Twenty-five years ago, Whittney Brady was a new mother whose daughter, Jordan, spent the first four months of her life in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. Five years later her daughter, Sydney, spent two weeks in the NICU.
“I was in nursing school at the time my oldest daughter was in the NICU,” she said. “As I tell everyone, my daughters led me to my career path.”
That path led Brady becoming a nurse in that same NICU to her current job as director of the nursing NICU at CCHMC. On May 9, 2015, Brady reaches another milestone as she graduates from Mount St. Joseph University with a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree. As part of graduate work, DNP and MSN (Master of Science in Nursing) candidates are required to prepare projects for real-world impact of current health care dilemmas.
Brady didn’t have to look far to find the inspiration behind her project, which focused on efforts of non-judgmental supportive care to improve outcomes of infants with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). Babies with NAS are exposed to opioid drugs before they are born.
“We monitor babies with NAS closely, especially the first 72 hours of their lives,” she said.
Brady’s research looks at treating these infants to promote mother-baby bonding including skin-to-skin contact, breastfeeding, and for the mother to be an integral part of the baby’s care. She also sheds light on treatment options including the need for more funding for homes devoted for mothers and babies with NAS. In addition, Brady encourages sensitivity training for providers from nurses to doctors, to understand addiction.
“Heroin addiction in Hamilton County is one of the highest in the nation,” she said. “If we can’t fix what’s broken, it’s just going to repeat itself over and over again.”
The May graduation marks the first MSN and DNP graduates from the Mount since the program started three years ago. A MSN is the first graduate nursing degree after a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN), and a DNP degree leads nurses to the highest level of advanced nursing practice. Both MSN and DNP students take part in identifying areas of interest in their nursing field and researching a solution. Other projects looked at topics such as vaccine compliance, pre-operative education before spine surgery, and safe sleep environments in NICUs.
“Both the DNP and MSN graduates have successfully taken hold and embraced their graduate education at the Mount in order to facilitate a final project that focused on a current and often local health care need,” said Nancy Hinzman, DNP, RN, and chair of MSN/DNP. “The MSN and DNP projects far exceeded our expectations and demonstrated exceptional quality.”
Bill Lecher, a senior clinical director at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, focused his DNP project on men in pediatric nursing. Lecher serves on several boards and recently spoke at a conference called MAN-UP: Men Advancing Nursing, Unleashing the Potential. He points out there hasn’t been literature specifically addressing men in pediatric nursing.
“The national rate of men in nursing is 10%, but only 3% of pediatric nurses in Ohio are men,” Lecher said. “We need to overcome barriers preventing men from becoming pediatric nurses. The help and care for others is not limited to women. Creating a more inclusive workforce can lead to better outcomes.”
Lecher’s research included a focus group of men and women pediatric nurses. His recommendations included recruitment actions such as offering a mentoring program, promoting all that Cincinnati has to offer, and having a male nurses at recruitment fairs and open houses.
“We need to leverage men to show how beneficial it is to work with kids and teenagers,” Lecher said. “There are incidences, especially with teenage boys, where they might be more comfortable with having a male nurse.”