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Jonas Scholarships Help Boost Nursing Careers

Published: August 8, 2016

With the support of a Jonas Scholarship, three CSULB nursing students were able to recently earn their doctorates as nurse practitioner degrees (DNP), which each feels will be a boost to their professional careers and directly benefit the veteran population.

CSULB’s DNP program develops advanced competencies for increasingly complex practice, faculty or leadership roles in nursing.

Gina Gutierrez-Rawson, Yvonne Gallegos and Mira Castaneda, who work at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Long Beach (VALB), were each recipients of a $10,000 scholarship provided by the Jonas Center for Nursing Excellence, founded by Donald and Barbara Jonas.

Founded in 2006, the mission of the Jonas Center is to improve healthcare through nursing. It makes grants that advance scholarship, leadership and innovation, and collaborate on initiatives with other leaders in the nursing field, with a focus on fostering new partnerships across the philanthropic, business, policy and education sectors.

“These three young women are perfect examples the kind of individuals the Jonas Scholarships are intended to help,” said Margaret Brady, a professor in CSULB’s School of Nursing. “They are dedicated professionals looking to improve themselves and, in turn, provide better care for the patients they serve. The areas of their doctoral work are widely varied, yet focus on improving patient care, which is generally our main goal.”

For Gutierrez-Rawson, the scholarship allowed her to focus on her doctoral project on implementing screening and therapeutic intervention using telehealth technology for female veterans under maternity care services, specifically, maternal depression; Gallegos’ doctoral project focused on implementing a protocol to prevent kidney injury from radiographic contrast media in those with vascular disease and risk factors; and Castaneda’s doctoral project was on the use of post-fall huddles to prevent second falls, part of the fall prevention program she initiated and is used at the VALB.

Among various other duties at the VALB, Castaneda heads up the Chief Patient Care Services, Geriatric Rehabilitation Medicine and Extended Care Group; Gutierrez-Rawson is the Women Veterans Program Manager and nurse practitioner at the VA Healthcare Systems in Long Beach, where she has been employed since 2003; and Gallegos has been a nurse at the VA Healthcare Systems in Long Beach for 18 years, currently serving as a vascular nurse practitioner.

And while the Jonas Scholarship benefited them by lightening any financial burdens, they each felt what it allowed them to do was equally important.

“I believe that achieving the highest academic degree will assist me with my ability to educate, discuss and promote preventive health services for the veterans,” said Gutierrez-Rawson, the site lead coordinator of the Women’s Health Practice Based Research Network and chair of its Women Veterans Health Committee. “It will allow me to be a member of the ‘decision-making table’ to present and defend (best) evidence-based practices to my peers and leadership teams, as well as implement changes in a healthcare system that will meet the needs of a complex and dynamic population. The generosity and warm welcome of the Jonas Family in promoting nursing excellence and quality care for veterans’ health are the motivation that will keep us striving to improve our healthcare systems.”

An area of focus for her is young women transitioning from military to civilian family life, more specifically identifying risks for depression and suicide.

“Literature shows that women veterans may have higher risk factors for depression and suicide,” she said. “Screening women veterans for maternal depression is not the same as screening for the general population for depression.”

Yvonne Gallegos, Mira Castaneda and Gina Gutierrez-Rawson
Pictured in front of CSULB’s School of Nursing are (l-r) Yvonne Gallegos, Mira Castaneda and Gina Gutierrez-Rawson.

Castaneda felt the scholarship was validation that she has the potential to contribute to the nursing profession, which she clearly already has. Her work with fall prevention focuses mostly on elderly veterans vulnerable to fall-related injuries, including death, she noted.

“Those who survive the fall usually suffer from long-term consequences such as decline in function, depression and further falls,” she said. “This problem is real and significant to this population. Being able to prevent them from falling will contribute to their quality of life. I will be able to translate what I learned from the program to bedside care and improve nursing practice.”

For Gallegos, her work is personal. One of only 14 VALB employees identified as Native American, she cares for a high percentage of Native Americans in her practice due to the high likelihood of diabetes among this group. She considers that her specialty, and the ability to relate to patients makes her especially valuable in maximizing good patient outcomes. She points to the degree she earned through CSULB as key to her future success.

“The doctor of nursing practice program prepared me by giving me the critical skills needed to evaluate and translate evidence-based care into my practice,” said Gallegos. “I now have the tools to innovatively improve systems of care and outcomes of groups of patients.

“Patients with vascular disease often need radiographic contrast media to evaluate organs and vascular structures,” she added. “One problem is they often have specific risk factors which can put them in danger for complications and worsen their kidney disease to the point of requiring dialysis. I am passionate about preventive treatment as it is the simplest and most cost-effective way of protecting patient’s kidney function and protecting patient lives.”

In addition, Gallegos has been published in the American Journal of Nursing, the oldest and most honored broad-based nursing journal in the world, and since 2003, she has served as a practicing nurse evaluator for the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, assisting with nursing program accreditations.