Viewing patients through the eyes of Christ

Family nurse practitioner program prepares nurses to show compassion and mercy in every patient encounter

Introduction by Dona Clarin, program director and associate professor | C ompiled by Hailey Pruitt

The mission of the Carr College of Nursing is “Developing Nurses as Christian Servants.” In 2015, the college expanded its program offerings by adding the Master of Science in nursing with a focus on preparing registered nurses as future family nurse practitioners. The curriculum is focused on providing care to patients across the lifespan in outpatient care settings. Delivered in both online and on-campus formats, the flexibility allows students to better balance the demands of work, life and school. The required on-campus time allows for face-to-face relationship building between faculty and students, while ensuring national competencies are being met through live workshops and interprofessional educational activities.

I believe one of the best parts of our program is that we not only provide the appropriate educational opportunities, but we also mentor on how to provide care from a Christian perspective. The students are faced with many situations that challenge their core values, and I believe the faculty do an excellent job of assisting students on how to exhibit compassion and mercy in every patient encounter. In their own words, students and alumni share their experiences and the value of the program.

Cecilia Cook

I was born and raised in New Albany, Mississippi, and I am a single mother to a very outgoing 2-year-old boy named Levi.

I obtained my associate degree in nursing from Northeast Mississippi Community College in 2017 and continued my education at Mississippi University for Women where I earned a Bachelor of Science in nursing in 2018. I’ve spent most of my nursing career working on general medicine units; however, I also have worked on a neurology/stroke unit. I currently work as a corporate float-pool nurse in surgical/oncology, post-surgical and COVID-19 units.

I was previously enrolled in another family nurse practitioner program but, after much thought and prayer, determined it wasn’t a good fit for me. Coincidentally, a current Harding student overheard my conversation at the nurses’ station while at work one day. She gave me Dr. Clarin’s phone number and told me to reach out. The first conversation with Dr. Clarin was all I needed to decide where to continue my education. For a program director to take time out of her busy schedule to call me spoke volumes. She cared enough about my education to listen to every question and concern I had and extended a warm welcome into the Harding family. Without a doubt, I am exactly where I need to be.

While previously working in Memphis, Tennessee, I realized the obstacles and challenges many patients encounter. I have witnessed patients in extremely binding positions with their health. For example, many cannot afford their life-sustaining medications. Homeless patients fail to realize the severity of their medical conditions because of their fight and determination to find the next meal or shelter. Illiterate patients fail to understand their medical diagnoses because they are too embarrassed to ask questions or seek clarification out of fear of judgment, resulting in inadequate administration of their medications and imposing more severe health threats. Drug users or alcoholic patients who have relapsed multiple times and been abandoned by family, driving a more profound depression, are those I seek to help most. The situations I encountered while working in Memphis allowed my passion to grow, and I have concluded that service in an underprivileged community is what I am most fit for. My goal is to use the knowledge gained in the family nurse practitioner program to advocate for patients of these communities.

The atmosphere at Harding is unmatched. I know that I have instructors who care about me not only academically but physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. It doesn’t get much better than that. To know that I have instructors praying for me and over me is top tier.

Harding is not only providing me with a solid foundation and framework in advanced nursing practice to give me the professional aptitude to effectively assess, diagnose, prescribe and manage the overall care of patients but is also instilling Christian values and ethics that will drive my nursing practice so that God speaks through me with every patient encounter.

Carrie Dimaria

Born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska, I currently live in Waco, Texas. My parents retired last year and moved to Waco, and I have two older sisters who have given me five endlessly energetic nephews and one adorable niece. I am single and have a 3-year-old Portuguese Water Dog, Aubrey, who is my fuzzy fur baby.

After high school I attended the Adventures In Missions program at Sunset International Bible Institute in Lubbock, Texas. My team spent 18 months working with Paul and Amy Dowell in Lima, Peru. I then double majored in nursing and vocational Christian ministry at Harding and earned a Bachelor of Science in nursing in 2013.

I have primarily been a medical-surgical nurse for seven years. I started in orthopaedic trauma in Spokane, Washington, transitioned to a float pool in Newport, Rhode Island, and then tried travel nursing for a year. Currently I am working in a float pool for Baylor Scott & White. I have worked inpatient in orthopedics, oncology, renal, neurology, rehab, long-term acute care, psychiatry, emergency department, infusion therapy and cardiology.

