“I used to read medical encyclopedias for fun,” says DNP student Kim Morris. “I’ve always been fascinated by pathology and disease.”
That fascination led Morris, a 2012-2013 recipient of the College of Nursing Alumni Association Scholarship, to a career in nursing. She’s been a registered nurse since 1994 and a nurse practitioner since 2002. After becoming a family nurse practitioner and practicing in a general family practice unit, Morris stumbled on geriatric home care in 2005.
At the time, she was working in a primary care clinic while taking care of a small child at home. After shadowing another nurse practitioner for a day, Morris realized geriatric care was where she wanted to be. “I knew I had found my calling with this vulnerable population,” she says, noting the care that’s “so desperately needed.” Geriatric care also would provide the flexibility Morris needed to care for her young child.
Morris has worked at INSPIRIS, a company dedicated to end-of-life care, for more than eight years—first as a staff nurse practitioner, then as a team leader, and now as director of clinical operations.
“As a company we focus on proactive care, frequent visits and communication with patients and families in order to prepare them for end of life,” she says. “We have found that culture and religious beliefs play a strong role in families’ decisions.
“I think we’re seeing a shift in the living choices of older Americans. They’re staying away from the nursing homes much longer and staying in their homes,” Morris says. “Our programs bring nursing and medical care to the patient’s home to help prolong the time that they can live where they choose.”
Even though Morris still has four semesters left in the DNP path, her experience as a doctoral student is already impacting her career as she takes on more leadership responsibilities at work.
“I am now responsible for the program development, business goals and metrics, and development of more than 50 nurse practitioners and physicians. I am in a key decision-making role and the education I am receiving in the DNP path is guiding me to make educated, structured improvements in this program.”
Morris is also part of an ethical team at INSPIRIS that works with families struggling with advance directives. The team is creating a transitions program to address care issues for the frail elderly when they return home after hospitalization.
In terms of future career plans, Morris plans on continuing in a nursing leadership role.
“I am really excited with the changes that are on the horizon with the Affordable Care Act. I think nursing will play a bigger role in the design of our future models of care, and I want to be on the front line, designing programs to move us into the next generation of health care.” She says, “My goal, once I obtain the DNP, is to take an active part in the development of policies and programs that will further the integration of nurse practitioners into the roles of primary care."