Ty Walton, from Tupelo, receives her doctorate graduate scarf for her nursing degree from Mississippi University for Women’s department chair of graduate nursing and her project faculty advisor, Dr. Johnnie Sue Wijewardane, Friday at the class of 2013’s graduation. Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff
December 14, 2013 10:46:15 PM
Ty Walton never imagined a career in nursing. But, after working in the field for more than a decade, she knows that it was meant to be.
This Friday, Walton and four of her colleagues received their doctorate of nursing practice (DNP) degrees from Mississippi University for Women, the first graduating class of the program, which was created to help advance healthcare in the state.
Walton was one a 190 students to receive their degrees during Friday's graduation ceremony at Renta Auditorium.
Ed Blakeslee, a member of the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning, was the commencement speaker.
Walton, a wife and mother of three teenagers, currently works at the North Mississippi Regional Center, which promotes independence and enhances the abilities of individuals with intellectual and related developmental disabilities. She is the only full-time nurse practitioner on the campus, serving 260 individuals.
"This DNP program has helped me to see the big picture of nursing and has provided me with the necessary skills to operate as an expert clinician as well as nurse leader in the profession," she said. "This program has equipped me with what I describe as the best of both worlds: I have the skills to work at the bedside and in the administrative fields of nursing."
Also sharing the spotlight with Walton on Friday were Wanda Towery Stroupe of Ripley, Jacqueline Shonda Phelon of Grenada, and Teresa Hamill and Sally Pearson, both of Starkville.
Stroupe owns a family practice clinic in Ripley that employs two nurse practitioners, five nurses and two office staff.
She sees children and adult patients with a special interest in childhood obesity and adult hypertension and diabetic care. Her clinic also is participating with North Mississippi Medical Center in a pilot project with TransferMed as a Patient Centered Medical Neighborhood.
Stroupe chose to pursue her DNP to reach the maximum education in her field and increase her knowledge base for patients.
"I felt this would enhance my ability to provide high-quality care to my patients. I also enjoy training future nurse practitioners and have served as preceptor for nurse practitioner students. I feel as a clinical site, I needed to have a terminal degree to serve as preceptor."
Phelon, who teachers part-time in the graduate nursing program at The W and serves patients as a nurse practitioner for Region VI Mental Health, said she always wanted a clinical nursing doctorate degree, which is the focus of the DNP.
"When I learned that The W was starting this program, I wanted to be a part of it. I obtained my MSN at The W in 1992 and earned two post master's certifications at other universities. Obtaining my DNP from The W has brought me full circle in my nurse practitioner education."
Hamill and Pearson, both of whom have completed the DNP program, are instructors in The W's College of Nursing.
Dr. Johnnie Sue Wijewardane, department chair of the graduate nursing program, said 10 students have been admitted into the program, with six scheduled to enroll. Launched in January 2012, the DNP is The W's first doctoral program.
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