As an undergraduate at Harding, I had heard whispers of future plans for various nurse practitioner programs. In the spring of 2020 when I decided to look into going back to school, Harding was one of the first I considered. I consulted a former classmate who had just graduated from the family nurse practitioner program, contacted the dean with follow-up questions, and started the program in January 2021.

Harding is unique because they teach us to practice from a Christian perspective, which shifts the focus of practice to quality holistic care. We view the patient as a whole physical, spiritual, mental, emotional and social being who also is a part of a family and community. It is easy to see the diagnosis before the patient and become frustrated with the lack of progress some people make. When we try to view patients through the eyes of Christ, we become more understanding and forgiving.

From theory to documentation we are taught and held to a standard of excellence. I feel like we will specifically be prepared for that first hurdle of our professional careers. There also are a lot of professional networking opportunities through the Harding community, which is important when starting out as a new graduate in any field.

I was very concerned that I would not do well in a primarily online program because I am so used to learning in a classroom setting, but that has not been an issue for me. Because it is a smaller group of students, the teachers are able to take the time to work through things with us, and we get a lot of personal attention and understanding.

As a future family nurse practitioner, I am interested in learning advanced practice nursing skills like suturing. I would like to start out in urgent care so I can experience a wide range of ailments. However, I would really like to know and care for my patients long term in whatever form that may take.

Zachary McBroom

I was born and raised in Smithville, Oklahoma, and I have lived in Searcy for the last 2 ½ years with my wife, Katie, and our dog, Max. We both work in healthcare, and I am in the family nurse practitioner program while she is in the pharmacy program. We are adventurous and enjoy spending our free time traveling, hiking and enjoying Lake Ouachita.

I completed a bachelor’s degree in nutritional science and spent a year in medical school before finally attending The University of Oklahoma accelerated nursing program. After I graduated in 2019, we moved to Searcy, and I work as a nurse in the local emergency department.

We moved to Searcy so Katie could attend Har­ding, and I thought that having the opportunity to attend a university where I would be living would provide me with the best opportunity to meet and communicate with my professors and learn from my program studies. I also appreciated that Harding was a Christian university whose values reflected my own and intertwined faith into the curriculum. Additionally, after interviewing on campus, I knew it was where I wanted to be because I felt genuine interest and care for me as a person and as a student. Thankfully, this program has exceeded my expectations.

One of the biggest perks of Harding’s family nurse practitioner program is the mix of online coursework and in-person, hands-on learning experiences that are completed on campus. The program also offers a part-time option, which has allowed me to take full advantage of learning study material while continuing to work in the local emergency department. Fortunately, the program’s flexibility has worked very well for us, and I am thankful for the experience.

The professors at Harding are very knowledgeable, and it has been a pleasure to learn from them. Additionally, the mixture of online and hands-on training has been welcoming, as well as the help in finding good preceptors to learn from. I also appreciate that the program emphasizes holistic patient-centered care.

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to work in family medicine. Other specialties I believe I would enjoy include urgent care and cardiology.

I have really enjoyed my experience at Harding. I am thankful for the opportunity that this program has granted me, and I look forward to graduation.

Jennifer Christian

I am a 2020 graduate of Harding’s family nurse practitioner program and a lifelong resident of Valliant, Oklahoma. I have been married to Dakota for 13 years, and we have a very energetic 5-year-old son, Logan, who is the light of our world. We enjoy spending family time outdoors.

I received my associate degree in radiologic technology from the University of Arkansas and worked in a hospital setting. I have always had a love for nursing, and I later studied at Eastern Oklahoma State College and became a licensed registered nurse. I worked mainly in emergency room settings and home health while earning my bachelor’s degree at University of Cincinnati.

I am currently a full-time advanced practice registered nurse in the emergency room, and I am loving every minute of it. I also work part time at a clinic, and I love the variety of care I am able to provide while serving both in the emergency room and family practice.

I did not plan to attend Harding initially, but God works in mysterious ways. A close college friend was accepted into the family nurse practitioner program, and she called and said I should apply, so that’s what I did. It was the best decision and path God could have laid for me.

