Clockwise from top left: DNP candidates Sherri St. Pierre, Donna Cullinan, Beth McNutt-Clarke, Jacqueline Sly, Maureen Connolly, Allan Thomas, Nanci Haze, and Catherine Conahan.
Nurses like Jacqueline Sly vividly recall the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, when little was known about the seemingly relentless infection, testing was limited, and shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) made caregiving both fraught and frightening.
Witnessing their patients’ fear and suffering, nurses worried in particular about being forced to reuse equipment like N95 respirators—the highly sensitive filtering masks normally discarded after each patient encounter. What’s more, information and guidance on how to handle the equipment safely was scant.
“It was really distressing when I had to take on and off my mask [between patients],” recalls Sly, a certified family nurse practitioner who provides same-day urgent care as part of a family practice. “I was concerned about getting COVID myself and bringing it home to my family.”
But now, thanks to Sly and a small, stand-out team of innovator nurses in the Connell School’s new Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program, educational materials are available to teach clinicians and caregivers how best to conserve previously worn, contaminated N95 masks.
“That’s what we know about nurses. Give us a problem, and we’ll fix it,” says Connell School Associate Dean for Graduate Programs Susan Kelly-Weeder.