||Cecil Almendra, PhD, being congratulated by Robert Hughes, Executive Director of Coler-Goldwater Specialty Hospital
When Cecil Awen Almendra embarked on her Ph.D. in Nursing degree at Rutgers University while working as a nurse full-time at Coler-Goldwater Specialty Hospital on Roosevelt Island, the married mother of two thought she'd lost half her life.
"It took me eight years to complete this last degree," remembers Almendra, Associate Director of Nursing and Director of Nursing Staff Development and Education. But the more intense it became balancing work, family, commuting and studies, the more the 52-year old persevered. "Now I can see the whole picture," she says. "And I'm proud that I can bring the skills and research that I learned to the 2,000 plus nurses and staff that I train."
||Jared Kutzin, DNP
For Jared Kutzin, who is Associate Director of Clinical Simulation at HHC, getting a Doctorate in Nursing Practice from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst connected him with lots of complicated theories and ideas that he has been able to translate into his work and help improve the quality of care to patients.
"It has provided me a real solid foundation to build on," explains Kutzin, who began his career as an EMT and has worked as an emergency nurse, trauma nurse, and in hospital quality measurement before being inspired by simulation technology.
Almendra and Kutzin are among an elite group of nurses. The two health care professionals are among the less than five percent of the nation's nurses who have doctorate degrees in nursing.
While the number of nurses with doctorates is small at present, in a decade, the figure stands to change. In 2004, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) voted to change the current level of education necessary for advanced nursing practice from a master's degree to a doctorate level for nurse practitioners, clinical nurses specialists, nurse midwives and nurse anesthetists by 2015.
"A Doctorate of Nursing Practice brings another level of nursing and health care expertise to the job," says Dr. Haru Okuda, Assistant Vice President of HHC, the Director of the Institute for Medical Simulation and Advanced Learning and Kutzin's supervisor.
And both Almendra and Kutzin agree. They say that every level of education has brought them a wider scope of an ever-changing complex health care environment.
"We are taking advantage of new technology to teach and allow HHC staff to build skills in very complicated procedures safely and correctly in a reduced stress environment," says Kutzin, who focused his doctoral studies in medical simulation, a technology that is less than a decade old. "I am looking to lead for the future," says the 27-year old Manhattan resident.
Almendra's doctoral focus is also looking ahead, but in a different kind of way. She studied nursing administration with a specific concentration on addressing the physical, mental and health stresses of nursing. The Philippines native says that she was inspired to pursue the focus because there are few studies and research focusing on the pressures - or quality of life issues of nurses, especially those working in long term care facilities.
"The world is not created perfectly for them, they bring comfort to others and many times forget to care for themselves," Almendra says of the high stress environment that nurses work under. "I was inspired to find better ways for them to stay physically and mentally healthy."
And when nurses are thriving, it's a win-win for all.
"I think everyone benefits - the patients, the facility and the nurses themselves," Almendra says.