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Q&A: Meet Cheryl Sheils, Program Director for the Doctorate of Nursing Practice

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Prior to joining the faculty at Bay Path University, what work did you do?

Prior to joining BPU, I was Associate Professor of Nursing at Elms College in Chicopee for nearly 30 years teaching at the undergrad and graduate levels. I was a founding member and nurse manager for 20 years of Pioneer Valley Free Health Service which was located in East Longmeadow. I have also been Project Director for a HRSA Health Workforce Diversity Grant and have traveled to Jamaica with nursing students on medical missions for the past several years.

Why Bay Path? What makes the University's Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program unique? 

The BPU DNP program is one of only five fully online DNP programs in the country. The online program allows working RNs to further their professional development and careers without having to leave their living and workplace environments. BPU has been providing online education in several fields and provides first-rate support for online learners.

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing nurses today? 

Today’s nurses are faced with a number of challenges. One that rises to the top of the list is the staffing shortage coupled with the fact that nurses have long work hours. Other challenges are workplace violence, workplace hazards, and ever-changing technology. Also, we are transitioning from fee for service to value-base payment for health care where value translates to health outcomes and we know from research that a more educated nursing workforce is associated with decreased mortality rates and improved health outcomes. The challenge in this for nursing education is to create programs that provide seamless transition from ADN to BSN to MSN or DNP.

Thinking about your own career, what has been the biggest challenge?   

Definitely keeping up with advances in diagnostics and treatments and, of course, health care and education technology.

Biggest reward? 

Seeing the success of my students when I know a nursing curriculum is so difficult for even the most academically astute. In addition, I have been rewarded with working collaboratively with some of the best, most dedicated nurse educators. I have learned a great deal from my students and my colleagues.

What are you most excited about with the launch of this program? 

The DNP program will not only broaden the University’s strong graduate offerings in the health sciences but also help fulfill its mission of addressing critical occupational need.  I am excited about welcoming nursing grads of BP’s RN to BSN program back to the University to pursue the DNP as well as grads from other schools who seek top quality online education.

What do you hope students gain or take away from their learning and experience in this program? 

DNP students are prepared to be experts in specialized advanced nursing practice. DNP graduates demonstrate the highest level of nursing practice to improve patient outcomes, improve population health, engage in research at a scholarly level and translate research into practice. DNP students are prepared to create healthcare policies designed to improve access to care and to address health promotion and risk reduction. As licensed, independent clinicians, DNPs practice autonomously and in coordination with health care professionals and other individuals. The DNP elevates professional nursing practice to be on par with other healthcare disciplines, such as medicine, occupational and physical therapy, and pharmacy.