Dr. Clarin and the faculty were absolutely amazing. I have never been part of a program that made me feel like family and had a lasting impact on my life and educational values. During my clinical rotation for pediatrics, I was very sick with pneumonia and felt like I couldn’t attend. Dr. Clarin came to my house and drove me to my clinical site. We did our evaluation, and she drove me back home. Her compassion really showed how much these professors care about us. This does not happen in every program. Harding has morals, values and a Christian base that will drive you to become the best provider you can be in your community. I am so thankful for the University and the staff that prepared me to be the provider I am becoming.

Keisha Fox

I am a 2019 graduate , and I live in Conway, Arkansas, with my husband, Tyrone. Together we have a blended family of seven children and one grandson. My 15-year nursing background includes geriatrics, pediatrics, hospice, home health, rehabilitation, medical-surgical and mental health. Currently I am a family nurse practitioner practicing in rural Arkansas areas.

Dr. Clarin personally contacted me when I submitted my application, and following our conversation, I knew I wanted to come to Harding. I prayed for guidance as this decision affected not only me but my entire family, and I have not regretted my decision. The opportunity to continue to work while completing my studies was also a major benefit. I was hesitant about an online program, but Harding is much more. The hybrid program allowed for much-needed personal interaction with professors and classmates. I never felt alone during the program because there was always someone available to communicate with me. Even my preceptors were impressed by the fact that the instructors actually came to observe me at clinical sites.

I feel that I was well equipped and prepared to start my career as a family nurse practitioner following graduation. The demands are challenging but necessary to give each person the knowledge to apply to each individual patient. The spiritual guidance from the professors and classmates really helped to reduce the stress and provided the push to stay on track and complete the program.

I love caring for and serving others, and I wanted to be able to give more to my patients, their families and the community. My education at Harding has provided me the tools to be able to provide safe patient-centered care, meeting people where they are and allowing my Christian faith to guide me.

Lauren Franks

I was born and raised in Sparkman, Arkansas. My husband is a local contractor, and we have two children ages 10 and 14. Our family is involved in church ministry at Sparkman First Baptist where I am the children’s minister and music leader.

I completed my bachelor’s degree at Henderson State University and worked several years in women’s health as a nurse and later as a clinic manager in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. Deonna Whatley, a Har­ding student working in the clinic, was especially impressive. During our time working together, I had mentioned wanting to be a family nurse practitioner but had not had the time to pursue it. After Deonna graduated, her supervisor, Dr. Dona Clarin, called and asked if I had ever thought about coming to Harding. I was hesitant at first, but one of the clinic providers was leaving, which would provide more flexibility for me, and she encouraged
me to move forward with my education.

Through the interview process it became clear that this was a decision God had anointed. The timing worked out well for my family, and a particular online course was offered at the perfect time for my schedule. At my first interview I saw scriptures on the sidewalk outside the Swaid Center, and I realized I was surrounded by people who wanted to be clothed in scripture, exactly where I was supposed to be. At Harding, the faculty prayed for us, and our class believed in God and in prayer. Even three years after graduation, we still communicate and pray for each other regularly.

I dreamed of bringing healthcare to my small town, 30 miles from any providers. There was a local clinic built in the 1950s but later converted to a food bank. After working for Baptist Health for 15 years, I pitched to them the idea of restoring the building to a clinic. The original request was denied, but members of the community helped renovate the space anyway because they wanted to give the people of Sparkman something to be proud of. Eventually, Baptist gave us a year-long trial run, not expecting much. The Harding community also supported me in this effort and gave me the confidence not to take “no” for an answer. We served over 20 patients on the very first day, compared to the expected goal of only four, and Baptist Health Family Clinic-Sparkman has been serving this community since June 2021.

The Christian environment at Harding also helped me be more compassionate, to really look at people and not see them as just names on a list. I want to care for patients as a whole — their families, their homes, even their animals sometimes. I have bandaged a patient’s calf after hours and assisted with a goat’s birth on my lunch break. I truly care about everything in the lives of my patients, not just their blood pressure or a broken finger. Patients reciprocate by calling to thank us and report what treatments are working for them. My experience in the family nurse practitioner program inspired me to make our community like Harding’s, one of compassion, relationship and service.

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