One year ago, I began my Dean’s Message for the fall issue of The Gator Nurse with the words: “It’s a great time to be a Gator!” In 2018, the University of Florida shared the outstanding news of rising from No. 9 to No. 8 among public universities in the U.S. News & World Report rankings. Well, I am proud to once again say “It’s a great time to be a Gator!” because we received more good news this fall. The university is now ranked No. 7, and we continue to strive for that top five. Our rise in the rankings is reflective of our rapid growth in quality – smaller class sizes, higher graduation and retention rates and increased value of each student’s degree after graduation. I know you all join me in celebrating this wonderful achievement.
Also this fall, the College of Nursing is celebrating its 10th year of graduating clinical nurse leaders through the Doctor of Nursing Practice, or DNP, Program. In 2004, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing endorsed the Position Statement on the Practice Doctorate in Nursing, which moved the current level for advanced nursing practice from the master’s degree to the doctoral degree. In 2009, the UF College of Nursing graduated the first cohort of 14 DNP Gator Nurses. Under the leadership of Dean Kathleen Ann Long, this innovative program gave baccalaureate- and master’s-prepared nurses the opportunity to advance their practice knowledge and credentials using evidence-based science without a research-focused curriculum.
Now, our DNP program is ranked No. 1 in the state and No. 24 nationally by U.S. News & World Report. The 2021 rankings will be released in March, and we are hoping to share even more good news with you at that time. Until then, we continue to celebrate the many achievements of our 461 DNP alumni. In this issue, we introduce you to three of these doctorally prepared advanced practice nurses. A triple Gator Nurse, Karen Theoktisto (BSN 2000, MSN 2000, DNP 2009) was part of that first class of pioneers who blazed the trail for all others to follow. Laura Sealy (BSN 2013, DNP 2016) overcame pediatric cancer and now provides care and comfort to children and family facing the same fear and unknown that she and her family endured. Hector Torres (BSN 2013, DNP 2019) is a brand new nurse practitioner with dreams of making a difference in the Latin community. Turn the page to read about these inspirational alumni.
I am proud to carry on the tradition of excellence that started with Dean Emeritus Kathleen Ann Long and that first DNP class that graduated in 2009. As the complexity of the health care environment continues to evolve, nurses remain on the forefront of what is needed next. At the UF College of Nursing, we remain steadfast in our resolve to prepare nurses who are care, lead and inspire.
Go Gator Nurses!
Anna M. McDaniel, PhD, RN, FAAN
Dean and the Linda Harman Aiken Professor