma mater.

Barbara will celebrate her class reunion soon, reconnecting with classmates and seeing the continued advancements at Goldfarb, including the DNP/PhD program that she supports.

Please support scholarships at Goldfarb School of Nursing by making a donation to the Goldfarb School of Nursing Scholarship Fund (#0374) at The Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital. If you have questions, call 314-286-0600 or email GivingBarnesJewish@bjc.org

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