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Fay W. Whitney School of Nursing|College of Health Sciences

2014 Willow Ceremony: Encouraging the DNP's of the future

2014 Capstone Spotlight

Pictured above:

(Back row, l-r) Michelle Dowling, Calla Hopeman, Sara Jackman, David Wells, Brandon Bennion, Aaron Wright, Diana Charlson, and Annmarie Wilson. (Front row, l-r) Marcella Wright, Teresa Thompson, Reba Traylor, and Nellie Simon.

The Willow Ceremony

This ceremony celebrates the end of the first year of didactic studies in the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program, encouraging students as they prepare for the program's clinical component. Some programs have a “White Coat” ceremony at this point in the program, when students are about to don their clinical garb and step out into the real world of clinical practice. But the UW DNP students are already nurses, and most have already been working in the clinical setting (with or without a “white coat”). So the ceremony was named "The Willow Ceremony". The willow, according to a poem penned by School of Nursing namesake Fay W. Whitney, "is symbolic of what nurses have always been. They grow, they bend, they last." Dr. Whitney, Dr. Peter Buerhaus, and Mike Massie were among the speakers stepping forth with encouragement and exhortation for the students. Special awards were presented to community partners as noted in the summary sections below. Please read on.

Speakers and Award Presentations

The 2014 ceremony included noteworthy speakers and the presentation of awards as follows:

Fay W. Whitney, PhD, RN, FAAN

Dr. Fay Whitney, for whom the Fay W. Whitney School of Nursing is named, was also a former coordinator of the school's Family Nurse Practitioner Program. She wrote a poem that is handed out at each Willow Ceremony, explaining that "the willow is symbolic of what nurses have always been. They grow, they bend, they last." In her speech to the DNP students this year, Whitney encouraged students to adopt the flexibility of willows, to stand firm in the midst of adverse winds, building strength through perseverance.


Speaker: Peter Buerhaus, PhD, RN, FAAN

Dr. Peter Buerhaus, on a mini sabbatical from the Vanderbilt University, has been studying Wyoming’s rural primary care clinics, hospitals and long-term care facilities, planning to use info gleaned from his stint in Wyoming to dovetail with his current research interests, which include assessing the contributions of nurse practitioners providing primary care in the United States. Buerhaus noted that the need for primary care is great, but the projected workforce is small. He warned students to resist mediocrity—something not needed/wanted in the healthcare system—and instead strive for excellence as students/nurse practitioners.


Peter K. Simpson Advanced Practice Nursing Fan Award to Mike Massie

This award, presented to Mike Massie by Dean Burman, honors Simpson’s enthusiasm for advanced practice nursing (APN) and is awarded to one who has gone above and beyond to support such in Wyoming. Former state legislator Massie sponsored legislation to allow for independent practice by APRNs. That change removed barriers to health care, benefiting Wyoming health. Just as Wyoming women at the turn of the 20th century broke out of the traditional women's work molds to meet work needs, says Massie, so have APRNs gone beyond dependent relationships with physicians to meet citizens' health care needs.


2014 DNP Community Partner Award goes to Platte River Family Practice

This award to the nurse-owned and –managed Casper clinic, Platte River Family Practice, LLC, was presented by DNP clinical coordinator Candace Stidolph (pictured right), and was accepted by practice owners Amy Gruwell, MS, FNP-C and Paula Coates, RN. Since opening their doors in 2009, Platte River Family Practice has provided outstanding patient-centered primary care to Casper-area residents, and has gone above and beyond to provide individualized precepting experiences to family nurse practitioner students.


2014 "Excellence in Advanced Practice Nursing Award" goes to Julie Hummer-Bellmyer

This award, presented by DNP program coordinator Ann Marie Hart (right), recognizes Julie Hummer-Bellmyer and her distinguished career as a nurse practitioner. Hummer-Bellmyer worked in family practice, orthopedic and surgical settings in Colorado and Wyoming. Since 2007, she has been working with the Cheyenne VA Medical Center’s surgical service line, both in the OR and orthopedic clinic. Though not a UW graduate, she volunteered to teach orthopedic skills to UW DNP students. She now precepts them in orthopedics at the VA and, with colleague Denise Kurtis, provides them with a hands-on orthopedic workshop.


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